The Best Way to Back Up Your Data

By Will Murphy

We are living in a completely different world today than we did a decade or two ago.  All of our media is now digital, not just documents but especially our precious photos and videos. Digital cameras have made the whole process of recording and capturing special moments almost effortless.  I bought my first digital camera back in 2003, so that means all of my digital memories for the last 10 years, from before I married my wife to now spending time with our 1 year old daughter, are all stored on my computer sitting on my desk at home.  When you step back and consider this you see how important it is to make sure that you have a proper method of backing up your computer.

Businesses literally spend millions of dollars annually in order to back up their data…and it’s just as important for you to back up your own personal files.  Fortunately it won’t cost nearly as much.  For just a small amount of money you can rest assured that all of your personal digital memories will be with you for years down the line.

3 – 2 – 1 Method

This is by far the best method for backing up your data properly and it’s easy to remember.

  • 3 copies:  You should always have 3 copies of your important files.  Some may find that excessive but remember that one of those copies is your original.
  • 2 types of media:  To me this is the least important rule.  It’s not always practical to store data on different types of media, especially when you have large amounts of data to store.
  • 1 offsite location:  This is the most important rule.  I’ll explain below.

Most people are content to just go to the store, buy an external hard drive, slap it down next to their computer, and consider their backup complete.  An external hard drive should be a part of your backup solution, but it should not be your only solution.  Hard drives fail all the time, but your backup plan should protect you from more than just failing hard drives.  What if your experience a disaster like a house fire, flood, or tornado?  What if someone breaks into your house and steals your computer AND your fancy new external hard drive.  This is why it’s so important to have more than one backup and why one of them MUST BE OFFSITE!

Carbonite 3

There are a few ways to have an offsite backup.  You can burn dvd’s of your data and ship them to a relative’s house, or you can have 2 external hard drives and keep one at home and one at work and swap them weekly, etc…but those methods, while being inexpensive are pretty cumbersome and you’ll never have the latest information backed up offsite.  Some people use Dropbox which in my opinion is a great way to sync files across multiple devices but space is limited.  The easiest method for storing all of your data offsite is by using an online backup service such as Carbonite.

I’ve been using their online backup service for about 3 years now and have been extremely satisfied.  As soon as I signed up for their service I felt that I could breathe a huge sigh of relief knowing that my digital photos, documents, and videos were safe.  Fortunately I’ve never actually needed to use their service to restore my files, because I haven’t yet experienced a data loss.  I say “yet” because it will happen someday.  I know my data is backed up and safe because I can log onto and have remote access to all my files online.  (This has come in handy a number of times when I needed access to a document from my home computer when I was at work.)  For less than $5 per month you can back up an unlimited amount of data from your Mac or PC to their online service.    Granted it takes time to completely back up your system, several days or weeks depending on the amount of data you need backed up, but the service is designed this way to avoid using all of your bandwidth so that you don’t notice any performance decrease when you are browsing the web.  In my opinion there is simply no better way to store your data offsite.

Now You Can Backup External Drives Too!

I have friends who are photographers who have struggled with finding a cost effective way to back up the large amounts of data they have stored on external drives.  They simply had too much data to fit in their internal computer drives so had to store it on external drives also.  In the past Carbonite for Home would only backup the data you had on your personal computer only…no external drives.  Most of the other services for backing up data would charge you by the GB, the more data you had to backup the more you paid.  It could get expensive real fast.

But now Carbonite has a plan available for those people who need their external drives backed up as well.  Starting at just $99 per year you can now have unlimited storage space for your Windows computer as well as an external hard drive.  This plan is perfect for photographers and videographers who just have too much data to fit on just their personal computer.

An external hard drive is an integral part of your backup solution…but it shouldn’t be the only part!


So just to briefly sum up you should begin your backup plan by having a reliable external hard drive for immediate backup of all your important files.  An external hard drive is the easiest and fastest method to restore your data should something happen.  Next, find a way to get a copy of your backup offsite.  As mentioned above my recommendation is using an online service such as Carbonite.

Do you have other recommendations that I may have missed?  Share them in the comments below.

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2 responses to “The Best Way to Back Up Your Data

  1. Pingback: Computer Crash and Me | A Little Tour in Yellow·

  2. Everybody knows that it’s important to have backups of your files. Unfortunately, not everyone bothers to create up-to-date backups and that’s a big mistake. Remember, it only takes a virus, a hard drive failure or even a simple operating system glitch to wipe your files off your computer without a chance to get them back. Backing up to an external hard drive, or even a USB flash drive, is the most traditional of all backup methods. Backing up to an HDD is easy, quick and inexpensive. The great thing about it is that your backup is portable and you can take it wherever you go. Creating a disk image is a great way to back up not only your files and folders, but also everything else on your computer. If you have a disk image, you don’t have to worry about any failures because you will be able to restore everything, including your operating system, your software, files, etc. Online backup has been around for quite a while now, but relatively few people use it. Get more tips at :

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