Guide to backup

Guide To Backup

This guide will go through some techniques you can use to make a backup of your PC. There are many cost effective ways available to make a back up.

The key points to be will be covered

  1. What is backup and why back up data?
  2. Three features of a good backup
  3. Which hardware can be used?
  4. Which software can be used?

What is backup and why back up data?

Simply put, a backup is a copy of your data on an alternative media. If your media fails you can recover your data from that backup.

Data backup is also an important aspect of computer security, should your computer be compromised with ransomware, the only economic method of recovering it may well be the backup.

The three features of a good backup

Maintenance: Simply making a copy of the data is not hard, but its important you maintain that copy regularly (update with changes). We are human, we get busy and put it off, the best way is with scheduled scripts or some automated software.

Location: Try to ensure the backup is usually stored in a location other than the original. The backup is pointless if fire or theft take both the machine and backup at the same time.

Security and integrity: Keep it secure, wherever you choose to store your backups, make sure they are encrypted (safe from hacking) or physically safe from theft. Also, the media you may be using could be unreliable, you will be disappointed when you find that what you thought were reliable backups turn out to be corrupted.

What hardware can be used?


Using DVD’s to store data is very secure, they are easy to relocate elsewhere, light and very cheap. They can keep data for many years if you store them in their jewel cases in a cool place away from dust and scratching.

Disadvantages are that they are a PITA to keep updating, you’ll end up with a lot of wasted plastic with potentially sensitive information on it at the end of the day. Automation is almost impossible.

Thumb Drives

Inexpensive, convenient, fast to use and easy to stash.

Disadvantaged by size/cost, another big disadvantage is reliability (not all thumb drives are equal) and they are easy to damage through inadvertent exposure to magnetic fields. Finally, due to physical size – they tend to get lost.

External Hard Drives

Portable or External HD are very cost effective, and backup is fairly simple to automate with software or scripts. You can backup up terabytes on just one device.

A disadvantage is that the device is just as vulnerable to theft, water and magnetic corruption as your computer. If your going to rely on this method then make sure you get a reputable device, and get two; one for use locally and another to keep safely off-site. Update the offsite as often as is practical, and the on-site daily or automated hourly.

Cloud or online

There are plenty of services that give free online storage space, and plenty more you have to pay for (though not as much as you think). Unless you run your own server online (in which case you probably don’t need my advice) please bear in mind that unless you encrypt your data at source that you are entrusting the security of your data to a third party. Your data may be subject to snooping by technicians working for the provider, or by state agencies with legal leverage over the provider. Under certain US laws, the provider may not even be allowed to tell you that your data has been passed on.


Usually a combination of cloud and External HD makes the best economic sense, cloud for the small files and data you update daily and External HDD for large multi media files. However you will need to become more aware of where and how you save things. Some Operating Systems use “Libraries” so they make that more difficult.

Which software can be used?

There are many options, the essential features to look out for are.

  • Automated (takes regular backups without you needing to remember to do it)
  • Encryption at source (the data is encrypted with a password or key before copying to storage)
  • Versioning (keeps historical versions of files)