Most people keep all their data on their desktop, device or PC until the worst happens, and then they can’t get their data back. Even if you avoid malware or bugs, hard drives eventually fail so it’s important to back up your files. Backing up doesn’t have to be confusing: here are some smart ways to save files so this disaster doesn’t ever occur.

Digitalizing Your Documents

You don’t want all of the time you spent ripping CDs, uploading photos, writing documents and so on to be wasted. If you want to keep your documents safe, it’s a good idea to download electronic records like tax filings and to digitalize your documents (legal documents, receipts, photos) by scanning them with a scanner or taking a digital photo. The first line of defense against data loss is to have a full system backup on your PC.

Onsite Backups

Secondly, the most popular approach to storage is backing up your files locally, i.e. on a separate compartment like an SD card or hard drive that can be accessed without the need for a network connection and can be stored in your house or other safe location. If you use an SD card or hard drive you can back up files to it using Time Machine on Macs, Windows Backup on Window 7 and File History on Windows 8 and 10. With hard drives you can reconnect whenever you wish to backup or just keep them plugged in and backing up continuously.  You can also back up your programs and operating system itself, which can be very important if you’re either anxious about viruses or in the habit of fiddling with your system files and registry. Hard drives and SD cards are cheap, efficient and work fast. If they get corrupted or infected, however, they can be just as vulnerable as your PC, and if they get robbed or damaged the files can be destroyed. More info here on the varieties of SD card available.

Offsite Backups

You can also backup remotely with two different types of online service. The first is storing them over the internet via Carbonite, BackBlaze or CrashPlan. These programs run in the background and automatically back up your files to their server from which they can be recovered. While these services protect you against hard drive failure or theft, they cost a regular fee and the starting backup will take longer than on a hard drive. A key feature of CrashPlan and other such services is that they automate the copying of files. Cloud Storage, such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox sync to an online account so as to sync between PCs. This is easy, fast and free to begin with but only offers small storage space unless you buy more.

The backup decision you make will depend upon how many files you have to store, how secure you want your information to be and how much you’re willing to pay. For extra security, the National Archives recommends the 3-2-1 rule: create three copies of your files, store two of them on two different media, and keep one copy located at a physical location.

Isabel Ward relies on her computer for work, as she is a photographer who also dabbles in graphic design. From time to time, she shares her tech knowledge online.