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It’s World Backup Day: Give Your Data the Love It Badly Deserves, Now!

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Are you feeling a bit anxious? That's likely today, March 31, is World Backup Day -- originally a made-up day to raise awareness of data backups and the increasing role of digital information in daily lives.

If you wonder who made it up, the day also helps storage vendors sell products. Go figure! And here's the list of excellent storage deals from known vendors (Samsung, Seagate, WD, and more) you can get today!

In all seriousness, keeping backups is important. So today is one of those special days we should appreciate daily, like every day should be an International Women's Day we had earlier in the month.

And we can make every day World Backup Day -- backing up data daily doesn't require much effort. There's no need for flowers, chocolate, or being extra nice, though those things don't hurt.

And we have made progress. According to statistics, 30% of users didn't make backups by this time last year. This year, that number has lowered to 21%.

If you're not part of that well-adjusted 79%, remember that data backup has never been more important, considering how ransomware has run rampant in the past few years.

You'll learn more about data backup in this post, and hopefully, when through, you'll find a way to ensure your data is safe. Consider this post a public service announcement.

Dong's note: This post was first published on March 31, 2020, and has been updated annually to add up-to-date information, the last time being on March 31, 2023.

Synology DSD1621 NAS 1
Using a NAS server with shadow copy, or Snapshot in Synology's case, is the ultimate way to keep your data intact against malware and accidental edits or deletion.

So, what’s a backup?

Philosophically, data backup is like a health or car insurance policy. We need it, yet, we hope you'll never have to resort to it.

Physically, in a nutshell, a backup is an extra copy of the data you put away, separate from the version you're using. The more copies you have, the safer your information is, and you generally need at least one additional copy.

And the more often your data changes, the more regular backups should be performed. Depending on your needs, there are different ways to make a backup.

How do I back up?

The simplest way is to manually make a duplication of your data and place it somewhere else. Copying files on a thumb drive and then tucking it away will do. Or, for a small document, you can even email it to yourself.

Ideally, though, you want a backup solution that happens automatically, without you having to get involved, after the initial setup.

So, the best way to handle this important task is to set up a backup scheme, which is easy enough and relatively cheap to achieve nowadays. You can indeed set up data backup once and then forget about it.

Types of backups

There are generally three types of backups: Online, local, and network. They all have pros and cons, but any is better than having no backup. And it doesn't hurt to use all three.

Let's find out more about each.

1. Online backup

Online backup, often goes by the misnomer "cloud backup", is when you upload your data to a remote server -- a computer or computers residing elsewhere in the world. Typical examples are Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, and Google Drive.

You only need to sign up for one of the three. After that, download the software for your platform, run it, and follow the self-explanatory instruction.

Online backup: Pros and Cons
Online backup: Pros

Online backups keep your data safe from disasters like fires or floods -- your data is stored offsite at the service provider's data centers.

You can perform a backup, and access your files, from anywhere as long as you have an Internet connection. One online account can work for multiple machines, and you can even sync data between them.

And finally, you won't need to worry about the maintenance of the backup destination. But with that comes the catches.

Online backup: Cons

Due to the constraints of the Internet speed, it takes a long time to back up or retrieve a large amount of data.

The backup process also strains your Internet connection's upload pipe. So, it's not ideal for those with a slow Internet connection.

On top of that, most providers give you a limited amount of free storage space -- typically a few Gigabytes -- before charging you a subscription fee.

And finally, using an online service means you will, for the most part, have to surrender your privacy, and your data is susceptible to hacking.

Specifically, if your leak your account credentials (username and password), the bad guy can obtain that vital document or those private photos. That has happened.

Who should use the online backup?

If you use a smartphone, chances are you're already using some online backup solution via Apple's iCloud (iDevices) or Google's Drive/Photos apps (Android).

For those using a computer, this type of backup is excellent when you have small amounts of lightweight data, such as Word or Excel documents.

