How to Back Up Files Safely and Easily

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Back Up Files Safely - MIss Karen

Backing up files — We all know we should do it. But it’s such a chore, and takes so much time, that it’s one of those things that just never seems to get done until it’s too late. While computers, tablets and smartphones are more advanced than ever, things like malware, viruses and even hardware malfunctions can cause you to lose important files and data, which can be a real disaster if you never did get around to backing up your files.

However, there are ways to back up files safely and relatively easily. Depending on what kind of files you are using (and what hardware or operating system you have) there are plenty of options for backing up your data that will not only give you peace of mind, but that also won’t waste your time.

Automatic Backup

The simplest way to back up your files is with automatic backup software. This software runs in the background on your computer (it’ll be there, but you won’t know it) and periodically uploads your files to a secure location. For instance, both the iPad and the iPhone have an automatic backup system that automatically uploads users’ pictures to its iCloud service when the phone or tablet is connected to Wi-Fi.

Android phones and tablets also have a phone backup system that uses a user’s Gmail and Google Plus accounts to back up contacts, settings and photos from the phone or tablet. Of course, both of these options require the user to have accounts with the backup service, but signing up is simple and does not require any credit card or money.

Though these backup services for mobile devices are free, the same cannot be said for computers. Apple users must purchase an external Time Capsule hard drive to back up files safely using OS X’s Time Machine feature. However, once the hard drive has been purchased, the software automatically backs up files, photos, and even device settings and preferences every 24 hours.

Similarly, Windows 8 users can use the File History application (standard on all versions of the operating system) to make automatic backups of selected files and folders when an external drive is connected. The backup times and intervals will need to be set manually, according to this feature guide from CNet.

Manual Back Up Files Safely

If you have an older computer that does not run OS X or Windows 8, or you do not want to spend the money on an external hard drive, you can also perform your own manual backups using free cloud-based services. Google Drive and Dropbox are cloud-based storage services that give users enough free space to save important documents, pictures, and videos from their computer.

Power users are likely to run out of space after a few months of using these services and may have to upgrade to paid subscription plans to get more online space, if you only have a few documents and pictures that you want to back up from your computer, then you will likely be able to use these free options for a while.

The only problem with manual cloud-based backup is that you will have to remember to do it. Though backing up files every day probably doesn’t fit into most users’ schedule, try to set a date and time every week that can be dedicated to backing up new files to your cloud storage account (old files don’t need to be re-backed up, unless they are updated). Setting reminders on your phone or on a sticky note near your computer will help you remember to back up weekly until it becomes habit.

Subscription Backup Services

There are some subscription services that charge users a per-month fee to automatically back up content to the cloud. Though these might have been a viable option several years ago, in today’s world of standard automatic backup software and free cloud-based storage options, paying monthly for a program that is already on modern computers is not a good value.

If you truly want to go with an automatic backup scheme, it is better to sink $100-$200 into an external hard drive than to pay $25 monthly for a program that you already have. Though cloud storage is certainly a great alternative if you are looking for manual backups, there is no disadvantage to using your own hard drive to back up content, and should a data breach occur, you’ll find that the data recovery process will be a lot faster if you use a hard drive for automatic backups vs. cloud storage.

Photo Credit: Miss Karen

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