Back Up, Back Up & Back Up
I know I keep harping on about this, but the message seems to fall on deaf ears. If you woke up one morning and found that all your photos, documents and music had been lost either by virus attack, disk failure or simple error on your part, what would you do? A back-up is simply having a copy of your precious data elsewhere so that if your primary storage is compromised, you have a fall-back position. Its not difficult, its not expensive and its not complicated.
There are two basic methods of backup available to you today; removable devices and on-line. A removable device is either a USB memory stick or a removable hard disk and the simple difference is the size. A USB stick is probably between 8 and 64 gigabytes of storage (you can get bigger, but they are expensive) whereas a removable hard disk would be between 500 gigabytes and 1 terabyte in size.
So how much backup space do you need? Most computers we see have between 20 and 80 gigabytes of data made up of some documents, some pictures and some music. You’ll see therefore that a memory stick, whilst useful for a quick copy to take from one computer to another, is not really practical for a proper backup. A removable hard disk is much more suitable, robust and long lasting. Whatever you do, you must never move data from your PC to backup as the whole idea is to have TWO copies of your precious data in case of failure.
Let’s dispel a myth here - Don’t be worried about how much stuff is stored on your PC in terms of documents, pictures and videos; it won’t affect the speed of your PC one little bit. The speed of your PC is dented by the programs you’ve installed and have running at any one time: Don’t go deleting pictures in the hope that your PC will speed up again, have it cleaned up properly.
Once you’ve got your backup device, then it’s simply a matter of copying your data from your PC to your device. You can do this manually, use the Windows Backup system that came on your PC or use any of the many proprietary backup programs. If you are a MAC user then use the built in “Time Machine” backup system. If you accidentally lose a file or have a disaster with your PC then it’s simply a matter of restoring your data from your device using the same method as you used to create the backup.
On-line backup is a paid-for service (about £50 a year) where your computer uploads all your data to a secure storage server for safe keeping. It automatically updates every day and restoring is simply a matter of downloading your data again. I always recommend this method as its automatic and you don’t have to faff about with sticks or other USB things; furthermore, you don’t have to remember to do it!
Finally, if you want your emails to be safe against computer failure, virus encryption or accidental loss, you should be using a synchronous web-based email system using the IMAP method. The proprietary providers now all offer this service where your computer just replicates email with their server. If you fall victim to loss, then you simply have to re-synchronise the data on the server.
Added: 22nd October 2018