Our devices are like libraries of our lives; they store our most memorable moments in the form of photos, videos, music, and documents. But our devices, our computers, our phones, our tablets, are machines, and like any machine, they can break down. What happens to our data when they do break down? Often times, this data can be lost in these situations, with few to no options available to recover the valuable data that has been lost. It doesn’t have to be this way, however. If you back up your data, you can protect yourself against data loss due to equipment failure. A “backup” is a copy of data that exists somewhere else, other than the computer or device on which the data was originally stored. This article will explain two of the most popular ways to back up data, external hard drives and the cloud.

    1. External Hard Drive

      Saving data to an external hard drive has been the first choice of those looking to safeguard their data for many years. The beauty of this solution is its simplicity. It is a hard drive (the component of a computer where all the data is stored), that is fitted into a box so the hard drive can sit outside the computer, connected with one cable to transfer data. An external hard drive is inherently safer because this drive exists outside of the computer. If something happens to the computer, the chances are very, very low that the same issue affects the external hard drive.

      External hard drives have the benefit of being relatively affordable, with the cost being entirely upfront in the form of the purchase of the external drive, itself. They come in different capacities, with 1 terabyte (1000 gigabytes) generally being the smallest, and up to 16 terabytes, or more, with some of the more advanced external drives. Purchase a capacity that most closely matches or exceeds the capacity in your computer. This way, you can be sure that you will have plenty of space to back up all of the data on the computer.

      Backing up data to an external hard drive is as easy as copying files from the computer and pasting them on the external hard drive. If you have a more recent computer, running either Windows 10 or a version of Mac OS X, there are ways to automate these backups. You can find instructions on automating the Windows backup here, and instructions on automating the Macintosh backups here.

    2. Cloud Back Up

      Cloud backups are a more recent entrant in the backup market. What is the cloud, though? The “cloud” is a general term to refer to the internet as a whole. When files are uploaded from a device onto a website or other service for storage, they are in “the cloud”. The main benefit of having files in the cloud is the safety inherent to this method of backup. Since the files are stored on a remote server, no matter what happens to your computer, or even your home, your files are safe. To use a more extreme example, a meteor could literally destroy your neighborhood, but if the files are in the cloud, they’re fine. In this way, cloud backups are extremely secure.

      Another benefit of cloud backups is the ease of use they offer. Cloud services, like those offered from popular providers such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive, place a folder on your computer where you can save your files and documents. The files exist in this folder on your computer, while they are simultaneously transferred in the background to the cloud. Once these files are in the cloud, you can access them anywhere. Literally anywhere, too; you can access these files from any device around the world, so long as it has a connection to the internet.

      This security and ease of use comes at an increased cost relative to external hard drives. Cloud services, like those offered from popular providers such as Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Carbonite, and others all charge a recurring a monthly fee. For example, Google Drive charges $9.99/month for 1 terabyte of storage, while external hard drives with the same amount of storage are available for less than $80.

    The importance of backing up important data cannot be stressed enough. Problems happen, and often at the most inconvenient times. Losing a computer with the important data on it is like being kicked while you’re already down. It doesn’t have to be this way, however. By backing up your data before it is absolutely necessary, you insure yourself against problems down the road.