10 Ways to Create Backups and Prevent Data Loss

10 ways to backup data

The first of each month is what the genealogy community knows as Data Backup Day – a day when we commit to making sure all our research data is safely backed-up in case something goes wrong.  What could go wrong? Well how about:

  • hard drive failure?
  • fire or water damage to home office and computer?
  • theft?
  • website or blog failure?

I’ve been beset by each of these predicaments in the past and the only thing that saved me and my years of genealogy research data was a series of carefully planned backups of data. In recent months, I’ve ramped up the process to not only backup data locally to an external hard drive, but also to an online site – sort of a “backup to the backup.”  And I’ve also expanded the types of data I backup to include bookmarks, blog posts, blog templates, emails, etc. These are all important components of my research and I’d have a difficult time recreating such data and some of it would just be lost forever if there were no backups.

A Variety of Data Backup Methods

Here’s how you can get started on a sound backup plan with the following resources:

  • Flash Drive: Flash drives come in a variety of sizes up to 128GB and now with USB 3.0 becoming the new standard they are faster than ever.  Check out the reviews over at CNET and go to Amazon for some of the best prices.
  • External Hard Drive: I am still amazed at the fact that you can now get a 1 TB (terabyte as in 1,000 GB!) external hard drive for as low as $69.  Check out the wide variety available at Amazon.
  • Data Backup Services: There are a myriad of websites that allow you to backup your data, some even have free allotments (as much as 100GB for free!).  Check out the great comparison chart over at about.com. I am a big fan of BackBlaze which takes the hassle out of backing up your data. Set it and forget it!
  • Cloud Storage Sites: Which cloud storage site is best for you? Dropbox is the most popular with genealogists due to its ease of use and free 2GB data allotment. Check out this recent article at CNET to determine which cloud program is best for you and your data.
  • Photos: There are photo repository sites such as ImageBam which has no limits besides a 3MB file size limit per photo and lets you select multiple photos. If you have a Picasa account did you know you can send photos there via email? Also don’t forget you can store images in Evernote as well!
  • Internet Explorer: It seems like there’s a handy – and free – web application for everything right?  Yes, even for your Internet Explorer!  Check out Internet Explorer Backup to preserve your settings including favorites, proxy connections, security zones, cookies, user preferences, history, and more!
  • Blogger: For a time many Blogger users were frustrated with the inability to backup their posts as well as their templates – to the point that many created private WordPress blogs and imported their Blogger data. That has all changed and you can now use Blog Tools to back up your Blogger posts. And don’t forget to backup your Blogger template especially before you make any customizations.
  • WordPress: Using the BackUpWordPress plugin you can backup not only your posts but most other settings for your WordPress blog.  This neat accessory also lets you schedule your WordPress backups.
  • Google: Backup not only your Google Reader settings but almost all your Google applications including Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar with the great list of resources over at lifehacker.
  • E-mail:  besides checking out the great list of 5 Ways to Keep Your Emails Backed Up over at makeuseof, Thunderbird is a free application that lets you backup almost any e-mail system.

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.

Data Backup Day – Which Is The Best Backup Method?

Which Backup Method Is Best? Data Backup Day

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:

CDs/DVDs

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.

Data Backup Day – What About Backing Up Your Blog?

Backing Up Your Blog

Well the year is half over now that we’re at the start of July 2014 and another Data Backup Day is here. In the previous posts, we’ve discussed the need for backing up your genealogy data, what sort of technology to use, etc. But have you ever thought about all the data that represents your genealogy blog? What provisions have you made for backing that up and what is your data strategy in case you had to quickly move your blog to a different platform?

Rule #1: Always Have an Exit Strategy for Your Data

I mention this in almost every lecture that involves signing up at a website and uploading your data, to the point where it has become a mantra: You are responsible for your data. This means knowing what that website will do with your uploaded data and also knowing how to export your data.

So make sure you know how to export all your data, not just blog posts but images as well as layout and gadget settings and templates. Here is some helpful “how to” info:

backing up your Blogger blog

  • Blogger: In your dashboard, click Settings then click Other. Scroll to the top and under Blog Tools, click Export Blog. The process will create a XML formatted file and download it to your computer. Tip: place a reminder on your calendar to manually execute this Export once a week or once a month.

wordpress com backup

  • WordPress.com (free WordPress): In your dashboard, click Tools then click Export. Follow the directions to export your blog data to a XML file. Tip: place a reminder on your calendar to manually execute this Export once a week or once a month.

Backup for hosted WordPress site

  • Hosted WordPress (paid WordPress): If your WordPress site is hosted by a website host, for which you pay a monthly or annual fee, you have many more options. In your dashboard, click Tools then click Export. Follow the directions to export your blog data to a XML file. You will notice you can export all content or just posts or pages.

Rule #2: Check Your Blog Host

cpanel backup

Check with your website host to see if they automatically backup your site and how you can access the files. Most hosting sites run CPanel software – simply login and then in the Files section, click Backup and follow the steps to create a scheduled backup of your blog.

Rule #3: Use a Third Party Service, Gadget or Plug In

backwpup plugin

  • Blogger: Go to Google Takeout and follow the steps to export everything in Blogger.
  • WordPress: Install a WordPress plugin that will create backups on a schedule and even email you the file(s). Some, like backWPup (free) will even send your backup files directly to your Dropbox account. For more info on WordPress plugins that help with backups, see The Best WordPress Backup Plugins.

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