Many take the data on their computers for granted and have a carefree attitude toward their files. However, this shouldn’t be the case.
Whether you’re a student, an office worker, or an entrepreneur, the files on your computer are valuable data. And if you lose them, it could cost you hours and even money to rebuild or retrieve them.
So, what is your best option if you want to store and back up your files?
Common Backup and Storage Options
Most people simply store files where they saved them on their computer. After finishing a project, they leave the files on their PC and forget about it. And if they need it in the future, they just search for it using Windows File Explorer or some of the better Windows Search alternatives.
But if you care for your digital life, backing up files is a must. So, these are your most common options if you want to safeguard your files.
External Drive: Its Reliability and Your Options
Hooking up an external drive on your computer and copying your files is the easiest way to get started on file backup and storage. However, it’s not the most convenient for consistent backups, and you also risk losing or damaging the drive, especially if you frequently bring it around.
Nevertheless, it’s a good way to get started on backups as you don’t have to pay a subscription to get it. If you need to backup files between your home and work PCs, consider getting a durable portable hard drive or SSD.
Another option is to get a desktop external drive for backing up your PC, especially if you want to secure the contents of your laptop. But if you’re on a tight budget, you could buy a case to turn your unused hard drives or SSD into an external drive.
Cloud Storage: Is It Secure and Large Enough for Your Needs?
Another backup option that’s recently gained attention is cloud storage. Several cloud storage providers give you free storage space between 2GB (Dropbox) and 15GB (Google Drive). However, you’ll have to pay for a subscription if you need larger storage.
Some providers, like Microsoft, bundle their cloud storage services with their other subscription services, thus making them more convenient. Furthermore, cloud storage services like OneDrive and iCloud+ seamlessly integrate with Windows and Mac, respectively, making file backups easy to set up and maintain on your computer.
However, these services have three main disadvantages. Firstly, you must pay for a monthly or annual subscription to use their services. While it might look initially affordable, it’s bound to be more expensive than outright buying an external drive.
Secondly, you’re limited by the storage options that they offer. For example, Dropbox limits you to 5TB before you must purchase a custom plan, and you can only get a maximum of 1TB per user for OneDrive.
And last, but certainly one of the most important concerns, is online security. Since cloud storage is easily accessible online, you’re more vulnerable to cyberattacks, even through no fault of your own.
Network Attached Storage: The Most Complicated (But Best) Choice
A Network Attached Storage (NAS) is certainly one of the most complicated backup systems to set up. It’s like setting up your personal file server at home, so you need dedicated equipment to connect your storage to the internet.
However, despite the additional setup, you’ll find that this is the most flexible option. That’s because you can freely choose the storage capacities, the brand of the drives, and even the RAID configuration for redundancy.
The only downside with this setup is that it’s located in a single place. So, should an accident occur that damages the actual NAS, you risk losing your data.
What Data Needs Storing?
Some will argue that a NAS is the best way to back up your files; it’s not necessarily true all the time. That’s because the best backup and storage solution will always depend on your budget and purpose.
So, these are the things you consider when choosing a backup system.
Archiving Your Life
If your current computer is full of old files, and you’re simply looking to offload them to another storage device for archiving and more space, you should consider getting an external drive. This is probably the cheapest and easiest option for just plain storage.
However, when you do this, you lose a copy of the file on your computer. So, if you want to open a file archived in this matter, ensure that you label the drive so you can see its contents before you plug it into your PC. This is crucial, especially if you have multiple backup drives.
You should also occasionally check the health of your drives. That’s because although SSDs and HDDs have long shelf lives, they don’t last forever. That’s why you should check how long your storage media will last before committing to any type of external drive archiving.
Backing Up Current Files
But if you want to have a backup of the files you frequently use, it’s better to use a cloud storage service. Most cloud storage offerings range from 5GB for free to 2TB, which should be more than enough to accommodate most of your ordinary files. It should also be enough to fit the raw files for most short videos, even if you’re shooting in 4K.
And since cloud services typically back up your files as you make changes to them, especially if you’re online, you’ll always have the latest version available. So, even if you lose your computer or backup drives, you’ll have an updated copy saved in your provider’s servers.
Do You Have a Massive Database?
While 2TB is probably sufficient for most people, you’ll want a NAS if you’re working with many large files. This is mostly suitable for professional photographers, videographers and video editors, video game collectors, data scientists, indie game developers, and more.
Creating a NAS might cost a bit more in terms of hardware, and you might have to figure a few things out yourself in the beginning, but you get peace of mind, knowing that you have full control of your data.
Furthermore, you can easily scale your NAS in terms of storage and users—you don’t have to pay a monthly fee for every terabyte and user access you need. And if you’re concerned about the physical safety of your NAS drive, then you can install multiple NAS devices in various locations, allowing you to have redundant security.
Our list of the best NAS is a good place to start.
Protect Your Digital Life: Backup Your Files
In this day and age, you must protect your files. While you may think that setting up a backup is unimportant and such a bother, you’ll think otherwise when you lose most, if not all, of your files.
But if you have a backup of your data, you won’t feel as handicapped should you lose your computer or have its drive fail. All you need is to connect to your backup device or service and copy or download the files you need back to your PC.
And if you’re working on crucial files—especially when your profession depends on them—then you should implement the 3-2-1 backup strategy for near-perfect data protection.