Back It Up

Protect yourself against data loss by making electronic copies of important files, commonly referred to as a backup.

Our computers contain vast amounts of data, from family photos and music collections to financial records and personal contacts. In fact, a recent National Cyber Security Alliance/Symantec study found that more than 68% of Americans store more the 25% of their photos digitally. For most people, the loss of that information could be devastating.

Data can be lost in several ways: computer malfunctions, theft, viruses, spyware, accidental deletion, and natural disasters.

Data backup is a simple, three step process:

  • Make copies of your data
  • Select the hardware or method to store your data
  • Safely store the backup device that holds your copied files
Make Copies of Your Data
Many computers come with a backup software program installed, so check to see if you have one. Most backup software programs will allow you to make copies of every file and program on your computer, or just the files you’ve changed since your last backup.

Here are links to backup utilities in popular operating systems:

Hardware:
Select Hardware to Store Your Data
When you conduct a backup, the files will have to be stored on a physical device - such as CDs, DVDs, or USB flash drives, an external hard drive, or on the web using cloud-based online storage.
  • CDs, DVDs, and flash drives: These are best for storing a small amount of pictures, music, and videos.
  • External hard drive: If your computer serves as the family photo album and music library, it’s best to get an external hard drive that plugs into your computer (preferably via a USB port).  This way, you can assure more adequate storage space for all your files. Copying information will also be faster with these devices.
  • Online backup services: If you don’t want to hassle with new hardware, there are many online backup services available, usually for a monthly fee. Some security software includes this service with your subscription, so be sure to check that you don’t already have this service available. You simply backup your files to a secure server over the Internet. These services have the added advantage of safely storing your files in a remote location and the files can be accessed anywhere you have a connection to the Internet. This can be valuable for people who travel a lot and may need to recover files or if you live in area prone to natural disasters that might require an evacuation.
Safely Store the Backup Device that Holds Your Data
After setting up the software and copying your files on a regular basis, make sure you keep your backup device somewhere safe.  Some ideas include a trusted neighbor’s house, your workplace, a safe, or a secure place at home that would likely survive a natural disaster. Keep your backup device close enough so that you can retrieve it easily when you do your regular backup. 

Other software programs are available for purchase if your system does not have a backup program or if you’re seeking other features. Ideally, you should backup your files at least once a week.