What do I have to do? I’m begging here. Please, backup your computers. If you lose a dollar, you can earn another one. If you lose a priceless photograph, it’s gone for good. If you store anything on your computer – photos, music, letters, school papers, anything – then you need to back it up. All the time. Automatically. The sad truth is that a computer can break down at any time with no warning whatsoever, or be attacked by malware, including the evil ransomware.
Recently, I received a call from someone who, it turned out, had a broken hard drive. When I asked about backups, they said that they did have backups but they were on a thumb drive that they had manually copied everything to, almost a year ago! No more current copies. The result is that everything stored on the computer between the year-ago backup and now is lost. School papers and photographs. Gone.
They asked if the data could be saved. A common question, but the answer is usually a sad and disheartening, no. The dead drive can be sent off to specialists, but the fees for these services can run to over a thousand dollars, and there’s no guaranty that they can recover all, if any, of your lost data.
You Need Automatic Backups!
You probably have more irreplaceable stuff on your computer than you realize. Photos, of course, are especially painful to lose. If your pictures were all on your hard drive, and your drive has been wrecked by failure or by malware, then your photos are, most likely, gone. Not just photos, either. All your tax records, documents for your business, your kids’ school papers, all of the stuff that is only on your computer – if they are not backed up, the are vulnerable to sudden and permanent loss. If you don’t have an automatic backup going now, you need to get one set up right away. Please, don’t put it off.
How to Back Up Your Computer Data
To be truly data safe, you need a regular, automatic backup. All modern computers, Windows or Mac, have built-in programs for automatically backing up your data to an external drive. (For older versions of Windows, most brand-name external drives come with backup software.) External drives are not expensive, usually costing around $50 and up. They’re certainly cheaper than the heartache of lost data.
An external drive gets plugged into your computer, and to be automatic it needs to stay connected to your computer. Of course, if the drive is connected to your computer, then it is also vulnerable to a malware attack. The way around that is to use a cloud-based automatic backup service. Cloud backups are immune to malware, including ransomware. With cloud backup, you literally set it and pretty much forget it. Until you need it. The cost is about the same as buying a new external drive once a year. Usually starting at around $5 per month, per computer. Not bad, really.
I’ve seen a few online backup services deployed, and the leaders are all easy to set up and use. We use a service called Carbonite (www.carbonite.com) at home, and I recommend this one to folks with Windows computers. Carbonite has a version for Mac users too, but a service called iDrive (www.idrive.com) has some advantage for Macs. There are others, but those are the two that I see most frequently and that folks seem happiest with.
A “local” external hard drive is a one-time, fixed price, and way, way better than not backing up your data. A cloud-based backup is slightly more expensive, but more secure and safer from malware. But automatic is really the crucial key, and both solutions give you that. And they are both so easy! Please, please, back up your computer.
Mike Pepper, The Computer Guy, has been providing software and hardware support in New York and Connecticut for more than 35 years. He can be reached at (845) 855-5824, or www.PawlingComputerGuy.com.