Are your files backed up?

Back Up

Did you know that March 31 is World Back Up Day? I didn’t either, until now. But…really, shouldn’t every day be Back Up Day?

Don’t be an April Fool – Take the Pledge!

(Click to view video “What Would You Do if You Lost Everything?”)

“Backing up” your files does not just mean making a copy. It means making multiple copies of the original files and storing them in different places. This way, if one copy (or the original) is damaged or destroyed, you will still have one or more backup copies in another format and/or in another location. Things happen — to computers, cameras, phones, external hard drives (EHDs), backup services, cloud storage companies, etc.

Which files should you back up?

Back up anything you have created yourself, or curated from the internet, including documents, digital photos, videos, presentations, family trees, etc. Programs and software are relatively available and easy to reinstall, but your personal files are a one-of-a-kind collection. There are services available to do this automatically (I use Carbonite). I have heard people complain that it takes too long to restore files, for example when transferring them from an old computer to a new one. That’s usually because they have backed up, and are trying to restore, programs in addition to files.

Backing up is not just for computers.

Don’t forget to back up paper as well as electronic files! What do I mean? Consider your most important documents, scrapbooks, and photo albums. How would they fare in a flood or fire? Do some of them need to be digitized for safekeeping? You probably have way too many papers and photos to want to scan them all. You might not even have a scanner. Start with the most important 20%. NAPO organizers can help you choose. APPO organizers can help you scan. Some organizers can do both. You can start here with saving your own photos.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket — follow the 3-2-1 rule!

The 3-2-1 rule is a computer industry best practice for backup and recovery:

  • Keep at least 3 copies of your data, including the original and at least two copies.
  • Keep the backed-up data on 2 different storage types to minimize the risk of one type of storage failure. Storage types include internal hard drive (computer), external or removable hard drive (can include thumb drives), and the cloud.
  • Keep at least 1 copy of the data offsite. The cloud counts as an offsite location, as does your office, or a friend’s house, or a safety deposit box.

In addition to Carbonite’s back up service (best $59 I spend each year!), I also use Dropbox cloud storage, and an external hard drive (EHD). I have recently switched from PC to Mac (a story in itself) so I’m also getting familiar with iCloud. My photos appear magically on my computer, so I guess they’re going directly to iCloud from my iPhone. Before, when I had an Android, I arranged the settings so that copies of my photos were going directly to Dropbox. Either way, I’m not worried about losing all my photos if I drop my phone into a mud puddle. If you don’t trust “the cloud”, at the very least hook your phone up to your computer once a week and download the photos!

2018 UPDATE: My Mac isn’t playing well with Carbonite lately so I’m considering other options. Not sure what the problem is.

Don’t do this:

Finally, if you are sending all your photos directly to Facebook, and that is your only copy, STOP IT! That’s worse than putting all your eggs in one basket because they only store compressed versions of your photos there, not versions with all the original data in them, which becomes important if you ever want to make full sized, or enlarged, copies. I also know that some family historians have ALL their genealogy records on Ancestry. Those records also need to be saved in a genealogy program that lives on your computer and/or filed and backed up some other way.

2018 UPDATE: Related blog post How NOT to Save Your Photos.

What about you? Are your files backed up? Please share your methods (or lack thereof) in the comments. And let your friends know. Friends don’t let friends put all their eggs in one basket!

Copyright 2017-2018 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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  1. Thanks for the reminder, Hazel. I’m going to do it right now. =) I do have it backed up in three different areas. It works well if something goes wrong on one backup. My husband told me about this years ago so he helped me set it up.

  2. Most of my documents are sync’d with OneDrive (not a backup, I know, but at least the files would be there if something happened to my computer) and backed up daily to JustCloud. I also back up my photos to an external hard drive once a week.

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