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8 fail-safe ways to back up your data

back up data
(Image credit: Getty)

Physical damage. Malware attacks. Information theft. There are a lot of ways your precious data can make its way out of your hands and into the hands of enemies. If you are clever, you probably have security measures in place to protect stored data from malicious actors. But are you prepared for the worst?

If all else fails and your data is gone for good, how do you recover those hours of lost work? The best cloud storage is a great fail-safe way to back up date, as is using one or more of these methods to keep yourself ready for the worst possible scenario.

01. Copy everything to a USB stick

USB drives are cheap and easy to come by. They are also pocket-sized, making them perfect for carrying to work daily. If you have a lot of files to store, you can buy one with more storage space like 256 GB. 

USB sticks work on Windows and MacOS. With a bit of effort, you can use a data cable to hook them up to Android or iOS devices too. 

Unfortunately, because of their small size, USB drives are very easy to lose track of. They are also vulnerable to physical damage and malware infection. While good for storing and transferring data in the short run, USB sticks probably shouldn’t be your only long-term backup plan. 

02. Burn it all to a CD or DVD

You can always back up data the old-fashioned way, by burning your data to a backup disc such as a CD, DVD, or Blu-Ray. Just insert the disc into your computer and make a copy of all the files you would like to save. You can store your backup disc in the location of your choice, such as a bank locker. 

Unfortunately, there are many problems with this approach. Disc drives are very easy to damage, not to mention quite pricey the higher their storage space. This backup method is also very slow because of the dated technology. 

Most importantly, a lot of computers these days don’t even come with an optical drive.

03. Use an external hard drive

External hard drives are a lot faster than USB sticks and CD drives. They are still portable, while also being a lot tougher than any of those options. Most importantly, they come with a lot more storage space.

External hard drives can be plugged into and out of any device of your choice. More recent ones even come with USB 3.0 capabilities for faster data transfer. 

However, as with any other physical storage device, external hard drives run a risk of failure, and they can be pretty expensive. Solid-state drives, which are faster than your typical external hard drives and also more durable, are even costlier. Check out our guide to the best external hard drives for some solid, affordable options.

04. Print out physical copies

Investing in a good-quality color printer will allow you to preserve most text and images without any loss in fidelity. Just put all your files into a folder and store them away in a combination-locked safe. 

Keeping physical copies of your data can be a bit of a hassle, but at least you won’t have to worry about digital threats like malware infection or third-party intrusion. Taking the analog approach will still require you to worry about the elements, however. Getting rid of outdated data would be yet another problem, requiring you to invest in a good-quality paper shredder.

05 Invest in a NAS device

Network-Attached Storage (NAS) is a great way to store your files on a separate device that can be accessed from any other device that’s connected to the device’s own network. Think of it as an external hard drive with a built-in wireless network.

For a home office, this means storing files away in a mini-server that can be accessed from pretty much any device that’s connected to your home network. 

For offices, these devices are especially useful as they allow for seamless collaboration between different employees in the workplace. Since there are no third parties involved, no one is intercepting your data or keeping logs of your network activity. 

06. Use the Time Machine

We’re not referring to the elusive sci-fi concept: Time Machine is the name of the built-in backup software that ships with Apple devices running MacOS X Leopard or higher. Apple even sells dedicated external hard drives called Time Capsules to go along with the software.

All you have to do is connect your macOS device to an external hard drive via USB or Thunderbolt. You can use any external hard drive for this, not just a Time Capsule. Once connected, you can use the application to perform automated backups on your device at regular intervals. 

This is one of the best ways to back up your Mac, with the only real downside being the high price you have to pay for a wireless storage device such as a Time Capsule. 

07. Subscribe to a backup service

Backblaze is a backup service that runs in the background of your device and automatically uploads previous versions of your files to its online servers. It’s technically not a cloud storage service as it doesn’t come with a file management system. 

Using a backup service like Backblaze or Carbonite is not without its benefits. It’s a lot simpler than traditional cloud storage, making it approachable even for newbies. If you lose access to your files due to a malware attack, for example, all you have to do is hit the restore button. However, you do have to pay a monthly subscription fee to access most backup services. 

08. Back up data using cloud storage

Investing in cloud storage is one of the best ways to back up your data. A good cloud storage service, such as Google Drive or Dropbox, will come with its own file management system for simplified access, as well as decent encryption to keep your data away from third parties. 

There are a lot of cloud storage services to choose from, but we recommend using IDrive. IDrive is a powerful cloud storage solution with file versioning, file retention, and real-time synchronization features. It is also one of the most pocket-friendly, with paid plans starting at just $52.12 a year for 5 TB of storage. See our guides to the best cloud storage for photos and best cloud storage for small businesses for more information. 

Summary

There are many ways to back up your data, but none of them are foolproof. Ideally, you should have multiple backup plans in place to fully secure your work. USB sticks and CD drives are good for storing or transferring small amounts of stored information, but they aren’t great for scalability. 

NAS devices can be a strong part of any local backup plan, whereas using a cloud storage service can help you keep a copy of all your information in a remote server. Used together, these strategies can help keep your data safe from any form of upheaval.

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