Be prepared and back it up!

It’s important to back up your personal data regularly so it’s safe just in case the worst happens.

As you use your computers, phones, and tablets, you’ll start to accumulate a lot of data on the internal storage. Whether its music, lists and notes, contact information, important documents, or those photos from your once-in-a-lifetime holiday – losing it would be awful. We all like to think we’re careful and it’ll never happen to us, but the truth is no matter how careful you are, you never know when your phone will drop out of your pocket and break, your iPad will be lost or stolen, you accidentally open an email containing a virus, or that cup of coffee decides to just tip itself over the laptop keyboard.

What is classified as a backup?

A backup is a copy of your important files that you keep in case something happens to the original on your hardware. The simplest way to back up your data is to copy files to another format, like a CD, DVD, USB device, or external hard drive. However, some people prefer to use online “cloud” services.

When it comes to backing up, keep in mind that any of the following do NOT count as an effective backup solution:

  • Copying a file to another folder or location on the same device or computer– if there’s a problem that affects your device or computer it’s most likely to wipe out everything and if it gets damaged or stolen you’ll lose both copies!
  • Copying a file somewhere else, then deleting the original to save space – what if there’s a problem with your backup?
  • Online storage tools like Dropbox, which are geared towards sharing and collaboration – your deleted files will only be kept for 30 days.

Backing up the right way

You may have heard of the 3-2-1 backup strategy, or the “rule of three”. When backing up your data this is the best structure to follow.

THREE copies of the data

  • This includes the original and 2 copies.

TWO formats

  • Keep one copy on a cloud service and one copy on a hard drive or USB.

ONE copy is kept offsite

  • Whether you keep one copy in the cloud or a hard drive copy at a family’s house, it’s important to keep one copy away from the original in case of a disaster where you lose all backups.

Ideally you should aim to have one copy on your laptop, a second on an external drive, and a third copy on an online cloud system. This means that you’ll have a backup handy if you need to restore something quickly and if there’s a disaster like a fire, theft, or flood, you’ve still got another copy offsite and ready to go.

Ways to back up your data

When backing up aim to keep one copy on a cloud service and one copy on a hard drive or USB. Ideally you want to keep this second copy away from the computer area so it’s not easy to grab in the case of a break in. To do this, you’ll need an external hard drive that’s as big as the internal drive in your computer or if you can afford it, try to get one that’s 2–4 times that size.

Automatic updates

On Windows devices you’ll have access to the built-in Windows Backup to automatically backup everything in your user folder. For Mac users Apple’s built-in Time Machine feature will automatically backup your files.

Cloud Services

The easiest way to do an offsite backup is through a cloud based backup system. To help you choose between each platform, check out this PCMag comparison article. These services backup your files to their servers over your broadband for an affordable monthly (or annual) fee. Some services also have tools to automate your local backups or offer free services but the storage space is often very limited.

If you have an iPhone, you can backup to iCloud. You should also backup to iTunes on your computer – this way, your computer’s backups will also backup your phone. Android users can use Google Sync to back up, and again it’s worth occasionally connecting your phone to your computer and copying files over.

Once you’ve got all you data backed up, get into the habit of backing up new files regularly. Even if it’s only on a monthly or even quarterly basis, it’s a small amount of effort for a lot of relief should something happen to your data down the track!


Do you have tip for backing up your files? Share it with us in the comments.


  1. Andrew Brown says:

    I back up my stuff to the cloud. I also have a portable hard disk off site. I use USB drives to back up the point of sales system at work. these are kept in the safw

  2. KERRY says:

    This is a great prompt and ‘how to’ for someone like me…….who NEVER remembers to backup my Mac! It’s now a recurring entry in my calendar along with this link. THANKYOU!

  3. Rob says:

    The idea to backup on two external devices is a vital thing to do. Recently my laptop had non f]repairable fault occur on the motherboard. I purchased a new computer and to my surprise when I went to backup from the external hard drive I backup to regularly there was a fault occur in that device also and somehow most of the file were corrupt. Nasty business

    • Leo Yarnold says:

      Cheers Rob!

      This very true, having suffered a hardware failure myself and losing a decade’s worth of e-mail recently, I can personally attest to how important it is to back up your data.

      – Leo

  4. I have a hard-drive dock costing less than a hundred dollars. I can plug in a hard drive, and connect it through USB to my computer. My computer has a 1 Terabyte hard drive, so my backup drives must also be 1Terabyte. I have two of them.
    If my computer crashes, I can plug in a backup hard drive, and tell the computer to run from my hard drive dock.
    I use a free backup program called “AOMEI Backupper Professional”. It is fairly intuitive, except when it asks you for the source drive and then for the backup drive. In each case you must click the icon at the left. You get into all sorts of trouble if you click some things further to the right.
    Here’s how to use it. Trap for beginners – plug in the dock and switch it on!!!!!!!!
    Power up AOMEI and tell it that you want to CLONE the computer hard drive – not backup. Then it will make a copy of everything, including your operating system, so that you can use it when your computer drive crashes.
    The rest is fairly obvious. It takes an hour or two to back up five hundred gigabytes.
    Tell the program to switch off the computer when it is finished.
    I keep that drive plugged into the computer but not switched on and do a nightly backup at the end of my day’s computing.
    Once a week, I do a backup to a third hard drive, and store it outside of my house.
    I don’t use the cloud because I don’t trust it. I’m sure Google and Facebook data-mine it.