March 31 is World Backup Day. When Did You Last Back Up?

A bunch of Reddit users have decided to declare March 31 as World Backup Day, using the clever tagline “Don’t be an April Fool.” Of course, you shouldn’t only think about backing up your data on one day of the year, but it provides a welcome reminder that we should all keep reviewing our backup strategies. Hard drive failures (and other calamities) happen. When was the last time you backed up your data?

Review Your Backup Strategy

Take some time to review your current backup strategy and assess whether it’s still sufficient to keep your data secure. You need to determine how you will back up your data (either manually, or automate the process using an app), how often it gets backed up (periodically or continuously), and where it will be stored (on-site, off-site, or a combination of the two). Your personal backup strategy will likely depend on how much you value your data and how much time you want to devote to backing it up, but if you want to be absolutely sure your data is safe, check out Dawn’s Backup Strategies for the Paranoid, which outlines her two-pronged approach, combining both cloud and on-site backups for a completely automated and secure approach.
If you currently don’t use backup tools, or are looking for alternatives, here are some options:

Cloud Backup Tools

Cloud backup tools are attractive for a few reasons: They’re generally completely automated, relatively inexpensive and totally scalable with your needs; you won’t run out of disk space and have to add more physical storage. However, if you have a large amount of data, creating your first complete backup could take a very long time (one of our readers commented on a previous post that backing up all of his data to Mozy took an entire year!) Additionally, using a cloud backup solution means that you are relying on a third party to keep your data secure. Here are some cloud backup options:

  • BackBlaze. BackBlaze offers unlimited backup storage for $5 per month. Restores are handled via a downloaded ZIP file, or having a DVD sent to you.
  • Crashplan. Crashplan offers unlimited cloud storage with its Crashplan+ product, which costs $5 per month for a month-to-month plan. It works on Windows (s msft), Mac (s aapl) and Linux, and also offers onsite backup capability.
  • Mozy. Mozy is a popular backup solution that we’ve covered extensively in the past. However, it recently dropped its unlimited plan for MozyHome users, which may make it a less appealing option. Two MozyHome plans are now available: $5.99 per month for 50GB of storage and backing up of one computer, and $9.99 per month for 125 GB and backing up three machines. Each additional 20GB of storage or computer to back up then costs an extra $2 per month.

Backing up your data to the cloud is one thing, but how about backing up the data you already have stored somewhere in the cloud, such as the emails in your webmail account, or documents stored in Google Docs (s goog)? I recently outlined some techniques you can use to keep that data secure, too.

On-site Backup Tools

On-site backups allow you to quickly recover from a disaster like a hard drive failure. Aside from simply periodically copying files to an external hard drive, or burning them to a DVD or Blu-Ray disc, there are some apps you can use to create incremental backups to an external HDD, which means your data is continually backed up:

  • Time Machine. Mac (s aapl) users are well provided-for with Time Machine, the backup tool included with OS X. It’s easy-to-use and allows you to “set it and forget it.” If you’d like to get up to speed with it, check out Beginning Mac: Time┬áMachine.
  • Paragon System Backup. Windows (s msft) users have a wealth of free and paid backup options to choose from. One option worth looking at is Paragon System Backup, which costs $29.95. It provides automatic backups, with a range of customization options available. A free trial is available.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Insulinde.