Do you back up regularly? 31 March is World Backup Day, a yearly reminder to check that your data – from precious photos to essential info – is safely backed up and secure. It might not sound like a big deal, but have you thought about what you stand to lose?
A backup is a second copy of a file or piece of data, stored on a device separate from your computer, mobile, or tablet. You can create a backup in the cloud using an online service, but for full control, you need a backup you can keep for yourself. That means using a device like an external hard drive (HDD), solid-state-drive (SSD), or a slim portable flash drive.
What is World Backup Day
World Backup Day (website here) is an initiative supported by many manufacturers of backup devices, including Western Digital, but why is backup so important? Because data is never 100% safe from mechanical and electrical failure or ransom-ware. The best solution is effective backup.
Why everyone needs backup
Once, the idea of ‘personal data’ maybe just meant a few photos, a couple of old uni or school assignments, and not much else. Today though, more and more of our lives rely on digital records that we keep ourselves. Sure, you can get another copy of your birth certificate, or pay to have your licence reissued, should you lose either. But what about your contacts list? Or years of precious memories in the form of your photographs? Even losing your emails can be a major inconvenience, if not a total disaster.
There are plenty of ways you can lose data. Your computer or mobile device is very reliable, but hardware failures still happen. Most of all though, is the risk of a hack. Even with antivirus software, all it takes is a moment of inattention and clicking on the wrong link: some malicious actors can delete all your data just for the thrill of it. But none of this means disaster if you keep a regular backup. It means copying your data to a separate device, not just once, but on a schedule you set for yourself. That means new files, new photos, and new data gets saved too.
It used to be that backing up was a bit of a fiddle, and meant wrestling with your computer’s file explorer or finder. Drive letters, directories, drag-and-drop, ugh! Fortunately, backing up has never been easier, with a new generation of products that come with software that helps you back up what you want, when you want, and will even remind you when your next backup is due.
So, what should you be looking for in a backup device? Your needs will be slightly different, when backing up from your computer versus a mobile device, such as a phone or tablet. Let’s take a look at what you need, starting with your computer.
Backing up on computer
Computers are broadly split into Windows and Mac these days, but the following advice applies to both. If you use a computer regularly, chances are it has become the main repository for all your essential data. Your emails and contacts of course, but also passwords for websites and government services, and even your phone contacts, if you use a cloud service such as Google or iCloud. This means your computer holds a lot of data, measured in gigabytes. And in the age of 4K video and other high-resolution file formats, the amount of data is only increasing.
So, you need a high capacity device, such as a portable hard disk drive. This can be either a mechanical drive, which is usually cheaper and holds more, or a solid-state drive which can be more expensive, but does backups faster, though you might have to trade off on capacity. These devices have capacities ranging from 500GB (gigabytes) up to 5TB (terabytes), so they have plenty of space for all your stuff.
You don’t have all day to sit around waiting for backups to complete, of course, so a portable HDD should also use the latest interface technology. Right now, that’s USB-C, which is supported by most new computers and some older ones. This can turn an hour-long backup into one that only takes a few minutes, even if you’re transferring several gigabytes.
And let’s not forget the importance of security and encryption. In the unfortunate event a portable device is lost or stolen, you want no-one to get anything of value from it. Devices now come with powerful encryption technology, enabled by a password you can select. Western Digital’s My Passport HDD and My Passport Ultra HDD range of portable drives hit all these checkpoints, and you can even pick the colour!
About the size of a slim paperback, these devices connect to your computer with a single USB cable. They secure your data with powerful encryption and a password, and can also connect to cloud services such as Google Drive and Dropbox for the ultimate in backup peace of mind.
And they come with backup software preinstalled, to help you organise and schedule backups and make the whole experience plug-and-play… or in this case, plug and save. Backing up on computer doesn’t have to be a chore, but you should think of it as essential. Here’s a quick checklist to make sure you’re keeping your data safe:
Essential backup habits for computer
Backup regularly. Whether once a fortnight or once a month, choose a schedule that suits you. Remember: files change, and everything is precious. Losing a month’s worth of photos or documents can be as bad as losing it all.
Password protect your device. The encryption technology in portable hard drives is powerful, but it only works if you set a password! Make it something easy for you to remember, but difficult for others to guess, and avoid birthdays!
Use backup software. Make backing up easy on yourself. Set it up once, choose the files and folders you want to back up, so every time from then on, backing up is just plug and play.
Make use of automatic backups. Scheduling is one thing, but do you trust yourself when it comes to something so important? Automatic backups can be set up using backup software, so you’ll get a reminder to backup. Or if you leave your external hard drive plugged in, the backup will just happen all by itself.
Backing up on mobile device
For many of us, the mobile phone is becoming our central data repository. Photos, information, passwords, and of course contacts – it’s all there inside that tiny, slim, droppable, smashable, losable device. Horrors!
Backing up a mobile device is a bit different to backing up on computer. Most importantly, because the internal storage of your mobile is much smaller in capacity than your computer. The average Windows PC might have an internal hard drive that’s 500GB to 2TB in size, but even today’s mobiles have 128GB models. That’s nothing!
So, backing up a mobile device (and this applies to tablets too) doesn’t just mean creating a second copy of files and data, it means moving that data onto the device, and deleting from your mobile to free up space.
This creates conditions for you to make a terrible mistake: deleting something you thought you had already backed up. That’s where a device like a flash drive supported by a backup app becomes so important.
Flash drive backup
These devices are also slim and rugged, so you can take them with you. They include connectors for your mobile, either USB-C, or Apple’s proprietary lightning connector for iPhone. And they are designed so these connectors are protected while you’re not using the device.
SanDisk’s iXpand Flash Drive Luxe, for example, allows you to quickly plug in to your mobile device, back up files using an app, and free up space on your phone or tablet. What’s more, you can then plug the iXpand Flash Drive into a computer or and copy those files to a backup folder.
The SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive Go, meanwhile, has extra compatibility with Type-A USB connectors, so you get even more flexibility when it comes to copying your essential files to another backup device, such as an older computer. For a touch of posh, the Ultra Dual Drive Luxe option offers a polished silver finish.
Backing up your mobile device’s data can feel almost overwhelmingly complicated at times, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right device, backing up is easy. Here’s a checklist to help you keep your data safe:
Essential backup habits for mobile devices
Regularly backup. Not just your photos, but also your contacts, email, and other data such as passwords. You use your mobile every day, so data changes quickly.
Be aware of capacity. Your mobile phone especially has a pretty tiny amount of storage, by today’s standards. Use your phone’s settings app to keep an eye on how much capacity you still have. There’s nothing worse than being unable to capture a precious moment in a photo, because your phone is “full”!
Use a backup app. Mobile backup devices come with handy apps to help you streamline the backup process. Install these apps from your mobile’s app store, and turn backing up into a simple, plug-and-play process.
Set a password. Like backup devices for computer, flash drives also have powerful encryption. Take advantage of this by setting a password that you can remember easily, but which others will struggle to guess. And as always, avoid using birthdays or other personal details to make a password!
Set reminders. Your mobile device can remind you to back up, either using the reminder system that comes with your phone, or the backup device’s app.
And most of all, remember to back up regularly!
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