September 20, 2017

Backup system: Storing important digital documents

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What is a good backup system and where to start?


I’d like to continue on from a recent post about identifying and storing of important paper documents and cover this time digital documents and how to keep them safe.


Again, this is a big and important part of Taming your File monster is in my eyes.


To keep important digital documents safe we need a backup system, but  apparently only 1 in 4 people make regular backups of their data – are you one of the 3?


So what is the best backup system? One that works 🙂


I’d like to encourage you, to HAVE a backup system, one that works, and one that saves your when you need it.


So where do you start?


Safety of your data

Before you want to think of making a backup of your data, you better are sure your data is clean and not infected with some virus or trojan. You do that by having a firewall and an antivirus program installed and by running scans on your computer on a regular basis.


Here is the link for The Best Antivirus Protection of 2017 according to PC Reviews, but the important part is, that you have an antivirus software installed on your computer.


if you don’t protect your digital documents you could be in for a rude awakening if you get hacked or end up with a virus or trojan on your computer.


If you deal with sensitive clients data in your business, you might also want to look into encrypting your data, there are several software options out there that help you with that like for example VeraCrypt or check out this guide of The Best Encryption Software of 2017


Now that we have ensured that our documents and files are clean and safe we can start implementing a


Backup System

Here are the questions to ask yourself


Local or cloud Backup System?

The first question you want to ask yourself is, do you want your backup to be local, for example on an external hard drive, or in the cloud?


The cloud obviously has the advantage that you can access your data from anywhere you want. On the other hand, if you don’t feel comfortable not knowing on what server and in what part of the world your data is stored and how safe that is, you might be better off to keep your data local, on a local server or on an external harddrive.


In that case, you have to find a safe and secure place to store your backup so it can’t be stolen or destroyed in the event of a robbery or natural disaster.


Manual or Automatic Backup System?

The second question is, do you want to make a manual backup or would you rather rely on an automatic backup?


Even though I encourage you to automate it, I still suggest to do a manual back up from time to time. This in case something goes wrong with your automatic backup and you don’t realize it for a while. If you do a weekly, or at least monthly, manual backup you always have that one to fall back to.


This is the way I do this: I have two external harddrives. The newer one is a 2 TB WD my Passport ultra and is connected to my computer at all times. It makes a real-time backup of all my data automatically and on an ongoing basis. The software is called WD SmartWare and came with the external harddrive.


It was easy to set up and gives me peace of mind. I really like it, I never have to worry it’s done automatically. Of course I check once in a while to make sure it still works smooth.


The second hard drive, which is only a 1TB, I use to do my monthly manual backup. The harddrive on my laptop is partitioned into a C: drive and a D: drive. The C: drive holds all my programs and systems, my data is stored on the D: drive. To do my monthly manual backup I simply copy my D: drive over to the external hard drive.


This 1TB external hard drive is big enough that I can have 3 backups of my data on it. So even if I deleted something by accident (which has happened) I still have that file on both of my other manual backups. I keep this external hard drive away from my office.


My system works very well, it had been put to the test when my laptop suddenly died a couple of years ago. I did not lose any data and the new laptop was up and running in no time.


This is my system, you might come up with a different one for your needs. Check out this link for The Best Online Backup Services of 2017 according to PC Reviews. But don’t get hung up on finding the best one.


Any backup system is better than no backup system.


Even though I don’t trust cloud storage really, I am using Dropbox for years already (still on the free plan) to exchange files with clients. I also do a daily backup of all our websites to Dropbox in addition to the local backup on my hard drives.


I see advantages and disadvantages in automatic vs manual backup. If my clients don’t understand the automatic backup I find it hard to recommend it to them because they might not clue off when things don’t run smooth anymore which could mean they think they are backing up but could end up with no backup.


The disadvantage of a manual backup is of course that you have to remember to do it and then actually do it (which is often two different things).


Restoring your Data

Your most consistent backup system is useless or at least very stressful, if you don’t know how to restore your data. I heard of people who did their backups with Apple Time Machine but when their Macs crashed they had no idea on how to get their data back. So make sure you understand how to restore your data yourself!


Full Disc Image

What I covered in this article was mainly on how to keep your digital documents safe. If your computer gives up the ghost and dies, that is not necessarily going to help you to be up and running in a short period of time.




Because you only have a backup of the data, the files, not of the software that you had installed on your computer. If you wanted to “back up” your software and systems as well, you need to make a Full Disc Image of your computer.


This requires different software than a regular data backup software, but it has the advantage that you basically can take that backup, the full disc image, and restore it to a new computer and voilà, you are done and up and running again.


If you want to learn more about backing up your date, check out this handy Beginner’s Guide to PC Backup.


Over to you, do you have a backup system? If yes local or in the cloud? Automatic or manual? Let me know in the comments below.

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