Kick off the New Year with a Solid Data Backup Plan

Jan 7, 2013 11:00am

The following is a guest blog from 

Getting a backup can be a hard thing to do because you don't know where to start. But don't give up just yet! At we think that a backup is the first thing you should think about when getting a new computer, even before getting an anti-virus software installed (which is very important regardless of if you are a Windows or Mac user). 

Here comes an interesting fun fact: the majority of people already know about the importance of backups but still there are over 30% not backing up their files. And according to this report from Backblaze, over 90% not backing up once a day.

I say, better safe than sorry, so we'll get you to implement a daily backup routine in this article. But don't worry it's not hard at all. Shall we start? 

Step 1: Clean Your System
It is always advisable to clean up your system once in a while. Over the months, or even years people tend to accumulate files on their computers that clutter the whole system. Most of the time these are files that are not needed anymore, such as temporary files from uninstalled applications, old documents, temporary Internet files and other "stuff". Consider a clean install of your operating system. But this is only advisable if you already have a backup strategy in place, if you don't, just continue reading. We'll set you up.

Step 2: Make an Inventory of Your Most Important Files
After cleaning your system, you should think about what are the most important files on your computer that you cannot lose, come what may. Those files might be pictures you've taken on your honeymoon, video recordings last Christmas or other documents like presentations or contracts. You should group those files into specific folders and name them accordingly. For example, all of your photos would go into the "Photos" folder and so on. Windows and Macintosh users can make use of the predefined folder structure that is already well-suited for most common file types. But of course feel free to set up your own system.
Step 3: Calculate Your Storage Needs
If you want to perform a backup of your system you need to know how much storage you will need. This is of special importance when you think about backing up your files online as your monthly fee is likely to increase if you have more storage needs. But even if you only think about local backups you must know how big of an external hard drive you should buy. After sorting all your files in the specific folders you can use dedicated apps that will sum up the storage for you. However, in Windows or Mac you can just right-click on a folder and click on the folder "Information" or "Properties". That will give you an estimate of the folder and file size.

Step 4: Do You Need a Full Backup?
Backup experts differentiate between so-called "bare metal backups" and partial backups. Bare metal backups will create an exact copy of your operating system with all of its files, even applications and system files. Partial backups will "only" include files you explicitly chose for backup. Bare metal backups have the advantage that in case of data loss your system can be back up and running in just a couple of hours. However, bare metal backups will take up more space and generally take longer. We recommend keeping a bare metal backup locally, for example on an external hard drive, and a partial backup online.

Step 5: Local Backup or Online Backup?
Basically, you have two options to backup your files. You can backup your files on site, using an external hard drive or a network attached storage (NAS), or you can backup your files with an online backup service provider. What is best for you depends on your security assessment: how much are those files worth to you? Can you afford to lose them? If so, one local backup might be enough. But you have to take into consideration theft, fires or other damages that could happen to your computer or external hard drive. Therefore, we recommend getting at least two backups: one on-site backup, at your house or office and  another one off-site with an online backup storage service.

Step 6: Decide on a Backup Schedule
Many online backup services will back up your files continuously, meaning that whenever a file changes it gets backed up automatically. That is very convenient, because you can never forget backing up your files. However, if you have a slow Internet connection or if you simply do not need continuous data protection you might want to think about scheduling your backup. Most backup programs will allow you to schedule your backup on an hourly, daily or weekly basis. We do not recommend using fewer backups. If you decide using local backup and online backup your backup strategy might look as follows: once a week you can perform a bare metal backup locally of all of your files and operating system. For your daily backup needs, you can set up an online backup service to backup your files continuously or once an hour. That way, you will have the convenience of a full system backup and add an additional security layer on top with an online backup service for your most important files.

Step 7: Start Your Backup!
Thinking about a backup strategy is important. But do not overthink the matter. If your strategy gets too complicated, you most likely end up not doing it at all. And that might be fatal if your hard drive should crash. Keep your backup strategy as simple as possible like we described in this article. You might think two backups is an overkill, but we heard too many stories of people losing their files because they only had one backup. Online backup has become fairly cheap, services like Backblaze offer unlimited online backup for only $5 per month.

Step 8: Enjoy Peace of Mind
What we love about helping people getting to back up their computers is when they tell us about the peace of mind they enjoy after having implemented a backup strategy for their files. When you've set up your backup routine, go outside, grab a coffee and spend some quality time with your spouse or kids. We guarantee you it feels so much better knowing your data is safe. is a website dedicated to helping people find the right online backup service for their needs.