Backing up your data is something you should constantly be doing. It is important to decide when, where and how. At ITFirst we have a very simple system to determine where when and how backups should take place. We call it the 3-Way Rule.

The 3-Way Rule

The 3-way rule is simple: All your data has to be in 3 different places at any given time. Obviously there’s the main copy on your PC’s Main hard drive, but ultimately only having that copy can be very risky! To make it easy we’ve compiled a list of the 3 places people most-commonly store their backups to:

Your Computer – The Recovery Partition or Second Internal Hard Drive

Most people don’t know it, but their computer can act as 2 independent computers with different Operating Systems and storage spaces. IT Guys call this “Partitioning”. The computer’s hard drive is divided into 2 or more different segments which can then be accessed independently of each other. This technique can be helpful when it comes to making backups. Data can be backed up to a second partition and can thus be saved to an independent storage space and will, if something happens to your data on the main partition, be safe and unharmed. A downside to this option is that it reduces the amount of storage space you have available on your main partition and makes it likely for you to run out of storage space on your hard drive. Setting up this method can also be tricky (we recommend you don’t try it yourself), but once it is setup, it is easy to use. Windows already contains software that can automatically backup the data at your pre-determined interval, but if you prefer, third-party applications also exist that can make this process even more advanced or simpler – It all depends on what you want. If you prefer doing it manually, that’s possible too! Another option is a second internal hard drive. This is mostly useful in desktops as the hard drive will be kept inside the PCs casing and will be directly connected to the computer and its power supply. The backup will then be made using a technique similar to the one used with a second partition, but this method will not take up space on your primary hard drive. When considering this option, it is important to let us first take a look inside your computer’s casing to ensure that all the cables and connections that are needed, are available.

External Hard Drives

An External Hard Drive (often also called a portable hard drive), connects to the computer using a USB or eSATA port. These are the younger, but larger brothers of the traditional memory stick or flash drive. They come in different shapes and sizes and some have a capacity of up to 6TB (6,000 GB). Although they are not as portable as USB Flash Drives, they are still more portable than desktop computers and can, when not in use, be stored in safes or cupboards for protection. It is important to take special care of your external hard drives as they are very fragile and damage easily when dropped. With an external hard drive you also have the option to plug it into other computers and a single hard drive can therefore, when large enough, be used to backup data from several different computers. This can help reduce cost and data scatter.

The Cloud

Most people have a common misperception of The Cloud or Cloud Storage. Let’s make it easy… Imagine you buy an external hard drive, place it in a storage facility in the US and connect a very long cable to it – This is basically it. “The hard drive” will be your storage service, while “the cable” refers to the internet. Concerns often arise regarding the safety and confidentiality of files in the cloud, but I can assure you that when using the right service, your files are just as safe and confidential as it is on your PC. Most Cloud Services make you pay for the amount of storage you use, but some provide a certain amount of storage for free. These services include the very popular OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive), Google Drive and Dropbox. Which cloud service you use is up to you, but it is always important to consider compatibility when it comes to making the decision. For example, OneDrive might be better for those who want to backup data from their Windows computers while Google Drive might be more suitable for people with Android phones (We’ll discuss this more in-depth in the future ,so stay tuned). Often I get asked “Why store my data in the cloud, too?” Allow me to use a simple comparison to explain: Consider data to be cash. We primarily keep our cash in 2 places: In our wallets or in our bank accounts. Should we lose our wallets, we can get some cash from the bank. This is why backing up to the cloud is important. Consider the cloud to be your “bank for data”. Should something happen to your hard drives, like they get stolen or corrupted, you can always rest assured that you’ve got at least one safe copy. Similarly you can ask me “Why not just keep all my data in the cloud?” Well, do you really want to drive to the ATM every time you need cash? Keeping your data in the cloud alone requires you to be permanently connected to the internet (which might not only be difficult at times, but it requires you to have a very good ISP connection and high cap).

What it comes down to

In conclusion, the 3-way rule not only ensures that your data is always available when you need it, but covers the recovery from every possible scenario that could lead to data loss. As for the question on how often you should be backing up your data, well the more often, the better!