If you have more, consider getting a fast broadband connection and prepare to pay for the extra online storage space.

2. Local backup

This type of backup is the easiest and most popular.

A typical example is using an external drive, such as a portable drive that connects directly to a computer using a peripheral port, namely a USB or Thunderbolt.

If you have a desktop (or even certain laptops), you can add an internal secondary hard drive as the permanent backup destination.

WD My Passport SSDThe SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD's USB-C port
The WD My Passport SSD and Sandisk Extreme Pro are excellent portable local backup drives.

After that, use Time Machine on a Mac or File History on a Windows 10 machine. These two applications automatically back up your data regularly, as often as every few minutes.

Some portable drives, such as the WD My Passport series, include third-party backup software you can also use.

USB-C: One port to rule them all

By the way, if you get a few external drives and remove them from the computer after a full backup, that'd be an excellent offline solution that will keep your data safe against ransomware.

Local backup: Pros and Cons
Local backup: Pros

Generally, you can back up a large amount of data easily if your computer has a fast USB/Thunderbolt peripheral connection or when you use a secondary internal drive.

Also, there's minimal setup or configuration, and you don't need the Internet.

Finally, if you use a RAID 1 solution, such as a desktop external drive like the My Book Duo, your data is safe, even if one of the internal drives on the backup storage dies.

Local backup: Cons

As the name suggests, local backups can handle only one computer at a time. It requires a drive to connect to a computer directly and therefore is inconvenient for mobile users or multiple users on a local area network.

Additionally, ransomware attacks can render any connected local backup drive useless. Its content is affected like the rest of the computer.

Who should use the local backup?

Desktop users will benefit the most from a local backup. But mobile users can also get an ultra-portable drive, like one of these portable SSDs, to back up their notebooks.

Some portable drives also work with Android or iOS devices. However, in this case, they are too clunky to rely on.

Here are some options for the local backups -- many of them are on sale on World Backup Day:

  • Pick one of these top portable SSDs if you want to back up a laptop on the go. You can easily move the drive between multiple computers.
  • A desktop external drive is a better fit if you have a desktop. Consider the WD Mybook or My Book Duo (with RAID options), which recently has upped the storage space to 44TB.

World Backup Day Sales: The semi-complete list

3. Network backup

This type of backup uses a network-attached storage (NAS) server that connects to your router or a switch, allowing users to back up multiple devices simultaneously.

A NAS server can also work as your cloud storage for you to back up data to it over the Internet. It's like having an online backup service of your own.

Good servers, like those from Synology, also has many other applications, such as a streaming media server or a surveillance system when coupled with IP cameras.

However, if you want to start slowly, turning your router into a mini NAS server will work well for many homes.

The Synology DS923+ NAS shares the same design as other servers including an easy way to install hard drives.Asus RT AX89X as Router based NAS Server
A dedicated NAS server or a good Wi-Fi router with a plugged-in USB portable drive can work as a backup solution for a home.
Network backup: Pros and Cons
Network backup: Pros

Using a server is by far the most comprehensive backup solution. It has the speed and convenience of local backups and the safety and minimum privacy risks that you can hardly find in online backup.

Some servers can also protect your data in case of ransomware attacks by keeping versions of your data via shadow copies. (I detailed that in this post on server data security.)

Those with lots of data and fast Internet connections can even use multiple servers at different locations and sync data between them to have automatic offsite backups. Or you can use your server as the "cloud storage" -- as the online backup solution -- for your remote friends and family members.

Finally, a server can give you lots of storage space and different RAID options to deliver performance, redundancy, or both. And you can also have the ability to scale up the capacity as your data grows.

Network backup: Cons

Setting up a backup server requires networking and computer know-how.

Additionally, the initial cost is higher than a single backup drive for local backup.

While you can turn a Wi-Fi router into a mini NAS server for relatively cheap, this solution lacks the major advantages of a real NAS server, including redundancy, shadow copies, and more.

