Bill Bennett walks you through the best ways to back up your data in 2018, and discovers a stand-out option.
Data is important. Everyone knows they should make backup copies of data.
But knowing is not the same as doing. A surprising number of businesses still choose not to make proper backups. In 2018 that’s not good enough. There are no excuses given the excellent products that can help you keep your digital assets safe.
Sometimes people don’t backup because it is an annoying chore. Other times it’s because people choose the false economy route. Often people have no idea how valuable their data is until too late.
There’s another class of business that thinks it is making backups, but isn’t! We’ll come back to that later.
There are two tricks to staying safe and being able to sleep at night. The first is to keep more than one spare copy of everything. Or, as they say in the data security business, “think about redundancy”.
Fix this by making two backup copies and store them in different places. If you’re extra cautious make a third. Use different technologies or services for each backup. If one is a local hard drive, store the other in the cloud. If you make one with the backup software in your computer’s operating system, make the other with a third-party tool. All these technologies will not go wrong at once.
The second secret of making reliable and safe backups is to check that the process works as expected. The best way to do this is to attempt a data restore. If you can, try recovering your backed up data on a spare computer. If it seems to work without hiccups, go into the files and check you can open two or three different document types. If all that works, you can be sure you are safe.
Most people know to backup document files. This can include movies, photographs, as well as text documents and PDFs. It’s important to check that you also backup your email files.
This isn’t necessary with web email services like Gmail. If you still use Outlook or another mail client you should check your backups include them. You might also want to check you are backing up your browser bookmarks – because not all backup tools include these.
The easiest backup is to copy files to an external drive or a memory stick. It is crude, but it works. Windows includes a Backup and Restore feature to automate this. Mac Users have something called Time Machine. Both are good.
A better approach is to use cloud storage. It’s a must if you use more than one device as you can sync files between the two as well as make backups.
There are some well-known brands in this space. The best are Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and DropBox. For Apple users there is also iCloud. Again, these are all good choices. The software goes well beyond simple file-sync and storage.
All these services offer a limited free backup option. In most cases the free options will not be enough to store all your data. The paid-for versions are great value and are unlikely to cost more than a few dollars a year. That’s money well spent.
Wait, there’s more
Recently I looked at a backup product that takes things much further. Acronis True Image 2018 is both an application and a service. It gives you the choice of storing your data to a local drive or to its own cloud service. In both cases Acronis adds high levels of security.
None of this is unique to Acronis. Almost every other backup alternative offers the same basic story. Where Acronis differs from the pack is that it defends your data against a ransomware attack. It also uses blockchain to keep your data extra safe.
There is a 30-day free trial. If you want to buy the software you can choose from a variety of options. There is a US$50 standard one-time fee for one computer. This rises to US$80 for three computers and US$100 for five devices.
Acronis’ advanced package is the same price, but it doubles as a one-year subscription that adds up to 250GB of cloud storage.
There is also a premium plan. This includes 1TB of cloud storage along with blockchain certification of files and electronic document signatures. This costs US$100 for a single computer and $160 for five devices.
Once you have the software working, you don’t see much at all. It chugs away in the background and needs little human intervention.
Should you choose to open it up to see what’s happening, there’s a clear and uncluttered software dashboard that lets you control what happens and understand your status.
Like any online backup service it takes a while to make the first backup. In my case it took days. In part this depends on your broadband connection – you need an unlimited broadband plan. The good news is the backup doesn’t hog all your bandwidth, so you can get on with other online tasks.
You can choose to stop making backups if you use a laptop and it is on battery power. You also get a choice of optimal or maximum data backup speed. Optimal uses less of your bandwidth freeing up capacity for other apps.
Once the first backup is done, Acronis works at a cracking pace. Later incremental backups often hit high speeds although this depends on your connection. They all happen in the background. It’s reliable and rock solid.
There are some neat touches. Acronis allows you to archive files to its cloud. You can send them via the app, and retrieve them using a web interface. In fact, you can use this web interface to recover your data at any time without the app.
Acronis uses blockchain technology to determine if anyone else has altered your online archive. This helps protect you from ransomware criminals.
Acronis True Image 2018 may feel like overkill for many users, yet prices are reasonable and in touch with alternatives that are neither as safe, nor as simple.