Do I need to backup my files?
No, you don’t need to if you really don’t want to back them up, but if they aren’t worth protecting why do you even have them in the first place? Right?
If you’re like most people with a computer, there is information on your computer that has some value to it for you. It might be as simple as a few letters you’ve typed up that you’ll need to use again or a copy of a resume that took several hours to get just right. Other people though have pictures of their grandchildren, and lately a digital copy is the ONLY copy that exists. Some small business owners might have their “books” on that computer, just think about what that would take to recreate if they suddenly disappeared into the digital ether of “poof it’s gone” land.
For home users, I try to convince them to have at least one backup. That one backup should be able to survive an event at the location of the computer, like a fire or flood. So while having your backup drive next to the computer helps if your hard drive crashes it obviously does no good if a fire rips your life apart.
For businesses, I strongly urge them to have two if not three backups. One locally for quick restores when someone accidentally deletes a file, one offsite in case of one of those fires and a third copy in another location like the owners house. A backup with a backup to the backup and another backup in case the first two backups go poof.
Is a USB drive a safe option?
It’s better than nothing at all; that’s certain. Should it be your only backup solution? Probably not.
A lot of people like using a simple USB thumb drive or an external hard drive for the simple fact that they have total control over access to their data. Some of the external drives we recommend like the Western Digital Passport drives even have some basic backup software included. Using either the included software or what’s included with your operating system, you can easily get your files and folder secured. A few clicks and walk away while it’s working; just remember to do this once a month.
What is an image backup?
You may read about “file and folder” and “image based backup” and have some questions. So file and folder backups typically take selected files, and/or folders, and only back up those and their contents. For many people that’s fine, that will get your documents and the photos of of the kids.
And image backup isn’t just photos on your computer, it’s actually an “image” of your entire computer’s hard drive. This means that it’s backing up, or making a complete copy, of the operating system and all your installed applications and files. Typically an image based backup will allow you to restore your backup to a new hard drive and save you the time of installing applications and setting things up to work the way you had them before.
Think of a file and folder backup like this using a filing cabinet analogy. A file and folder backup takes copies of the manilla folders and files you’ve got stashed away in those drab green hanging folders. So if a fire takes out that filing cabinet and you need you restore you’ve got to get the new file cabinet and get it ready, set up the new hanging folders then get those “copies” of those folders and files and put them back into the correct hanging files. It can be done but it will take awhile.
An image backup is much simpler, you roll out the “copy” of your entire filing cabinet to replace the burnt up one. Once you retrieve it, everything is assembled, inserted and back in the correct order ready for use. It’s take up more space in storage (the backup location) but makes life a LOT easier if you need to restore your data.