There is no "the best" data backup strategy that would perfectly fit with absolutely everyone's needs. You need to keep in mind that the amount of data, storage devices, the value of data and the need for safety vary in a large range. Instead of copying some ready-made data backup strategy one by one, the best solution is to understand the most important safety principles and create such data backup solutions that fit your real-life needs the best.
Four simple rules for creating your original safe data backup strategy are:
These rules are a short sum-up of what you should do with your data to keep it safe. For creating simple data backup plan, you need to think a little bit about your data structure, real risks, and create backup procedurs, which offer simple solutions for the most potential accidents. Let's describe each listed rule in more detail and see why they are included to the data backup strategy rules list.
What Are Typical Threats?
Typical data threatening situations are accidental deletions, hard disk failures, computer viruses, thefts, fire and flood accidents. Data storage equipment has become more reliable over time, but hard drive failure rate is still around 4.2-4.8% annually. The risk of a fire accident is about 0.32% annually. Expressed in percentages, they do not seem like huge risks taken individually, but to receive total risk level, you need to sum them up.
As technological risks, like hardware failure, may be quite well-defined constants, other risks may vary quite a lot by different factors. For example, the risk of flooding in your house is quite serious if you are living at the seaside or on the banks of a bigger river. What people often forget is that there can also be smaller man-made "floodings", which may not be so dramatic but happen even more often. Some examples are accidents with water pipes, forgetting a laptop in the rain, spilling coffee all over computer or dropping a laptop into a swimming pool. You might want to establish some common sense rules for eliminating some of those risks, like not drinking coffee near your laptop, but some unforeseeable risks still remain.
If you add up all possible risks (and there are many of them), you may have as high as 25% probablity of losing some of your data during the next year. This leads us to the need of making backups and have copies available if something happens with the main storage device.
Regularity and Data Backup Intervals
If you make backups every week on a certain day then, hypothetically speaking, you may lose maximally one week's data. Sometimes it is ok to lose some kind of data, like movies or music files, but will not be happy if you lose original spreadsheets and word processing documents prepared during last week. If you reason the same way, you should think about which backup interval seems confortable for you and do backups regularly.
A good data backup plan defines clearly when you should back up certain data folders to have the latest data available when you need it. Regularity means that you have solid procedures to make copies at a certain time, no matter what. There is the tricky part, because the more often you need to make backups, the more time you spend on managing backups. Making backups manually may take up an impressive amount of your time annually. This leads us to the second element of good data backup strategy, which is automation.
Good Data Backup Strategy Is Automated
If your data backup plan defines a daily interval, making manual backups becomes quite time consuming, and you may discover now and then that you have skipped making backups because you had something else more important to do at same time. It is better to foresee the risk of not making backups and try to automate the whole backup process as much as possible.
For local backups you may use Windows backup tool, which was introduced in Windows 7 and is available also in Windows 8 (open Control Panel > All Control Panel Items > File History > System Image Backup). For more advanced backup automation, you should check out special software solutions, like Ocster or GoodSync. For professional backup management, we recommend PC Disk Tools, which has options for backing up multiple computers. Automation helps you to save time you would otherwise spend on making routine work. Automated processes are often more reliable and the risk of forgetting making backups is eliminated.
If you decide to use an online backup solution, many of them are automated too, see the list of the best online providers on under "Save Data Backups to Remote Locations".
Save Data Backups on Different Mediums
If your main backup medium is a large external hard disk, you might consider using additional storage mediums, which reduce the risk of losing data because of technical failures. For less dynamic files, which you probably won't edit any more, like old homevideos or self-made pictures, you can use optical storage, for example DVDs or even CDs. Instead of using an old fashioned hard drive, you could use SSD thumb drives or memory cards, which are known for higher reliablity than conventional hard disks. Having multiple copies in different mediums offers more opportunities for carrying data with you and transporting data backups to remote locations.
Store Data Backups in Remote Locations
In the case of hard disk failure, it is enough to have backups on another disk in the same location. You need to keep in mind that this will not help you in the cases of several accidents, like fire, theft or flooding. In order to make sure that your data survives these catastrophies, you need to take your data and transport it to some other locations. It may be your friend's house, a cabin in the woods or a safe box in a local bank - you can surely find a good place to store your backups. The problem with transporting your backups to remote locations is that it takes efforts, time and money (for example, if you rent a safe box in a local bank). The biggest trouble is that restoring the data from such remote locations takes time, because you need to bring the copy from the remote storage.
One possible solution for storing data remotely is to use online data backup service. Some of the best providers are, they all offer safe and reliable services. With online backup you don't need to transport your backup disk yourself, but your files are encrypted and sent to a remote server. Because of bank-grade encryption, your data is safe and restoring is arranged much more efficiently, compared to any other remote backup solution.
Online backup is also efficient in regardst to automation, you don't need to make backups manually any more. The best online backup providers also offer versioning, so you will have multiple copies of your files and you may choose to restore some earlier copies if you need to.
Don't Overkill, Simple Strategy is Better
If you haven't done regular backups so far, our suggestion is to start with a simple backup plan. A good backup strategy is easy to implement and you have copies of your data always available when you need them. Start with buying an external hard disk with solid capacity, and making backups weekly. If you would like to have more frequent backups and store them safely in a remote location, you should read some articles about how online data backup works or check out the details about some best providers, for exampleto see if they are a good choice for your backup needs.