Computer back-ups & why it’s important

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Computer back-ups & why it’s important

“A backup, or the process of backing up, refers to the copying and archiving of computer data so it may be used to restore the original after a data loss event.”

Many of use computers at our place of employment, or for personal use. All of these computers contain data. Most of the time, very important data! Data that we cannot afford to lose.

The solution: backing up.

Backups is one of the more prominent forms of disaster recovery. It is important to backup data as much and as often as possible. For this purpose many solutions for backing data up exists.

Let’s look at the more common ways to back your computer up:


​1. External drive, or partition:

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An external drive could be anything from a flash drive, to a portable hard drive or even another computer. A partition in this context is a separate part of your main hard drive that will not be affected by an accidental deletion of data, or corrupt data, however it will not protect you against viruses or physical damage to the drive! The simplest way to back data up onto another drive is to simply copy and paste your data. This method works well for media, documents and other data files, but it does not work for software, or system applications.

​Making backups, which you can use to restore your computer to a working condition, if yours stops working, then you need to use backup software:

- Windows Backup and Restore:

Integrated within Windows for the past decade has been a backup software, which allows for the creation of a system image (which is a backup from which you can restore your computer completely, including programs and system applications). It is not the most user friendly software, however it is free, and many people use it successfully.​

- Acronis True Image:

​Acronis is a popular backup software which comes with many functions, including cloning which we will discuss shortly. It makes a complete backup of your computer exactly the way it is, which you can use to restore all your programs, etc. You can configure it to only backup certain files as well if needed. It is not free, and a paid license is required to register and use the software. A trial with limited functions does exist. There are many other software similar to Acronis that you can choose from.

- Time Machine:

Time Machine is a popular backup software for Mac users. Once it is setup you can forget about it. It takes care of everything in the background. It does not feature cloning or cloud backups (which we will also discuss shortly), which means that you will need some extra apps if you prefer these types of backups.

- Fwbackups:

Linux is the ever changing and developing range of operating systems. As you can imagine, there are hundreds of different backup software for Linux. Fwbackups is an open source and relatively simple to use backup software for Linux. It has a user interface and easy methods for creating a scheduled or one time backup.

There are thousands of different software out there for backing up your computer. Software that specialise in servers, CCTV, media players, cameras, and just about any data containing device you can think of.

​Another data backup solution, namely cloning:

2. Cloning:

Cloning is one of the less known backup solutions in existence. In reality, however it is by far one of the more effective ways to ensure that you will always have a functioning computer. You will need to use an external hard drive for this backup, preferably.

What is cloning?

Well it is exactly what you probably think it is! It literally clones your hard drive, exactly the way it is onto another hard drive. This means that if your computer suddenly crashes, you can simply use the clone drive to immediately continue working, from the point the clone was done.

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For a personal computer, cloning should be done at least on a monthly, or weekly basis, depending on how important the data on the computer is to you, and how regularly the data on the computer changes or are updated. On servers in companies cloning is done at least once a day, sometimes even more. These clone drives are setup so that if the main drive crash, the server will immediately switch to the clone drive. The time for which the server is offline is only a few seconds!

​The final backup solution we will look at is;

3. Cloud Backups:

The simplest way to define cloud backups would be; a backup solution where your data is transferred over the internet and stored on a remote server, usually in several different locations, in many countries around the world, and maintained by a service provider, which you subscribe to and pay a monthly or annual subscription fee.

The service provider that you choose will install backup software on your computer, and at your direction set up your backups on a schedule, which will transfer your data, or system image (clone) to several locations around the world. 

There are some obvious advantages and disadvantages to cloud backups though:


- Your data is protected from any physical damage. Like natural disasters or failing drives. Your data is also much more protected against theft or cybercrime.

- You do not have to maintain the data and the responsibility now rests upon the service provider.

- It can be debated, but more often than not, it is cheaper to back up your data online, as you do not have to purchase these drives yourself.


- You will always need a stable internet connection to facilitate cloud backups. You will not be able to access your backups without an internet connection.

- Since your data is in the care of an external service provider, it does increase the amount of people that handle it, therefore the chance of interception or tampering (with malicious intent, does increase).

- You have little to no direct control over your data. If the service provider decides to stop your access or goes out of business, there is very little you can do about it.

​A list of some online backup software you can use:


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Many of these software do provide some free cloud storage, but usually with limited space and functionality.

Which of these backup solutions should I choose?

Well, to be perfectly honest; the best choice would be to ​use all three of them.

You can never be too safe with your data. Get one or two external drives. Do a normal backup manually, or with software (Windows Backup and Recover, Time Machine or Fwbackups will work perfectly), purchase a Cloning software, and clone at least once a month.

Finally, subscribe to Online backup service provider, and back your data up on the cloud. Sure the risk does increase of cybercrime and so forth, but the risk of losing your data on a local device is much greater.

If you can only choose one of the three, I would recommend choosing online backups. Physical drives will always fail at some point, and having your data, safe, on the almost infinite space of the web, will be well worth the cost.

Melanie du Plessis
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