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3 Easy Ways To Back Up Data

Updated: May 19, 2019

Back To Basics

external hard drive

In the back of your mind, you know you need to back up all of your files and pictures. But where do you start? Here's how to back up your digital life. Creating a backup of your precious and important files is crucial. It minimizes the risk that you'll lose your tax documents, baby's pictures and school work in the event of theft, fire or hard drive failure.

Backing up files and photos isn't hard, but with several different ways to go about it, it can be confusing to get started. This guide gives you the basics on the various choices you have to back up your files and the tips to make it easy.

Method No. 1: External hard drive

An external hard drive is a hard disk drive just like the one inside your computer, where you can store any kind of file. Many are often small and portable, making them easy to stow away in a desk drawer or carry with you. Others are much larger and are designed to sit on your desk.

External drives connect to your computer to provide extra storage, usually with a USB cable. Once connected, which involves little more than plugging it in, you can drag and drop or copy files you want from your computer's hard drive to the external drive. Once synced to the drive, those files will live safely away from your computer and offer protection in case your computer gets stolen or damaged.

Hard drives can fail at any time, for many different reasons. One day you may plug in your portable drive and it won't work, which means you won't be able to access the files you've stored on it. It's rare for a newer hard drive to fail completely, and most drives can last years and years before needing to be replaced, but just keep in mind that failures can happen.

External hard drives come in many sizes and storage capacities. If you only have a few files and photos to back up, a 500GB or 1TB drive, which will cost around £50-£100, will more than suffice. A 1TB drive can hold up to a few hundred thousand photos taken with an 8-megapixel camera (depending on file size), or several thousand documents. If you have more files than that to back up, look at 2TB and up models which start around £100.

Method No. 2: Flash drive

Flash drives (also called thumbdrives or jump drives) are tiny, highly portable drives, often no longer than a stick of gum. They come in a wide variety of designs, from simple sticks to novelty characters, and most can be attached to a keychain or lanyard. This method is very similar to the first one, but uses flash memory (a storage chip that can be erased and reused) instead.

A flash drive plugs into your computer through the USB port and once connected, you can copy or drag and drop files onto it. Once disconnected, those files will live on the flash drive until you remove them.

Flash drives can break down overtime, fail or become corrupted, rendering them useless. You won't be able to access your files if any of these things happen. It's unlikely that a newer flash drive will fail, but it can happen.

Flash drives are smaller than external hard drives and thus offer less storage space. The biggest drives you can typically buy have 256GB of storage space, enough for a few thousand documents or photos, depending on file size. They are best suited for people with just a handful of files to backup and are especially great for students to backup schoolwork.

These drives range in price from a few pounds up to £100-plus, so pick a size and style of drive that you think will work for your storage needs and lifestyle.

Method No. 3: Cloud storage

Cloud storage is system where you move your files from your computer to a server in a data center, away from your home or work. A cloud storage company uses those servers to offer a certain amount of space that you essentially rent to store your files.

Once you sign up for a cloud storage service, you can upload files with a desktop application or through the company's website over the Internet. With an Internet connection, you can view, modify and delete files stored in your cloud storage account at anytime, from any computer or mobile device. You can move files back onto your computer whenever you want.

Though cloud storage is a great backup option, there are a few risks. Cloud storage services can be and have been hacked, most recently in 2014 when a security breach of Apple's iCloud service exposed several celebrity photos.

Another risk is if the cloud storage company goes out of business and shuts down operations, which happened with smaller cloud storage service Firedrive. If this happens, you won't be able to access any of the files you've stored in your account.

Other drawbacks include files taking a long time to upload to your cloud folder, which can eat up your Internet bandwidth and slow down your connection temporarily. Additionally, without an Internet connection, you might not be able to access any files stored in your account.

Cloud storage is inexpensive, with many companies giving you small amounts of free storage. For a monthly fee, starting around £10, you can get extra space. Cloud storage is a great choice for anyone who wants to back up photos, since many companies have mobile apps that automatically upload photos and video you take with a phone or tablet, right after you record them.

(by Sarah Mitroff)


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