When was the last time you backed up your computer? If you have automatic backups, do you check them on a regular basis? Have you ever tested your backups by trying to restore some of your files?
It’s not enough to set your backups and forget them. You would not believe the number of times I’ve encountered backups that were “definitely” good, only to discover they were blank or missing or had never run in the first place. Don’t wait for an emergency to find out your backups don’t work!
Test Your Backups
Try restoring different kinds of files, say a few documents and photos. It doesn’t have to be much, just enough to know that it works. This test also gives you a chance to learn how your particular recovery process works, so you’re not trying to figure it out in a crisis. You can recover these files to a temporary location so you don’t overwrite the originals.
Keep Multiple Backups
Multiple backups are key. Don’t rely on any one kind of backup. Maybe you use Time Machine or Windows Backup with an external hard drive, plus you upload your files to DropBox or Google Drive. That’s fine, as long as your backups are in more than one place, and as long as those places are not in the same physical location. That’s a basic tenet of disaster recovery.
Run Your Backups As Often As You Like
How often you run your backups is up to you. Some people need up-to-the-minute backups, while others can go weeks or even months without concern. The question to ask yourself is: How much data loss can I handle? If losing a day of work is no big deal, then maybe once daily backups are fine. If losing even an hour’s worth of files will make your life a living hell, go for a backup solution that works in realtime.
Old Backups Are Useless Backups
Unless your backups are current, they’re unlikely to do you any good. Again, everyone’s definition of “current” is different, but more backups are always better than less. If you’re not sure when you last backed up your data, it’s time to do so.
The following resources will help you configure and maintain your backups.
(This article was originally published in February 2016 and has been updated with the latest information.)
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