Backing Up Your Data
By Sadira Sittampalam
Today, we store so much of ourselves on digital devices; from pictures of your loved ones to important documents and files pertinent to work and home life. Recently, my 3-year-old hard drive broke down and I was reminded of the fragile nature of all our data and how easy it is to lose these things to digital failures and thereby the importance of backing up all your data in a secure fashion.
This article will go through some of the backup methods that are available to use by everyone; and the advantages and disadvantages of each method. However, it is important to note that the best way to keep your data safe is to have more than one method of backup - as you can really never be too safe.
USB flash drive
This method of backup is a pretty good option for those with document-heavy backups. While you can get USB sticks that can hold quite a lot of data these days, an external hard drive would be a better price option for those with lots of pictures and videos. However, USBs are still pretty small which means you can store them pretty safe and you can carry them around with you wherever you go. It is also a very easy method of transferring your data onto other devices, which is very useful.
Nevertheless, the small size still means that it is a lot easier to lose these devices and there are a lot of cases of these small sticks being stolen as someone can just grab it and pocket it. There are also lots of questions about the relative longevity of the USB’s read/write cycles, which is how many times you can transfer data on and off. Usually, USB flash drives can withstand between 10,000 to 100,000 write/erase cycles, depending on the memory technology used.
When the limit is reached, some of the memory may start to malfunction, which leads to a loss of data and some corruption of the files. So if you are using a USB stick to back up some important data and you leave it aside for 10 years, your data will still be extremely safe. But if you keep using it, its lifespan will end much sooner, and you will have to move your data onto another device.
External hard drive
An external hard drive is literally what it sounds like - a hard drive outside your computer that can be plugged into other digital devices. They are more complicated and larger USB sticks. For the amount of space they can hold, these devices are also pretty cheap and you probably won’t run out of space
for your files unless you are a professional photographer or videographer. However, there are also two types of hard drives - Hard Disk Drive (HDD) and Solid State Drive (SSD). A hard disk drive is an old-school storage device that uses mechanical platters and a moving read/write head to access data while a solid-state drive is a newer, faster type of device that stores data on instantly-accessible memory chips.
SSD’s are a lot more expensive than HDDs, but SSD’s also have no moving parts so it is more likely to keep your data safe in the event where you drop it or it gets violently shook. Overall, if you are going to be constantly updating your backups and transferring files with your external hard drive, the better option would be an SSD, as it can withstand a lot more use than HDDs. If you would like to fill up your external hard drive with a lot of data once and never touch it again, an HDD would be the backup method for you - especially since HDD’s are a lot more open to problems such as power surges or malware that can lose all your files.
This is an option that a lot of people are opting to use these days, as it has a lot of clear advantages. Cloud Storage is when a third party hosts your data on their servers. There are free, paid, or free with paid extra options. iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive are the most popular options these days, but there are lots of others available.
The advantages are that you can do most of your backups automatically, so, whenever you add some new files to your device it will be instantly uploaded (under the condition that you have an active internet connection). A certain amount of space is also usually free on these servers, so you usually only have to pay if you go about the set limit. These costs are usually quite reasonable as well considering the amount of space they provide. You can also upload and access your backups on any device, which is very convenient if you have more than one device.
However, this does always need an internet connection to work, so if you have a limited data plan with a lot of big files, this might not be the best option for you. Furthermore, since you are putting all your data in the hands of a third party, you cannot account for any of their data breaches or if they accidentally lose any of your data. These companies are also not obliged to keep their services around forever, so if they happen to shut down, you will have to migrate your files elsewhere.
Network attached storage
Lots of businesses tend to use this backup method for their files. But now with people having more and more devices, this type of storage has a growing appeal especially since you can save files to this storage from more than one source. The price of network-attached storage is also coming down, which means that there are quite a lot of advantages to this dedicated storage solution. For one, it is all automatically backed up, so you don’t risk forgetting to back up your files. This backup method also works great with phones and tablets especially if there are lots of members of your family who also require backup storage.
Nevertheless, as far as backup storage goes, this method is still on the pricer side (but it also is a pretty good investment if you really do not want to lose any of your data). It also requires someone with a pretty good knowledge of IT to set up and to maintain, so your prices might go up if you need to hire someone to do this.
Time Machine is an option for all the Apple users out there, as it backs up your files to external hard drives automatically. While you can buy one of Apple’s very own brand of dedicated wireless Time Capsules, you can use any hard disk for it. This backup method has a frequency of backups (it creates incremental backups of files that can be restored later) which ensures that you should never be too out of data and backs up the entire drive, not just the key files. However, the dedicated wireless machine is still pretty expensive and it is still only available to Mac users.