The year was 2004, I had just finished my last semester in the college and transferred the only documents required for the submission to my thumb-drive. Right after the transfer, my desktop machine just gave me the famous BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) and rebooted. What happened next was a total disaster. Apparently, my computer’s hard disk for some reason that I cannot recall, had crashed, miserably!
One can rightfully assume, what must I have gone through, with all my year long work, project files, assignments etc, just vanished. The lesson I learned the hard way that day, was, always have a backup!
There are various types of backup options, and I will not be discussing each one of them. And the backup strategy that fits for me, may not work for you. I will outline what has worked best for me for past several years, including in between another total PC disaster. You may pick up items that suits your needs from this article, and apply your own strategy that you are comfortable with.
World before Cloud
After my sad little story, I started backing up all my files and folders to the secondary partitions. This wasn’t the best option either. But, I had to have some form of backup where if at least Windows collapses, I can fresh install the OS and recover my data from the secondary partition.
My primary backup tool, since Windows XP days has been the built in Backup/Restore software. It did a pretty decent job till I moved to Windows Vista in 2006. Vista had improved Backup and Restore utility significantly and it did what I was looking for back in the day. From Vista to Windows 7, I continued using the built in software for all my important work.
My daily backup would include, all my data sitting under the Library of the account I am logged in with. This would include, Documents & Settings, Pictures, Videos, Desktop, Favorites (for IE). I knew, most of my important data is sitting in one of the folders mentioned here. This, however varies from person to person. Some people like to store most of their data in a folder created in C drive. For example, C:\mydata. I personally do not like this practice because Windows by default, looks into directories or libraries for files and folders. You have to be really specific to let Windows know, during backup specially that my data sits on C drive, or elsewhere. Not a big issue, but, just not what I do.
I used to backup on my WD 20GB external hard disk back in the day. However, now, I am using still a WD, My Passport with 2TB of storage.
In this, goes my all important files, folders. I am still using the built in software for backup, but for Windows 10 Pro. The tool is still incredible. After the initial backup which can take several hours depending on the amount of data you have, the next incremental backups take between 30-40min, again, depending on the data you are backing up. I normally don’t backup Music & Videos in the same backup as my Important files. I want the size of my files backup to be as small as it can be. Throwing Videos and Music in it, can take the backup size into TBs.
My advise, always have an offline backup saved onto an external hard disk for your critical files and folders. I used to take daily backups through Windows Backup/Restore tool, but with Cloud advancements, my approach to take backups changed, and it changed for the better.
There are several good and affordable cloud backup solutions available. And that is a topic of discussion on its own. Different cloud providers, their advantages and disadvantages, sync client and performance, pricing. I’ll be writing about it in my follow up article to Backup Strategy.
I will discuss how I make sure my data is safe and stored in multiple locations.
On Premise/Offline backup: As already discussed above, my first point of backup is done locally, using Windows tool, with an external hard disk. The backup is schedule to run every Saturday. This takes care of the changes of files take took place during the week. So in the event, my computer decides to crash, and I am offline. I can always count on the backup done on my external WD drive.
Cloud Sync: My primary cloud provider is Microsoft OneDrive (formerly Skydrive). I have about 1.5TB storage on my OneDrive. The free tier only provides 5GB of storage, which I bet is not enough for many users. I am also a Office 365 subscriber, which not only gives me additional 1TB, but also latest version of Microsoft Office (Word/Excel etc), Skype free minutes. There are three options available for Home users in O365.
- Office 365 Home: This is what I am using, and it costs $99.9 per year. Which is a fantastic offer. It includes 2 of my most important elements, 1TB OneDrive storage and MS Office, for up to 5 licenses. Meaning you can install Office on 5 different computers. Its got other important benefits, check out this link for more info on this tier and the one below.
- Office 365 Personal: This has got all the benefits as Point 1, except that MS Office can only be installed on 1 PC or a Mac. This tier costs $70.
- Office 365 Home & Student: This is mostly geared towards Students, who need latest Microsoft Office. Bare in mind, this tier only has MS Office, and does not include OneDrive storage, or the other perks found in other tiers. This is also allowed for 1 PC or a Mac. This is a one time purchase and costs $150.
For cost benefit, tier 1 is what I would recommend.
I have configured OneDrive client on all my machines. The configuration includes, again, all my important documents and settings. All my files and folders, are automatically synced to OneDrive on the cloud. This also means, every time I change a file, it is automatically pushed to the cloud, and pushed back to all my other PCs connected to OneDrive. This gives me assurance, if I have left a document mid way on Machine A, when I get back home and log into Machine B, I will get my same document back where I left off in Machine A. This is huge for me on a number of reasons.
I work on a lot of reports, coding, blogging. All these documents/files are saved on one machine and synced to the cloud. And when I am home, all my files are back to me where I left them, how I left them, and I continue working on those files.
Secondly, since, my data is not tied to my local hard disk or computer. All my primary and important files are up in the OneDrive cloud. So if an incident like 2004 happens again, I don’t have to worry. I simply either, bring the same PC back online, or if I am getting a new PC, I install OneDrive client, and all my files and folders are synced to my new computer, seamless, automatically. This has been tried and tested, several number of times. This works, it just works!
Some users may say, the performance of OneDrive sync is not all that good. I would agree with you if we were in 2014 or 2015. But everything after 2016, has significantly improved. My files sync real fast. They download real quick.
This is on the PC side. If you own iOS or Android device, there is an app for OneDrive too. Just like the PC side, I also rely heavily on OneDrive app for the phones. My daily driver is an iPhone 7 Plus, and all my 5,000 plus photos & videos are uploaded automatically to OneDrive. This feature is so important to me that I cannot insist enough. We all like taking photos & videos for those precious moments in our lives. And we cannot miss a chance to lose them.
On the Photos & Videos front, I have taken one extra step. Not only my Photos & Videos from my iPhone backed up to OneDrive, but they are also pushed to even a superior service for Photo management, this is called Google Photos.
Google Photos handles Photos and Videos like no other. OneDrive does a pretty decent job too, but Google Photos does this job in a far better way, than OneDrive could imagine. I will write about Google Photos later, and how it manages this task so well.
To sum it all up, my recommendations are:
- Offline Backup: Ensure you have either daily/weekly backups of your crucial data. The Windows 7, 8 or 10 built in Backup/Restore app is good enough. No need to go purchase some Pro backup app. Make sure, the backups are done on an external hard disk.
- Mix it up with the Cloud: My personal preference is OneDrive, but there are other options too. Including Dropbox, Google Drive. Whichever you are comfortable with, go with it. All are solid services by their respective vendors. Syncing files up to the minute is the way to go, in this cloud enabled world, with multiple devices that we carry every day.
- Photos & Videos: Again, this is my personal preference, uploading your photos to OneDrive & Google Photos. Having duplicate copies of not only your files and folders, but photos & videos is important.
This is it for now. Let me know what you guys think about this article, and how I can improve my area of topics, next topic, whatever. Leave your comment in the comment sections.
I presume, my next article will focus on Windows 10 Creators Update and its key features.
Till then, have a great day.
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