5 Tips to Help you Get More Out of Your Technology
Tip #3: Back Up.
Okay, you knew this was coming. Right? If you’ve been around Ask Leo! for any length of time, you know that sooner or later that I was going to talk about backing up. It’s something I talk about often; it’s something I talk about ad nauseam – probably to the point of irritation in some cases.
Remember, if there’s only one copy, it’s not backed up.
So, why is backing up so darned important? Why do I talk about it so often? We often think about data loss. I hear stories all the time – all the time about people who lose precious data: photographs, documents, I mean just emails, all sorts of digital stuff that they didn’t need to lose had they only had a backup in place.
One of the criticisms, if you will, of our digital world is that it is so easy to lose things. Well maybe, but counter balance that with the fact that it is so easy to copy things. It is so easy to make a backup. And that’s why I keep harping on backups, because it is just so easy to prevent these kinds of personal, really heartbreaking disasters that I hear from time to time.
A lot of people consider backups to be protection against hardware failure, and you know, that’s true, that’s absolutely true. Hardware can fail. Hard disks die, computers die and take information with them – all sorts of things can happen.
Another thing that people often don’t consider are things like theft or hacking or malware; all of which can destroy or remove access to data that is important to you. Backing up can prevent that data from being lost. No, it won’t get around the inconvenience of a hacked account, or it won’t get around the inconvenience of having your computer stolen, for example, but it will insure that when that happens, you won’t lose critical data because it happened to walk off with a stranger.
Similarly, a backup is often the fastest, the most reliable way to restore or recover from a malware infection.
So, these are the kinds of things that I talk about a lot and that I want to remind you of.
There’s another part to backing though that I consider in the vein of the topics we’ve been discussing so far in these five tips, to be as important, perhaps even more important in some ways, and that is that having a backup protects you from yourself.
That gives you two different kinds of confidence. Remember, we all make mistakes. It happens. Anybody who has used computers for any length of time has accidentally deleted a file or accidentally done something to actively destroy the data that they care about. It happens. I’ve done it myself; I’ve done it repeatedly.
It’s one of those things that you never really end up correcting. Maybe you do it less; hopefully you do it less, but you never really end up fixing in yourself. Mistake happen. We are human.
That means we can prepare, and a backup is wonderful preparation for those mistakes. If I delete a file, if for example, after recording this video, I delete the file that contains the video, it’s gone. If, before I even begin editing, I back it up first, I can delete it all I want because I know that I can get it back.
Those kinds of mistakes are easily recovered from, if you’ve backed things up.
The other part to this, though, and the part that I think a lot of people don’t quite comprehend, is that backup can be really, really “freeing”. By that I mean, a lot of people are scared of their computers.
They’re scared of trying new things. They’re scared of harming things. They’re afraid they’ll break it. Aside from the misconception that you’re not going to break the hardware – that’s just you’re not – hardware’s not going to break because of something you do to the software. You can’t type in a command and have your computer literally blow up. That’s not how things are designed, but you can type in a command and delete all your data.
You can type in a command and get Windows all confused. You can do all sorts of things that could basically, cause problems with your operating system. If you’ve got a backup, it doesn’t matter. You can restore to that backup before whatever it was you did happened. That gives you the power to experiment – the freedom to play.
And that is something that I consider fundamental to our ability to learn how to use the computer – to try things out. Yeah, maybe something will break; maybe some software configuration will get misconfigured somehow or software will start misbehaving. Like I said, that’s okay if you’ve go a backup in place, you will not have lost any data, and you’ll be able to restore whatever it was you did to the state that it was in before you did it.
I personally rely on that often, and I personally find it very, very freeing because it really does let me try things – let me play with things – let me learn about things by doing. So that’s another reason that I think that backups are so incredibly important.
So the next question people, of course, ask is, great, I’m all convinced about backups – how? How do I backup? People get really, really wrapped around this, and I will admit backup software, backup technologies, backup whatever can be intimidating and complex.
One of the reasons that I do what I do, and I’ll talk about some of those solutions in a minute, but they get so wrapped in the concepts and the fear of the concepts, the fear of the confusion, that they end up paralyzed. They’re paralyzed by this fear, and they end up backing up nothing and they end up losing everything.
Conceptually, backing up is super, super simple. Like I said, make a copy. If there’s only one copy, it’s not backed up. So, backing up means making a copy. My personal preference, my recommended strategy is almost always: use an image backup tool to create a periodic image of your entire machine so that you’ve got absolutely everything backed up.
Then, do something, I’ll call it relatively continuous for your work in progress. Tools like Dropbox or One Drive – those kinds of things. They can actually back up the work that you’re working on as you’re doing it. As I was preparing notes for this specific video, every time I hit “save” the document I was working on was being backed up to One Drive.
Instant backup. I could delete it on my machine. I could do all sorts of interesting things to that document and know that I could recover a copy either from One Drive or from any of the other machines on which I happen to also have the same One Drive account installed.
