5 Ways to Back Up Your Data

Play It Safe. Back Up Your Data

If you have been meaning to back up the data on your PC but haven't gotten around to it, now's the time. Here are five ways you can back up your data. No method is perfect, so the pros and cons of each technique are listed.

For the ultimate in safety, choose two methods and use them concurrently. For example, use an off-site cloud storage service concurrently with on-site network attached storage (NAS). That way, if either fails, you still have a backup. 

Image representing cloud storage
Cloud Storage. Hero Images/Getty Images

Cloud storage services are all the rage now and for good reasons. The best of them offer end-to-end encryption of your data to keep it safe, along with some free storage space and reasonable fees for additional space. They are accessible by both computers and mobile devices wherever you are. 

Big players in the cloud storage field include:

  • iCloud for Apple product users includes 5GB of free storage. Windows users can also sync their files with iCloud Drive.
  • Google Drive is integrated with Android devices. Windows and Mac users can download a desktop application for drag-and-drop capability. The service includes 15GB of free storage.
  • OneDrive is accessible through Windows 10's file explorer. Android and iOS devices access the site through an app. Mac users can download an app from the Mac App Store. OneDrive includes 5GB of free storage space.
  • Dropbox has been around for a while. It offers personal and business subscriptions. The personal account includes 2GB of free data.

There are plenty of other cloud storage services—MegaBackup, Nextcloud, Box, Spideroak One, and iDrive, to name a few. Stay away from services that are new. You wouldn't want to sign on one day and learn that the startup you use to store your data has gone out of business.

Pros

  • Free space and affordable upgrades
  • Data secured in a remote location. You can access it anywhere you can reach the internet
  • Secure transmission of data 

Cons

  • Capacity limitations for free storage
  • The risk of a site closing
  • Must reach the internet to access your backup files
More »
LaCie Rugged Mini USB 3.0 / USB 2.0 1TB External Hard Drive 301558
Photo from Amazon

External and portable hard drives connect to one computer at a time. They are usually wired devices, although some have wireless capabilities. Many external and portable drives now come with USB 3.0 capabilities, but your computer must also have USB 3.0 to take advantage of this feature.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • With software, you can schedule backups and never worry about them again

Cons

  • Hard disk drives run the risk of failure
  • Solid-state drives have less risk but can be expensive for large-capacity drives
  • Should be stored off-site in case of fire or other catastrophe
More »
Image of a CD being inserted into a computer drive
Tetra Images/Getty Images

Once the gold standard in data backup, burning data to CDs, DVDs, or Blu-ray discs is now a much less popular, albeit still reliable, method of data backup.

Pros

  • Drive failure not an issue
  • Can store safely in a second location (safety deposit box, for example)

Cons

  • Time-consuming to manage the backups
  • Assumes future of CD-capable technology. Some equipment no longer includes a drive for this purpose.
  • Can get pricey for large amounts of data as you continue to buy additional discs.
More »
USB flash drive about to connect to laptop
USB flash drive about to connect to laptop. Jeffrey Hamilton/Getty Images

USB flash drives are like tiny solid state drives that you can carry in your pocket. While they were once expensive and available only in small capacities, their prices have dropped and sizes increased.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Portable
  • Available in USB 3.0

Cons

  • Easy to misplace (not recommended for long-term storage of crucial information because of this risk)
  • Not always durable
  • Capacity limitations
More »
Image of WD Red 750GB NAS Hard Disk Drive - 5400 RPM Class SATA 6 Gb/s 16MB Cache 9.5 MM 2.5 Inch - WD7500BFCX
Photo from Amazon

A NAS (network attached storage) is a server that’s dedicated to saving data. It can operate either wired or wirelessly—depending on the drive and your computer— and once configured, it can display as simply another drive on your computer.

Pros 

  • Can back up several computers at once
  • Can be set for automatic backup

Cons 

  • Pricey
  • Possibility of drive failure
More »