How Will You Backup Your Data – THDP2

An external hard drive

…let me set the stage

Now that we have an idea why we don’t back up our data, and (hopefully) we have decided to do that, how will we do it?  What will we use? The Oxford Dictionary defines the word backup as this:  help or support, a person or thing that can be called on if necessary; a reserve; an extra copy of data from a computer.


You Need a Backup Plan

You need to put some thought into this.  Backups don’t just occur.  You will acknowledge the need for security, for a backup plan, for actually backing up your data……but at the end of the day……I know you won’t do it. The way I see it you must deeply feel the need to save your data.  We are human so I guess you won’t really backup your data until you lose it.  Unfortunately, we learn by experience.

  1. I saw a tip online that I run into all the time, nobody ever saves their software installation disks.  If you experience failure these are going to make your recovery much easier.
  2. You should back up your data as often as you can.  I always tell clients to back it up as often as they feel comfortable with.  The bad thing about that is that if I don’t give you a set frequency to backup, then you probably won’t.  If you are a business, you may need to backup daily.  Or maybe you are okay with a weekly backup.  Make it automatic and out of your control so it will get done.
  3. You need to store all of your data in one secure place on your hard drive.  Windows assumes that will be My Documents.  Desktop is not a storage facility!!  I can’t tell you how many times I see tens of files stored on the Desktop.  In case of hard drive failure, Windows will take steps to save your data.  It will assume you store your stuff in a secure place (like My Documents) and it will try to save it.  Anything on your Desktop is gone…immediately.
  4. What if?  Store your data in a secure location.  I always suggest your Mother-in-Laws or cloud storage like Google Drive, SkyDrive, Amazon’s Cloud (AWS), Mozy, Box, and on and on and on…
  5. This is very important to businesses….test your backup and recovery solution.  All the best laid plans are useless if your recovery gives you gibberish.

This subject within a subject could be an entire podcast.  I know Consultants that do nothing but help businesses come up with a backup and recovery strategy.  Its that important.  A good place to start to research this is here:

What do you need to backup?

If you are a business you know what data you should be backing up.  Heck, sometimes you have compliance issues requiring you to backup certain data and to back it up a certain way.

What you back up will dictate how you back it up.   You back up files and folders, everyday documents, recent documents, application data (applications create and maintain data like contacts, calendars, emails, and these must be backed up daily), Media (photos, music, videos) these are larger files and they may require their own backup strategy, heirlooms, and your system.  Oh yeah, and there is something else too….Windows Operating Systems eventually wear out, slow down and generally become unusable.  Having a recovery disc or a replacement image can be a life saver.

A Shoutout

First of all, I would like to shout out to Leo LaPorte and his The Tech Guy podcast, episode 1022 because during this episode he had a caller ask about backing up his hard drive.  The caller described how he copied data to his backup drive and then deleted the original.  Justifiably so, that sort of set Leo off.

I’ve got to ask here:  Why would you do that?  You have your original data files, you now copy that onto your backup drive…don’t stop now, you are still one step away from safety.  You still need the third backup copy.  Folks, if you have your data and you copy it to the backup drive, and if you then delete the original, where is the advantage??   Where is the backup??  Aren’t you still stuck with only one copy?  How would you define the term backup?  Don’t you still have all your eggs in just one basket??

Three Backup Methods

1)     Now that you have decided to start backing up your data, we can start to discuss what type of media you will be using to back up that data.   The last episode I mentioned you should employ the 3-step backup strategy.

a)      For your everyday files use a flash drive that is always readily available for you.

b)      Your second backup copy should be on a more robust media type than a flash drive.  This copy should be on an optical drive or an external hard drive.

c)       This is your “what if” copy.  It should be stored on an external hard drive, optical media or you can use cloud storage.  Either way, this copy must be offsite.

2)     Also during that episode, Leo talked about a friend of his, Peter Krogh, a photographer, who evangelizes for the 3-2-1 backup rule.  It goes like this:  You keep three copies of something that you really care about.  Those three copies should be on two forms of media. And one of them should be offsite.  Can it be much simpler?  I’m going to have a link to this podcast at

3)     Another way of looking at this was explained in Why backups are important”,  Pluralsight Blog, Ashraf Al-Dabbas, April 19, 2013:  A) a full backup, B) Differential Backup and C) an incremental back.

a)      A full backup is exactly what it sounds like, backing up ALL of your data.  This could take some time because it would be a much larger backup and should only be done once because to do more full backups would be redundant.

b)      A differential backup only would back up that data that has changed since the last full backup.

c)       An incremental backup is different from the differential back up in that you only back up data that has changed THAT DAY.

What to Use to Backup your Data

Once again, this could be a whole show.  In fact it will be a whole show.  We will be discussing storage devices and backup and recovery software.  But before we go out and buy the backup appliances or software, let’s talk about the free stuff included in Windows 7 and Windows 8.

Windows 7 offers something called Backup and Restore.  Just be sure you aren’t backing up to another partition on your hard drive.  I always figure … what’s the point?  Haven’t we already discussed that a true backup is on separate media??  According to the website, Windows 7 offers:

  • File Backup-copy data files on a regular schedule
  • System image backup-an exact image of your drive
  • Previous versions (these are copies of files and folders that Windows has already saved)
  • System Restore (restores your hard drive to a previous point in time)

I’m going to leave a link to the website “How-to-Geek and an article entitled ‘How To Use Backup and Restore in Windows 7.  It is an excellent step-by-step “how-to” backup in Windows 7.

In Windows 8 you have the ability to create a Recovery Drive, or Refresh your OS and applications, or Reset your OS and applications.  In the Control Panel there is a Recovery applet.  You will find Refresh and Reset there.  Refresh will reset the OS and your applications without erasing your data (always backup before performing any tasks like this).  The Reset applet will recycle your hard drive.  It will remove everything on your hard drive in so doing this.  You can  also use either Backup and Restore or File History.  In my opinion Windows 8 has increased the usability of SkyDrive as a backup/restore choice.

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