Whoa! Stop! Backup! Learning to Backup Your Data Before You Lose it!

I love fixing people’s computer problems.  The joy that I get when I’m able to solve someone’s technology issue is fantastic and it feels good to get people back on their way.  However the one thing that I can’t help people with is lost data that they didn’t backup.

In some instances I can gain access to a drive that won’t boot or an OS install gone bad, if the data is still on the drive there is hope.  The problem is when that data is gone, when the drive is toast (or water logged) or “gasp” lost it’s something that I can’t help with.  While their are services out there that can retrieve lost data off a bad drive for most people once they hear about the cost they figure they still have those vacation memories in their head who really needs them on the computer.

Backing up your data used to be a tedious annoying process that even people that did do it often didn’t do it enough.  These day’s however data backup is so easy and useful that there is no excuse to not have that data backed up, reliably, all the time.

The best place to start is with Dropbox.  Everyone should at least have a basic Dropbox plan which is FREE, this plan offers just 2GB of storage but you can earn up to 16GB of FREE storage through friend referrals and other activities.  Ultimately though if you have a lot of data (especially photos) you’ll want the Pro plan.  The Pro plan costs $9.99 a month and offers 1 TB of online storage.  Dropbox first and foremost is easy.  You install it on your PC or PCs, put your files in the Dropbox folder and organize to your hearts content and all those files will be automatically uploaded and updated with no input or additional work on your end.  The files will be accessible from anywhere via the web or an app on your phone or tablet and Dropbox even offers you security if you accidentally delete a file (just visit the web site and delete that file or files).  Recently Dropbox launched their Carousel app which helps back up all the photos you take on your phone.  Carousel also gives you interesting ways to view your photos and best of all the Flashback feature will find old photos occasionally to show you from years gone by.  I’ve been using Dropbox for years now and cannot recommend it enough.

Next up is Microsoft OneDrive (previously SkyDrive).  One Drive is cheaper than Dropbox offering a few different plans, one which even comes with Office 365.  If you plan to use OneDrive I recommend (and use) the Office 365 Home plan as it offers the most bang for your buck per month.  OneDrive recently got much better thanks to Windows 10.  With Windows 10 and OneDrive you can now access your files easier and you can also easily browse your photos in the new Photos app and stream your music collection from OneDrive to the Groove Music app.  If you’re an Xbox One owner you can also view your photos on your big screen via the OneDrive app and stream your music through the Groove Music app on Xbox One.  The real benefit here in the plan however is Office 365.  Do not pay $6.99 for the 1TB of storage without adding Office for another $3.00.  The available OneDrive app will also help you upload photos from your phone as well.  I use OneDrive as my first backup to Dropbox.

Both Dropbox and OneDrive are full featured backup solutions, providing ease of backup for Documents, photos, and just about everything in between.  Although their are even more options.

Apple users have been going through changes from the last few years and backup solutions have not always been reliable (I’m looking at you ME account) or full featured (iCloud Photostream).  This past year however Apple Photos and Apple Music and iCloud Drive have made things a whole lot easier, but not cheaper.  Apple gives you 5GB of storage for FREE which I like to refer to as the useless storage.  You can upgrade your plan to Apple 20GB for $12 per year, 200GB for $48 per year, 500GB for $120 per year, and 1TB for $240 per year.  For even an average photo collector your probably looking at that 200GB level.  However for iPhone users Apple Photos is amazing.  Take a photo and up to the cloud it goes, to all your devices, to the iCloud web site and makes for easy sharing, all with no user input.  Make a change to an old photo and it’s changed, everywhere.  This is the Apple photo service I have always wanted.  The best part is that it will keep all your photos on your device (via thumbnails to view) and manage the storage they take up so you don’t have to worry about filling up your device and choosing which photos to delete to be able to take more.

Apple Music and more importantly iTunes Match will allow you to backup your music collection (for $24.99 a year) and then stream music anywhere for plans starting at $9.99 a month (but go for the family plan for $14.99 a month).

If you’re an Apple user honestly both of these plans are must haves to get the most out of your music and photos. The iCloud Drive will give you access to your files but other than some files I use in Pages or Numbers I don’t like the iCloud backup solution for my documents since it’s not as easy to use if you’re also a Windows user.

Amazon Prime offers a solution for music and photos as well.  It’s part of their Prime Membership for $99 a year.  When it comes to Amazon my suggestion is this, get it for the total Prime Benefits package if you like it but don’t get it for the photo and music storage.  I do back up my photos and music to Amazon because I do use Prime and we do have a Kindle but if I wasn’t a fan of everything Amazon offered it wouldn’t be something I used.  Once again however if you’re an Amazon user and have a Kindle device (and order a lot from Amazon) you really can’t go wrong with Prime.

Finally this brings us to Google.  I’m not an Android phone user, never was, but I do use the new OS on my Nvidia Shield.  Although I’m not an Android user I am a Google user and fan.  Lately I am using Google services more and more and if you’re not you’re missing out on some of the best FREE services around.  If you’re not using backup services because you don’t want to pay for them then Google is really your last chance.  Recently Google launched Google Photos and if you’re not using it then shame on you!  If nothing else Google Photos has a FREE plan which offers you to upload unlimited photos (not full hi res) and then does amazing things with them.  The Google Photos app for your phone will also keep those photos uploaded and up to date.  Google also offers Google Music which will allow you to upload all your songs from a moderately sized music library and have that music backed up and available for streaming.  Did I mention that Google’s services can be used for FREE?

I encourage you to take a look at each of the services I mentioned in this blog post and if you’re not using online backup yet please make it a priority to do so sooner rather than later.  If you just have some documents you want to keep safe at least get a FREE Dropbox account.  If you have a large photo collection but still refuse to pay for online storage start using Google Photos.  There is nothing worse than realizing you need a backup solution once all your data is gone.

It’s also important to note that even though you choose an online solution for your backups it’s still important to keep a local backup copy of your files (updated at least once a month) in a safe place in your home or offsite.

As always if you need help choosing a backup solution or need help getting started once you do please visit our website www.2guystech.com and we’ll help get you going.