Tech Today with Ken May
Backup and recovery
If you use a computer or mobile device long enough, sooner or later something will go wrong, resulting in you losing your personal files, documents, or photos. For example, you may accidently delete the wrong files, have a hardware failure, lose a device, or become infected with malware, such as ransomware. At times like these, backups are often the only way to rebuild your digital life.
Backups are copies of your information stored somewhere other than on your computer or mobile device. The first step is deciding what you want to back up. There are two approaches: (1) backing up specific data that is important to you; or (2) backing up everything, including your entire operating system. If you are not sure what to back up or want to be extra careful, back up everything.
Second, you must decide how frequently to back up. Common options include hourly, daily, weekly, etc. Other solutions offer “continuous protection,” in which new or altered files back up immediately each time you save a document.
There are two ways to back up your data: physical media or Cloud-based storage. If you are not sure which approach to use, you can use both at the same time. Physical media is devices you control, such as external USB drives or network devices. The advantage of using your own physical media is it is very quick. The disadvantage is if you become infected with malware, it can spread to your backups. Also, if you have a disaster, such as fire or theft, it can result in you losing not only your computer, but the backups as well.
Cloud-based solutions are online services that store your files on the Internet. An advantage of Cloud solutions is their simplicity–backups are often automatic and you can usually access your files from anywhere. Cloud backups can help you recover from malware infections, such as ransomware, as many Cloud solutions allow you to recover from pre-infected versions. The disadvantages are it can take a long time to back up or recover very large amounts of data.
Finally, don’t forget your mobile devices. Your mobile app configurations, recent photos, and system preferences may not be stored in the Cloud. By backing up your mobile device, not only do you preserve this information, but it is easier to transfer your data when you upgrade. An iPhone/iPad can back up automatically to Apple’s iCloud. Android, or other mobile devices depend on the manufacturer or servicer provider. In some cases, you may have to purchase an app for backups.
Backing up your data is only half the battle; you must be sure that you can recover it. Check periodically that your backups are working by retrieving a file and making sure it is the same as the original. Also, be sure to make a full system backup before a major upgrade (such as moving to a new computer or mobile device) or a major repair (like replacing a hard drive) and verify that it is restorable.