Today is World Backup Day: Here’s what you can do
March 31st, 2014 is World Backup Day. What’s that all about? Well, basically, the tech world doesn’t want you to lose all of your files because of some kind of unforeseen circumstances. Backing them up means you protect yourself against annoying or perilous loss of data by putting copies of your files on an external hard drive, the cloud, or both. Here are some tips.
Backing up your hard drive or other precious files isn’t something you really need to be convinced to do. Most of us know that we should do it, we just happen to put it off until it’s too late. A group of Reddit users decided to start up this initiative a year ago to give people a dedicated day to go ahead and make their backups before disaster strikes. It is currently run by 614a, a group who is seeking no profit from the event.
What holds a lot of people back, beyond apathy, is uncertainty about how to get those backups done. Let’s take care of that!
The first basic question to ask yourself is this: do you want to make your backups on an external drive, in the cloud, or both? There are pros and cons to each method.
**External hard drive backups
These can be on anything from thumb USB drives to more substantial, large, and expensive drives. Of course, there are also high-capacity, high expense, and very tiny thumb drives too.
Pros: often cheaper per gigabyte, no risk of internet hackers taking your data or a cloud provider being insecure or untrustworthy, doesn’t require internet access or fast internet speeds to get to your files
Cons: vulnerable to physical theft and damage, can be less cost effective if you are only backing up small amounts of data, many mobile devices cannot connect to USB hard drives, could be affected by same kinds of catastrophic events as your computer (natural disasters, power surges, theft, drive failure), computer viruses can often infect any drives connected to the computer
It can be reassuring to know you can access your stuff whether or not you can connect to the internet, especially if you’re worried about hackers or snoopers trying to get at your data. Sometimes, it can be simpler to move a file from one computer to another by just plugging in a USB device and opening it just as you would if it had always been on the other computer.
However, if your house gets burned down, I’m sorry to say that your backup drive and your primary computer are probably going down together. Likewise, thieves can get at both of these things just as easily. Larger external hard drives are often hard disk drives, which are prone to failure, especially when subjected to movements, impacts, moisture, and changes in temperature.
When I say “the cloud,” I’m talking about storage solutions that involve storing your data on servers outside of your computer and devices physically connected to it. This usually means having a third party provide that server infrastructure as well as the software/web interface that allows you to access it, but savvier users can host their own.
Pros: small amounts of space can be had freely, not susceptible to physical damage, easy to access on any web-connected device, makes sharing with others easy
Cons: large amounts of storage are often more expensive than having a physical drive, you must trust a third party with your files, security vulnerabilities exist with any data transferred over the internet, a stolen password opens you up to all kinds of problems, a fly-by-night cloud service could close down with little or no warning, you may be an easier victim of government or corporate spying
If you want convenience, cost effectiveness for small amounts of data (great if you only need to back up word documents and the like), and protection from physical damage and thievery, you should think about cloud storage. People with spotty internet access or speeds as well as those who are worried about privacy may want to think harder about external hard drives.
What external drives should you use?
Well, that’s a somewhat complicated question. Complicated enough that we wrote an entire external hard drive buying guide. Check that out to make informed buying decisions. Your basic decisions involve choosing a form factor and storage amount. Do you need portability? You’ll want either a portable hard drive or a thumb drive. Do you need a lot of capacity (more than, say, 64GB)? You’ll need either a desktop hard drive or portable hard drive. Just want something to store some precious word documents to plug and play on multiple devices.
For World Backup Day, the important thing is to get started. If all you have today is that old 2GB thumb drive, put your most important 2GB of files on there. You can make an order for something better today or spend more time researching, but do what you can right away. You’ll never know when you lose your data. Hard drive failure is often totally unexpected and can seem to happen randomly. What would you lose if that happened?
Where should you get cloud storage?
If you want to go the cloud route, the big players in the industry are Dropbox, OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive), Google Drive, and Box. They each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Dropbox is reliable, easy to use, and is integrated into all kinds of other apps. OneDrive offers a lot of free storage upfront (7GB, 20GB for Microsoft Office 365 subscribers) and is excellently integrated into Windows 8 and Microsoft Office, so if you are a Windows devotee or frequent user of Office, this is a good choice.
Google Drive is definitely the choice if you are well-invested into the Google ecosystem, like their office suite, or use Chrome OS. Their recent price changes make them very cheap if you want more than the baseline free 15GB, too. Box offers 10GB up front and has a very simple, secure, and user-friendly service.
Some other things to think about: some services have maximum file sizes, especially for free users. If you have large files, take this into account. Also, all the aforementioned services have varying privacy policies with one thing in common. That thing is that they can access your data if they want to, such as if the NSA asks them to.
For an alternative that offers even more privacy, check out Spideroak – they are offering an unlimited storage plan for $125 (1 year subscription, the rate is locked in forever too) for the “holiday” – since your data is encrypted on your computer or mobile device before it reaches Spideroak, it is impossible for them to see your stuff. If the NSA asked for it, they’d give it over, but due to the encryption it would be unreadable without your password, which Spideroak doesn’t have. Pretty cool!
If you want a free upgrade to 6GB, use the coupon code “FREEDOM4”. Also, if you click the links to Spideroak in this article, you and I both get a free extra GB. If you are interested in the unlimited plan, use the code “WORLDBACKUPDAY”.
Look for another article this week about all of your super-secure cloud storage options!
The key here, again, is to pick out something that works for you and get started. You can always switch to a different service later.
Go forth and backup-ify!
Don’t waste this cool day. Protect yourself and your data and start backing things up. If you don’t have the resources on hand, do what you can to store your most precious files now and work on the rest as soon as you can.
Also, make sure not to get hung up on the external drive vs. cloud question. We suggest that you do both. This protects you against both physical calamities and lost internet access and the like. Just take the proper precautions for privacy and security, if needed. We’ll be releasing even more articles this week, in honor of World Backup Day, about how to keep your file storage safe.
Note: this site and this article is not officially endorsed by World Backup Day. We are simply moral supporters of that initiative and have no relationship, formal or otherwise, with World Backup Day.
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