The short answer: the method that works for you. Seriously, why sign up for some data backup method that is unwieldy, doesn’t backup everything you need, and uses an outmoded form of technology?
Luckily there are a variety of methods, platforms, technologies, toys and gadgets to get the job done. Here’s a quick review of the more popular choices:
The method of copying data to a CD or DVD is time consuming, labor intensive and for most users, it is a “write once” process: meaning you copy to the CD/DVD medium and you have to use a new CD/DVD for the next backup.
Another more important problem: the coating on most CDs and DVDs is only meant to last 5 to 10 years! Seriously! So if you are sitting on old CD/DVD backups, please check them and copy the data to an external hard drive or cloud computing platform!
USB Flash Drives
I love USB flash drives, also called jump drives, especially since the amount of memory they can hold keeps going up and the price keeps coming down. One of my three back up methods is copying my data to a large USB flash drive at least once a month. Why? Because I place the flash drive in a firebox – a small fireproof safe – with all my legal papers. I can also grab it and take it with me in an emergency.
Tip: If a USB flash drive is your only method of backing up, PLEASE do not place it right next to your computer – please it in a safe location. If your computer is damaged by water or fire, the same is likely to happen to that flash drive.
External Hard Drive
Just like flash drives, the price on external hard drives has dropped and the storage amounts have increased. It is fairly common right now to see a 1TB (terabyte) portable drive for about $69 USD either online at Amazon or at the large superstores like Costco.
Many of these external hard drives comes with software that will create a backup schedule for you and copy files from your computer’s hard drive to the external drive. Backing up to a portable external hard drive is the second of my three backup methods.
However, just like the USB flash drives, it doesn’t make sense to keep the external hard drive right next to your desktop computer so it too might become damaged. Look for portable hard drives that you can secure in a different location.
Automated Backup Services
Automated backup services such as BackBlaze and Carbonite have become popular with users. The price range is usually around $50-$60 USD per year to backup one or two computers. You need to have a good Internet broadband connection since the initial backup can take several days. Once your initial backup is done, there’s not much more you need to do – the process takes care of itself!
The down side can be the price – for that same amount of money spent in one year, you could own your own external hard drive. The upside is that you don’t have to replace the hardware when technology changes – the backup service is on top of that.
Cloud Data Storage
The use of synchronized cloud data programs such as Dropbox, Box or One Drive continue to grow in popularity, especially with genealogists. I used Dropbox as the third method in my set of three backup methods for this reason: it automatically backs up all my files as I update them and it synchronizes them across all my devices.
Most of these cloud platforms have a free version, with Dropbox offering 2GB of base storage for free (you can earn up to 18GB through referring friends and family). The premium or paid cloud storage market has become very competitive lately, with a price war between Google Drive (at 1TB for $9.99 USD per month) and Microsoft’s One Drive (at 1TB for FREE for Microsoft Office 365 subscribers).
Some tips on using cloud programs: Don’t store sensitive data such as health records, taxes, financial data, etc. I keep those backed up on a flash drive secured in a safe place (and encrypted with a password). Also, if using the free version, make sure you log into your cloud account regularly; Dropbox has the right to delete your data from a free account if you haven’t touched it at least once in a 90 day period. And finally, don’t try to “game the system” by setting up multiple free accounts – you are guaranteed to make a mess of it and actually lose data.
Use At Least 3 Backup Methods In Tandem
Don’t rely upon one form of backup – I’ve learned that lesson the hard way. You should have at least two methods of backup – sort of like a “backup to the backup.” For me, I feel comfortable with three methods and as I said in the first paragraph, I use the methods that work best for me.
Data Backup Resources
GeneaBloggers has developed a resource list of data backup methodologies and solutions. Click here to learn how you can backup almost every aspect of your blog, your browser, your computer – even Macs!
Also, don’t forget to shop here at Amazon for some of the best deals on data backup software, external hard drives and more!
©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.