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4 Backup methods you should be using

Don't wait until it's too late! You'll regret it.

You know that moment when you delete a file off your computer or save over something you weren't supposed to and you get that sick feeling in your gut? You know the moment when you come to the realisation that you now have to either redo the last few days of work or that you have to break the news to your boss about permanently deleting those critical files? I've been there. And I hate that feeling. So a while ago I decided to be so well versed in backups that I would never need to stress about that feeling again. Consider this blog entry to be a crash course explaining the four backup methods you should be using. Like, right now.

You'll notice I use the word "methods" instead of "solutions". This is intentional. There are many amazing backup solutions out there, but I feel the most important thing is to understand what and how you should backup before you decide what software solution to use.

Method 1: Incremental Backups / File History

It's like going back in time.

Life without this backup

You're working hard on a document that you have been working on for the last few days. You come back off lunch only to realise that at some point earlier that morning you managed to delete an entire section from the document and save it.

Life with this backup

Luckily, your document was backed up multiple times throughout the day. All you need to do is find the version that you saved at 10am, and restore it. Or was it the one from 9am? No problem, just compare both of those versions to the current one to see what changes you made and restore whichever one you need.

The solution you can use to make this happen

Both Windows and Mac users have amazing free solutions to take care of this backup method. All you need is an external hard drive that you plug into your computer and keep there. On Windows, you want to use Windows File History. On Mac, you want to use Time Machine. Once enabled and configured properly, you will be able to restore whatever files you choose with the click of a button. It doesn't matter if they are from last week, or last month.

Method 2: Mirrored Directory

It's like having a clone on standby.

Life without this backup

You are working away then hear a loud beep from your computer. It turns off. You can't get it started again. Your hard drive has failed. You speak to your IT guy, who (hopefully) gets your computer back up and running with a new hard drive. That's all well and good, but you navigate to where all your work used to be only to find there are now no folders there. Everything is gone.

Life with this backup

So, you open your backup work directory and copy everything back on to the new computer. Back to work!

The solution you can use to make this happen

Mac users, once again Time Machine has you covered. Windows users, apparently Windows File History can also restore your files to a brand new computer with a little fiddling around. If you ask me, an easier option would be to use a free tool like SyncBack and configure it to copy all of your working files to the backup location every day (or twice daily). That was restoration is a simple matter of copying and pasting. P.S. I hope it goes without saying that your backup location should not be somewhere else on the same hard drive.

Method 3: System Image

It's like bringing your computer back from the dead.

Life without this backup

As in the previous scenario, your hard drive dies. Only this time you have no IT guy to help you out, your only option is to get a new hard drive working. Now you haven't only just lost your files, but you have to re-install all your software again. This means trying to find where you put all those license keys!

Life with this backup

You plug in an external hard drive with a "system image" of your old machine, which is essentially a complete clone of your computer. Once restored, it's exactly like you turned on your old computer again.

The solution you can use to make this happen

Mac users yet again make this an easily solution to suggest. Use time machine. You can plug in your Time Machine backups to a brand new Mac computer and choose to completely restore your old computer. Windows users, you also have a free solution in the form of Windows Backup and Restore, but be warned you are not able to restore to a different computer. There is also a great piece of software called Macrium Reflect which makes this whole process very easy. There is even a free version of Reflect for home use.

Method 4: Offsite Backup

It's what you can rely on if the building burns down.

Life without this backup

You've been reading the Timeline Media blog (who wouldn't, really) and are confident your backup solutions have you covered. You've got a mirrored directory and incremental backups happening many times throughout the day to an external drive plugged into your desktop. One day you find you have been robbed. Your computer and your backups are gone.

Life with this backup

Luckily, thanks to the aforementioned Timeline Media blog, you have also been keeping your backups offsite. Once you claim insurance on your computer and get a replacement one, it's simply a matter of picking up the hard drive you keep stored elsewhere (at a friend's house or at home) and copying the files back to your computer.

The solution you can use to make this happen

This one is really easy. Just keep a duplicate of your backups at a second location. This can be applicable to just your system images, or just your mirrored directory, or everything. Basically if you want to be confident that you can get back to work even if your office burns down, keep an offsite backup of anything you wouldn't want to be without.


So, don't forget:

  1. Incremental Backups / File History
  2. System Image
  3. Mirrored Directory
  4. Offsite Backup

Some of the above might seem like overkill. But I can guarantee you it won't after even just one hard drive failure or accidental deletion. When considering a solution that suits you, keep in mind there is a wide range of options available. Each comes with their own pros and cons and are worthy of individual research.

For example:

Is your internet lightning quick or do you not have large files involved in your day-to-day work? If so then a cloud backup solution like Google Drive, Dropbox for Business, Crashplan (free for home use), Backblaze or Carbonite might be the best solution for you. These will run in the background at set intervals throughout the day and ensure your work is securely stored somewhere else in the world, essentially taking care of your Mirrored Directory and Offsite Backup in one easy step. In the case of Dropbox and Google Drive, they even take care of your file history/incremental backups.

Do you have large files or limited internet capabilities that restrict cloud backups? Would you like to know where your data is securely stored and even be able to have the physical hard drive backups delivered to you at a moment's notice? Then a local archival and records management business like Compu-Stor will be your best solution. These guys offer secure and confidential record management, data recovery, speedy courier delivery and even secure destruction if required.

Hereth endeth the lecture on backing up your data. Consider yourself warned and remember the Scout's motto - always be prepared!

For those considering Google Drive as a solution for their business, firstly I'd like to say great choice! I love Google's G Suite too, and use it for Timeline Media. Secondly, I can offer you 20% off your first year by simply signing up using the link below and ask me for a promotion code!

Sign up for G Suite


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