For some of my clients, I have a hard time convincing them that they need to have a backup process in place. Usually these are people that have not (yet) experienced a hard drive crash and lost some, or all, of their important files. Their computer is working fine at the moment, they’ve never had a problem, so setting up a backup is not very high on their priority list. Those people are likely to have an unpleasant surprise some day.
So you can imagine, if they don’t think a backup process is all that important, there’s no way they would see the need to have TWO backups in place.
But for a lot of people, having two different backups is definitely the right solution. That’s because they do two different things.
The two types of backups are local backup, and cloud backup.
Local backup means you use a portable hard drive (this one from Amazon works fine) that sits next to your computer, and it plugs into a USB port to do the backup. I usually set this to happen overnight, like from 1 am to 3 am, while the computer is not being used. This local backup takes everything – EVERYTHING – on your hard drive and puts it into a single file on that portable drive. So this means your Documents, your Pictures, your wallpaper, your MS Office software, your antivirus, everything on that hard drive is backed up.
For the local backup, you just need a portable drive like the one I linked to above. The software I use for this, Macrium Reflect, is free for personal use. And if you want me to set it up for you, I can do that remotely (takes about 30 minutes).
Cloud backup means you are backing up your important files on a different computer. That’s really all “cloud” means – it’s storage space on a computer other than your own. Cloud backup is completely automated. Once it’s set up, you don’t have to do anything. This type of backup safely stores your important files, such as Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos, Outlook emails, that kind of thing. It does not backup your software such as MS Word or your antivirus program.
For the cloud backup, your cost for your personal computer is $60 per year (that goes to the backup service I recommend, which is Carbonite).
Now back to the initial question: why do you need both of these backups? Why not just choose one of them?
To answer that, let’s say you only have one of these backups when your hard drive crashes:
If you only have the cloud backup, your documents and pictures and other files are safe. So you just take out the crashed drive and put in a new one, but before you can do anything, you have to install Windows. Do you have your Windows installation disc? Do you have the product key required to activate Windows after it’s installed? Do you have your installation disc for Microsoft Office? You can download Office and install it – but for that you need your user name and password for the Microsoft account. And you need to install all the other software, such as Chrome or Firefox, your antivirus, and any other software you normally use. THEN you can go to your cloud backup service and download all of your files such as documents and pictures.
As you can imagine, this whole thing is quite a lengthy process and it can be a while before your computer is back up and running with all of your programs and important data. If you use your laptop for your everyday work, you might find that you don’t have use of it for a few days while all of this is being restored to the new drive. So it’s good to have the cloud backup service, but it’s not that convenient if that’s the ONLY backup you have.
On the other hand…
If you only have the local backup to your portable drive when your computer’s hard drive crashes, you can just put in the new replacement hard drive, and then restore everything from the last local backup to the new drive. Everything will be there – all of your programs, your documents, your screen saver, everything is exactly like it was when that most recent backup was done.
But what if you haven’t done a local backup in a month? or 6 months? The process for doing a local backup is simple – just plugging in the USB cable at night and unplugging it in the morning – but you do have to remember to do it. If you don’t, your most recent backup might not be very recent.
And here’s another factor. Usually, that portable drive is going to sit next to the computer. So the original hard drive (in your computer) is right next to the backup drive. What if you have a fire? The computer AND the backup could get destroyed at the same time since they’re in the same place. Or remember the recent massive floods in Louisiana? Lots of computers were destroyed, and if the portable drive with the backup was in the same location, the backup was destroyed as well.
Also, that portable drive can get lost, stolen, dropped, stepped on, etc. even under normal conditions. So it’s good to have the local backup to the portable drive, but it’s kind of risky to have that as your ONLY backup.
So, if A) you want to be really sure that your files are safe, and B) you want to be able to be back up and running as soon as possible after a hard drive crash, it really makes sense to do both of these backups.
And finally, the other question I get sometimes after I explain all of this to clients – if I were only going to do one type of backup, which one would be better?
My answer would be the local backup would be the one I would prefer, if I could only do one. But that choice comes with one qualifier – that you are disciplined enough to do it. If you don’t think you’ll remember to plug that portable drive into your computer at night, and unplug it in the morning, then don’t rely on that type of backup. The cloud backup is completely automated so you don’t have to do anything.