Who should use network backup?

Anyone with a major need for storage space and backups will benefit from network storage solutions. So a good NAS server is in order if you have a large family.

Looking to dabble into network backup today? The related-post box below will give you additional resources and many hardware options.

Tend to your backups

Using any of the backup types above -- online, local, or network -- is better than having no backup.

Depending on your data type, you should use all of them when appropriate. I used cloud backup for critical data, network backup for essential data, and local backup for everything.

All of my desktops have a second internal drive for backup and are set to back up the entire system once a day.

If you're worried about the backup to drive running out of storage space, use a backup destination with enough space for at least 150 percent of your data. Most backup programs can auto-rotate, meaning they will delete the old backups when needed.

While most backup schemes are set-it-and-forget-it, checking on your backups occasionally is a good idea. You can do that by performing a test restoration or copying a file or two from your backups to ensure they have been in the intended state.

If your backup software has a verification function, you can set it to run after each backup job.

The takeaway

One moment things are working fine; the next, your computer might not even boot up. Take my word for it.

Like a flat tire, an accident, or a health scare, losing data is the kind of lesson best to learn from the mistakes of others. And you're welcome to learn from my years of first-hand experience.

Disasters tend to strike in an instant. The slow and steady process of regularly backing up your data is the sure (and only) way to ensure you won't be caught off-guard. Do it! Today! Now!

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7 thoughts on “It’s World Backup Day: Give Your Data the Love It Badly Deserves, Now!”

  1. Hi Dong,

    You wrote, “By the way, if you get a few drives and remove them from the computer after a full backup, that’d be an excellent offline backup that will keep your data safe against ransomware.”

    I run backups to a single external drive using File History in Windows 10. I’d like to alternate with another drive so that one is always disconnected, somewhat current, and safer from a ransomware attack. Is this what you are referring to? If so, can you tell me how to do this with File History – it seems to just support one drive and says I have to stop using one to start another.
    BTW, thanks for another excellent post.

    Reply
    • You can remove the current drive (from the computer), Jerry, and then run File History and choose to add another. Repeat that when you put the drive back, and you’ll be given the option to reuse the existing (previous) backup set on it. It’s fairly self-explanatory.

      Reply
  2. Thanks for the reviews and tutorials on NAS. Recently, my desktop PC went down and won’t boot following a power outage. I’ll need to reinstall Windows and rebuild apps and data, but I’ve ordered a second PC and a DS220+ with 2 6TB Ironwolf drives to avoid issues in the future. My question is can I avoid Windows reinstallation and resulting data loss by configuring the NAS server to automatically back up disk images of each computer, and if so, whether DSM software will give me the ability to restore a crashed computer with the most current image version?

    Reply
    • Yes, Tom. Just make scheduled backups. You’ll need to create a Rescue boot disk using Macrium Reflect to restore a computer on a new internal drive in case of crash or hardware replacement.

      Reply
  3. Backup is the easy part. Restore is the hard part and figuring out how to do a restore when your PC is down is also challenging so I would encourage people to practice the full loop of backup and restore ahead of a disaster event so they know what to do when “it” happens.

    Reply
  4. Nice intro to a topic that some folks don’t pay attention to until it’s too late.

    Back up can be a simple and complex topic.

    Depending on how you use Google Drive and OneDrive and iCloud and so on they can be seen as backups or just online storage. Mac folks will be familiar with Time Machine. Great for backing up. But if your Time Machine backup is in the same place as your Mac and the place burns down chances are your data are lost.

    An approach typical risk-averse folks might take could be:
    on-site hourly backup – local drive, network drive, or NAS
    rotating on-site/off-site daily or weekly backups (backup to one drive, take it off-site, bring the drive from off-site home, repeat)
    On-line constant backup (Backblaze and the like)

    This ignores medium-specific backups/fallbacks like Amazon or google photos, Lightroom CC, and so on.

    Reply

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