How to Back Up Your Files

In this photo taken Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011, Brett Goldstein, Chicagos chief data officer, works at a bank of computers in his office. On Wednesday, Sept. 14, Chicago will post online millions of crime statistics dating back to 2001. Experts say the department will be a national leader in making that information available online. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)


So you’ve decided that you need digital backup for your files. How exactly do you start?

The way you’ll back up your digital files depends on which service you’ll be using. With well-known sites like Mozy, you’ll need to download and install their software. The installation process is usually short and simple – with Carbonite, another popular digital backup service, it takes only a few minutes, and you don’t have to restart or close any files you’re working on. Some services offer smartphone apps that also have to be downloaded.

Although digital backup is a great service – and an essential  one – there are a few limitations to be aware of. This shouldn’t influence your decision to go digital, but it’s best not to be caught off guard.

While it’s usually easy to download the basic software for a service, uploading your data to its server is another story. Depending on the amount of data you’ve got, and the speed of your Internet connection, the uploading process could take, literally, days.  The uploading process runs in the background while you’re working on other files, so it’s not that inconvenient – just lengthy.

The same thing is true if disaster strikes and you need to recover your files. Sending them back to your computer is, again, a lengthy process.  Usually, the service just sends back your documents and files, not programs used to start up the computer itself. But you can have the files sent to another computer if you want. For an additional price, some services will also send you a DVD or USB drive with your data.

If you’re on a tight budget, you might not want to limit yourself to one digital backup services. Most of them offer about 5 GB of free storage, so it’s possible you could get by with two or three services’ freebies , putting photos on one service and documents on another, for example. This won’t work for everyone – many people have way more data than that. In that case, consider digitally backing up only the most essential data you need – business presentations, irreplaceable photos – and putting the rest (music, videos) on an external hard drive.  You could also consider storing the same data on more than one external drive. When it comes to safeguarding data, redundancy can be a very good idea. The most important thing, however, is to get started digitally backing up files. Remember, your files can be zapped for a number of reasons, ranging from a natural disaster to spilling coffee on your keyboard!
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