Desktop email. Use a desktop email program. You don’t have to use the desktop program, but you should consider using a desktop email program periodically to back up your email. It’s the best way to make a copy of all of your email that’s always in your control on your machine and as side effect, gets backed up when you backup your machine.
If you’ve got a smartphone and you take pictures, make sure you’ve got some software in there that does some sort of auto uploading. It’s the best way to make sure you that you’ve got copies of the photo that you just took – instant backup (almost) assuming your phone is connected to the internet at the time.
Basically, like I said, backing up is all about making a copy of your data. There are tools to automate, tools to simplify, tools to make it all make sense, but whatever works. The best backup program, and I’ve said this in one of my articles before, the best backup program is whichever backup program or strategy or technique you will actually use to back up your data.
Now, when I take a look at something like a PC, a Windows PC, I typically gravitate towards programs like Macrium Reflect or EaseUS Todo or AOMEI Backupper or tools of that ilk that create image backups and incremental backups and can do file and folder backups. I recommend that you get an external hard disk on which to place those backup images, those backed up files.
I also recommend that as I mentioned earlier, you use a tool like One Drive or Dropbox or any of a number of other tools that are similar that will do this more or less continuous backup of the data that you place in those folders. Backing up is so important. I just can’t overstress enough how important backing up is especially when it comes to losing pictures or data loss.
You may not think that you have anything important. Trust me. As soon as something happens, you will understand just how important some of the stuff you had was. It’s really, really worth your investment of time and in tools although, to be fair, many of the tools are in fact free. You don’t need to spend money on software, necessarily, to do that.
Sometime the paid versions do include features and functionality that you may care about, but those are decisions you can make once you’ve gone down the path of setting up backups.
Naturally, since it’s something that I’m so passionate about, something that I talk about a lot, I have books on backing up. If I wanted to start you somewhere with one of my books, it would be Backing Up 101. It’s an overview of different ways to back up your computer and some of your data that may not necessarily be on the computer and gives a wonderful, I think, outline of some of the options you have. Yes, absolutely, it guides you down a path that will hopefully convince you that periodic image backups that I’ve talked about already, are in fact, the thing you want to do, but even if not, along the way, it will discuss strategies that can get your most important, your most common, the data you really care about the most backed up and backed up well.
I have other books. There’s a Saved! series of books. These are the “how to” books that talk about specific backup programs. There’s one Saved! for Windows 7; there’s a Saved! for Windows 8; there’s Saved! for Macrium Reflect. The backup program that I’ve been recommending for several years now.
Its not… You know that I’ve got one in the wings. I’ve got another Saved! book that is currently in editing as I record this video. Happy to announce right now that it’s going to be Saved! Backing up with EaseUS Todo. EaseUS Todo turns out to be the one that I’ve selected to be the next product to do this in-depth “how to” book on.
It’s actually working out fairly well. As always backup programs have their pros and cons. It’s always a little bit of a tradeoff, but it’s a fundamentally sound backup program that I think a lot of people will be happy with, and someday, I’m not even going to say exactly when, just because it’s not… I’ve never been really happy with Windows’ included backup, but yes, someday, hopefully within a few months, there will be a Saved! Backing Up with Windows 10 Backup.
But as we’ve discussed in other places, Windows 10 isn’t necessarily something you want to be jumping on to right now.
So, why hasn’t, why didn’t I make backing up tip number one? Well, it’s interesting. I actually thought about this some as I was laying out these five tips. Tip number one and two are about coping with change and being willing to learn.
And in my experience, with the people that I talk to, the people that I hear from, fear of change and an unwillingness to learn are actually roadblocks to backing up. I call, not even an acceptance of change, but a willingness to at least choose what to do when change happens and embracing learning as a concept, to be “gateway attitudes”.
In other words, these are the attitudes that make your experience better, no matter what you do. If you don’t have those, then you are much less likely to care about tip number three – backing up. It just won’t be something that you’ll be willing to consider doing, because it represents change, and learn about doing, because it does require some amount of learning, so backing up by far is the most important thing you can do when it comes to having a better experience with technology, but in order to get to the doing, you need to be ready to at least decide about change and embrace some amount of learning.
If you haven’t been backing up, please start. I can’t say it enough, I can’t say it loud enough, I can’t say it often enough, please, please, please start backing up. Remember, if it’s only in one place, if there’s only one copy, if there’s only an original, it’s not backed up.
You want to back it up somehow because I guarantee you, sooner or later, something will happen that will cause that one copy to disappear in the blink of an eye and you’ll wish that you had a backup.
As always, I’d love to hear what you think. If you’re watching this anywhere but on askleo.com here’s a link. Go visit that link. You’ll find our moderated comments, and I’ll be reading through them as you post them, as always. I really, really appreciate it.
Do you back up? If you don’t, why don’t you back up? What’s the roadblock? Help me help you understand by understanding what gets in the way of backing up.
Until next week with tip number four, I’m Leo Notenboom, take care everyone!