While many companies have processes in place for year-end financial backups, not all of them have options for complete data backups. These policies should be part of standard IT practices across the board, but in the case that your company does not have such a policy or even an IT department to help manage it, here are some helpful tips to follow as you plan a year-end backup of your system.
As a basic rule of thumb, backups ensure that you don’t lose data. Theft, power outages, hard drive failures, fires, etc. - can all contribute to data loss. A computer backup is a set of rules to follow that copies all your files and computer data so that should your original system have a failure of some sort, you can rely on your backup. Windows and Mac operating systems do have backup software options built into them, but it’s a good idea to make more than one backup. In fact, experts say that sometimes three backups (depending on the type of data your store/work with) might be necessary.
Types of Backups
The first type of backup is to a physical hard drive that you keep with your main system. This way, you have easy access to it should your original system fail. The second type of backup is a physical hard drive that you keep offsite from your original system. One of my former employers would make nightly backups of their entire financial system and then store the backup disk in a bank safety deposit box. While that might be excessive for some businesses/systems, it is essential for others. The third type of backup is cloud backup. This is also considered ‘offsite’ and is typically insured by the cloud system supporting it. Depending on the size of your system may depend on the amount of data you actually send to your cloud backup.
What do I need to backup?
Deciding what you need to backup is an essential step to the backup process. This step actually drives what type of backup or backups you end up using. If you need to backup your entire system, making a clone of your full disk image is probably the best route. This is your best protection against total hard drive failure on your local machine. If you don’t need the entire machine, you can select specific files and folders using backup software like macOS’s Time Machine. If you have more than one machine to backup, then a cloud storage option like Dropbox will likely be your best bet. Those cloud-based systems have synchronization services that ensure you have access to all the same files across your machines.
In addition to the obvious files and folders you want to backup, you will likely want to look at places where you have preferences stored - such as your Internet browsers, email applications, and social networks. Some of those outlets have backup options. You will also want to backup any unique drivers that you have stored on your system, along with registration keys for software that will have to be reinstalled if a new system is required.
Where do I backup?
This piece of the backup puzzle depends on the type of backup you choose. External drives are the likely option for local backups, but USB flash drives can also be used - depending on the size of your backup. Even though it’s a little outdated, you can still back up to CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs, too. This media is constrained by read/write speed and capacity, but they are portable and can be stored offsite. One additional option is network-attached storage or a NAS device. This method provides multiple users with an option for backup storage. NAS devices usually have a redundancy safety option built into them, so you don’t have to worry about drive failure.
Regular backups are of vital importance when you use a computer for daily business. In addition to regular backups (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.), you want to make sure to make an annual backup, too. Save your files now in case you need them in the future.