There are three basic backup strategies suitable for the home or small business: same machine, external drive, and cloud based. While these aren't the only solutions available, they are the ones most suited to smaller environments and they can be robust enough to scale up significantly.
1 Same Machine
Same machine backup is the easiest backup system to implement. Using space on your current hard drive you can create a local backup to another drive or partition. While the ease and cost of this method can be enticing, it offers the least flexibility from all three options and is the most likely to cause problems. Most operating systems come with a built-in backup tool, but others can be downloaded for little to no cost. Setting a same machine backup can be as simple as choosing a source and destination directory, even on the same drive. This kind of backup can be useful for recovering overwritten files, but if data loss occurs due to a hardware fault or theft, you are left with nothing. It would be considered the least appealing alternative of the three options.
- Costs nothing
- Doesn't rely on an internet connection
- Data is still lost after hardware fault or theft
- Can only access backup from the same machine
2 External Drive
Everybody has a thumb drive, right? All jokes aside, any external USB drive can be used to make a copy of files for safe keeping. Backup software works just as well with external drives, but now you have the added benefit of removing the backup and taking it elsewhere. External drives are now large enough and cheap enough to store huge quantities of data. While these drives can fail or be lost, you would still have your original files to continue working. Using multiple external drives has become a common method to make cheap, long-lasting backups. Hardware failures can happen, though, so it's important to routinely test external drives for any faults. While there is nothing wrong with using external storage for a backup, it only offers a basic backup functionality.
- External drives are cheap
- Can move the backup to another location
- Doesn't rely on an internet connection
- External drives can develop hardware faults
- Requires you to have the drive with you if you ever need to do a restore
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard, seen, and been schmoozed with promises of the cloud! The good news is when it comes to a home or small business backup solution, the cloud really can deliver. Before going any further, it is important to mention there are two main types of cloud backup services offered and while their functionality crosses over quite a bit, they both offer a different enough service that you should think carefully what it is you need before choosing one.
The first type of service is purely for backup purposes. After downloading the program, you create an account, select folders on your computer, and everything in those folders is automatically uploaded to cloud storage. You will be able to log onto your account anywhere in the world and access those files, but any changes made won't automatically be reflected on the original PC. Some cloud service providers do offer additional software to perform this task. There are numerous cloud services that offer this kind of backup solution. Carbonite and ElephantDrive both offer free basic plans for personal use.
The second type of cloud service is sync and storage. Once the software is installed, the service will create a basic folder on your computer. Everything inside this folder is uploaded to the cloud where it is then synced across any other devices with the same account. This is perfect for anyone that wants to work on a file at home, then pick up again from another device. Every time a change is made to a file it will be updated in the cloud and synced across all devices. Like the backup services, there are plenty of contenders when it comes to the sync and storage providers. Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft's own OneDrive are three of the more popular service providers who offer free plans.
- Backups are stored offsite in the cloud
- Always accessible with an internet connection
- Files are automatically backed up as you work on them
- Basic cloud services are often free
- Able to access files from anywhere with an internet connection through multiple devices
- Files can be worked on from multiple machines without having to send copies
- Most cloud services will store multiple versions of each file allowing you to choose to restore an older version
- Require an internet connection
- Might need to upgrade subscription for large amounts of space
- Sync and storage service operates from a single main folder
Which one do you use? The first thing you need to do is figure out what system of backup will be most beneficial. Do you want to have a central folder of documents you can work on between different machines without having to e-mail them back and forth? A sync and storage cloud service would work well here. On the other hand, you might need to archive large video files that you don't want syncing to every computer you use. In this case, an external drive or backup cloud service would be a better fit. It should be mentioned that cloud services are all the rage for very good reason. With growing bandwidth capacity and the luxury to log into your account from the other side of the world and take control of your data, these services offer tremendous value and convenience.
As always, you should think carefully about what you need from a service first and foremost before implementing the solution.
Just make sure you implement something!
For more information or help implementing a solution for your business, contact us at 877.860.5831 or www.bitxbit.com