Are you backing up? If not - read this blog then set it up straight away! If not, don't say we didn't warn you.
If we had a mantra for anything computer-related it would be "backup, backup, backup" (a close second would be "save often" and "did you try turning it off and on again?" of course, which solves at least 90% of all IT problems).
From our own experience, it's extremely sad and frustrating to lose files, particularly when they are irreplaceable photos, so we now make sure that anything we value is backed up.
We store so much digitally these days that it's easy to assume it will always be safe and secure. However, unlike our old photo albums which stay safely tucked away on a shelf at home, we carry our digital devices around with us so there's a greater risk that they'll be lost or damaged. If anything that's precious to you is only stored in a single place which isn't being backed up, whether that's a mobile phone, tablet or computer, you're setting yourself up for a potential disaster.
Plus it's so cheap and easy to set up automated backups! You don't necessarily need any additional hardware or technical ability. There really isn't any excuse, just follow these simple steps and then you never need to think about it again.
Backup to the Cloud
If you have an iPhone, iPad or MacBook you'll have the option to back up to iCloud - but you need to enable this. If you've gone through the setup process you would have been given the option, but if not (or you're not sure) make sure that iCloud backup is ticked in Settings.
Many mobile phone manufacturers offer their own cloud service. For example, Samsung offers a cloud service for all your settings and data stored on the phone, which you can restore in case of loss or damage.
WhatsApp messages are stored on the device, so if that's gone they will be too - unless you have chat backup turned on. This stores messages on Google Drive so you'll need a Google account to use this feature.
If you already own the product, these services are free - in as much as you don't have to pay any money. You'll be giving these companies access to your data which in this day and age is extremely valuable. WhatsApp messages are encrypted so theoretically, for now, those can't be scanned.
Backup to social media
Many people use Facebook or Instagram as their backup system. This can be handy if you're already sharing photos this way, but it's worth remembering that you won't be backing up all your images, only the ones you choose (or remember) to share. Another thing to bear in mind is that images will be resized once they're uploaded, so you won't have a copy of the original high-resolution version that would be suitable for printing or other purposes. Plus, this is only a solution for images and videos not documents, spreadsheets or other types of files.
Finally, Facebook and Instagram are not designed as backup systems so it's not easy to track down a photo taken on a particular date, for example, and not straightforward to share or download that photo once you have tracked it down. And chances are that you won't be using Facebook in 20 years time when you're looking for photos of that pet cat from decades ago.
We use Backblaze to back up our company files. It's not a free service, but it's money extremely well spent.
On many occasions it has saved our digital bacon when we've accidentally overwritten or deleted a file but have been able to login to Backblaze and recover the most recent snapshot. If everything goes to electronic custard, you can have a hard drive or USB stick containing all your backed up data couriered to you.
As an additional level of backup, we also have RAID set up on our office server. RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks. It means that our server mirrors all the information stored on one disk onto another. Recently our electricity supply dropped out - only for a few seconds, but enough to damage one of the disk drives irreparably. Luckily we immediately had another drive available.
Since then we've also bought an uninterruptable power supply in case of future electricity cuts, but that's a topic for another blog.
Definitely set up a backup system if you don't have one in place. Go and do it right now! There are just a couple of things to watch out for:
- If you are using an online or cloud backup service for your mobile phone, it's best to restrict it to WiFi-only otherwise it will gobble up your data allowance.
- Whatever system you're using, every now and again, check that you can retrieve a file ok. The worst thing after losing a file and having no backup is finding out that the backup system you thought you had in place hasn't been working.
Now stop delaying!