There are two kinds of people in the world—those who backup their data and those who need to. You want to be in the first category. But why?
Backups of your computer or phone’s documents, pictures, music and other data can save you from a variety of woes. There’s the risk of hard-disk failure. What if your laptop or phone gets stolen? The type of malware known as ransomware can lock your files away unless you pay the bad guys to unlock them. Have you ever lost your phone? All these calamities can be eased by backing up your data.
And it’s much easier to do this than ever before. If you have a Windows or Mac computer, the easiest thing to do is buy an external USB hard drive (a one-terabyte drive costs about $60). Just connect it to your computer; Windows and Mac OS should just recognize it and ask if you want to use it for backup. Once you confirm, software built-in to the two operating systems will automatically make a full backup, and then backup all changed files periodically as you work.
Another option is to use the Cloud for backup, using a commercial service like BackBlaze or Carbonite. Subscribe to one of these services, install a small program on your computer, and your files will be backed up while your computer is otherwise idle.
You might actually be backing up your data now and not even know it. iPhones connected to iCloud with an AppleID have automatic backup on by default. Should you lose your iPhone, simply use that same AppleID on a replacement iPhone, and you can restore your data and settings.
If you use Dropbox, you’re also already backing up your data files. If your Windows or Mac computer uses Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or iCloud Drive, at least the files you save in those folders are being backed up remotely.
Backups are great, but you need to test that you can restore your files if you need to. About once a month, you should go into to your backup drive (Windows: Start > Settings > Update & Backup; Mac: System Preferences > Time Machine) and restore a file to make sure everything is working correctly.
For the truly paranoid, an off-site backup is not a bad idea. This means making a full backup of your computer (on a second external hard drive) and storing in a location away from the computer itself. This could be your office, or a safe-deposit box. If your house burns down, or if your computer and backup drive are stolen, then you have a copy of your data. While this may be older than the on-site backup, it’s extra insurance that can save lots of hours (re-entering data) or heartache (if your family digital photos are gone for good).
Remember, you want to be in the group that does backups rather than wishing you were.