When 90% of your time is spent working at your computer, finding a simple, effective way of backing up all of your files is a must. Whether you are a full studio / agency, or a freelancer, your income and livelihood will most probably be dependent on you being able to access the files that you created the day, week, or month before. Now, we are all all too familiar with the nightmare of forgetting to save a file and then the software kindly crashing on us, but just imagine if your entire hard-drive failed!
Most of you are already backing up your data in some way or another I’m sure, but here are 5 ways that you could potentially do it a little more effectively:
External (Offline) Storage
If you own a Mac, then Time Machine is definitely one of, if not the best option out there for external storage. It works with any hard-drive so you don’t have to buy Apple’s own Time Capsule and it automatically backs up all of your data on an hourly, daily, and monthly basis.
It is recommended that if you’re going to use Time Machine then you should buy an external drive that is twice the size of your computer’s. This is simply because of the sheer amount of data that it needs to store – just think how many files you work on / play / access in a day! I listened to this recommendation and bought a 1TB drive to back up my 500GB internal drive and it didn’t have any trouble filling up within a few months…
The great thing about it though, besides the sexy UI, is that once the hard-drive is full, it asks if you want to start overwriting the oldest files, so effectively you never run out of room. Mine has been doing this for a while now, but I can still reach over 6 months back into old files in case I lose something!
Unfortunately if you own a PC then Time Machine isn’t available to you. However, from what I’ve read SyncBack is the most comparable software out there at the moment. Just like Time Machine it automatically back up your files and you can restore them with the click of a button, but it also has a couple of other tricks up it’s sleeve. You can back-up files which are currently open, you can synchronise it with another computer over a network, and you can also sync it to an FTP server for easy online storage.
There are three versions of SyncBack, and unfortunately some of the features I just mentioned aren’t available in all of them. There is a free version that allows basic back-up, there is an SE version which costs $30, and there is a Pro version which is $49.95 – which if you ask me is a bargain considering how much money you could lose if you hard-drive failed!
There are hundreds, if not thousands of website hosting companies out there for you to choose from now, and a lot of them will offer secure storage for backing up your data. I personally use Dreamhost, and they kindly gave me 50GB of free storage on a backup server when I signed up, which is great if you ask me! If you are developing websites then you will be very familiar with FTP servers and transferring files to the Web. If you aren’t then don’t worry, it’s really simple – all you have to do is download some software such as Filezilla, enter in the details that your web hosting company give you, and then drag and drop any files that you want to upload into the box. Done!
FTP is great because the software just sits on your desktop, you don’t have to log-in to any websites, and you can upload as many files as you want in one go – just leave it going while you get on with your other work. It takes a little longer than backing up to an external drive, but it’s definitely worth it because it’s much more secure and can’t get stolen if someone breaks into your office or house!
Dropbox is another one of my favourites. It’s not only great for backing up your files, but you can also share them with absolutely anyone! With a free account you only get 2GB of storage which isn’t really enough to be of much use (unless you simply want to share the odd file or two), but for $9.99/month you can get 50GB of storage, or for $19.99/month you can get 100GB of storage – which isn’t bad considering that you would have to splash out on an external hard-drive anyway if you wanted to store files locally.
The handy thing about Dropbox is that when you register you download a little application that puts a folder on your desktop, or wherever else you might want it. This folder acts as a sort of ‘portal’ to the web and anything that you drop in it gets automatically uploaded and backed up – now how simple can it get. You can also install it on as many computers as you want, so no matter where you’re working you can back up to the same place, and if you don’t have your own computer to hand you can even access and upload all of your files through the Dropbox website!
Last but not least comes Google Docs, a handy little storage space that just got better! If you work with the web then I’m sure you already have a Google account. If you do then it will take about 5 seconds to register for Google Docs, if you don’t then it’s really simple to sign up so I would definitely recommend doing so.
A little while ago I would have just recommended using this if you do a lot of word processing. You could take all your completed documents and upload them just to keep them safe for the future. Annoyingly Google tended to convert your files into it’s own format for online viewing, which was fine if you simply wanted to keep a reference, but isn’t really ideal.
However, now Google allows you to upload ANY file and it won’t convert it (unless you ask it to) – to be honest it now works in a very similar way to Dropbox (except that you can create files as well as store them). You only get 1GB for free, but you can upgrade to anything from $5/year for 20GB of storage, to $256/year for 1TB storage.
You don’t get any desktop software to help you with uploading data, but it is a cheap, simple way of keeping your files safe online – definitely something worth looking into.
I personally choose to back up everything that is important to my work both offline and online. This covers all the bases – if my computer hard drive fails then I have it stored externally, or if that gets stolen then I also have it stored on the web. I in fact use 4 of these 5 storage solutions for different things, but most importantly use Time Machine to back up everything I do on a daily basis, and then use FTP to upload and store projects either when I hit a milestone, or every couple of weeks depending on what comes first.
Any of the above work perfectly well on their own, but could be much more effective when used together. Saving your files and keeping them safe is extremely important and definitely worth the small amounts of money that these back-up solutions cost. You aren’t just limited to the above solutions either, there are loads more out there if these don’t work for you – but I say just give them a go, you never know until you try, right?