Good backups of our digital data are one of those things we never think about until we need them.

It’s almost a given that Something Bad is going to happen to your computer. It’ll get whacked by a power surge in a lightening storm. It’ll get infected with the digital plague. Your kids will touch it.

When The Thing happens, you’ll need to turn to your backups.

What makes a backup good?

A good backup system shares these traits

  • Automatic – Face it, if you have to go *do* something extra to make backups happen, they’re not always going to happen. I’m not saying that you’re already overloaded, or that you might get distra– Hey, look! Shiny!
  • Reliable – Backups need to happen in a robust, predictable way. You also need to get confirmation that “Yup! Everything’s good here. Carry on!”
  • On AND off-site – For little “whoopsies,” you want on-site backups for fast restores. For major disasters, though, you need a copy of your data stored in a secure digital vault somewhere else.
  • Tested restores – Just having backups of your data isn’t enough. You also have to be able to restore your data when you need it. You have to test this system regularly to make sure that you can get your data back out.
  • Easy – While there are a fair number of moving parts here, the overall backup system needs to be easy. If it’s hard, it’s not going to happen.

Secret backup sauce

Here’s how to backup your digital data the North Star way:

  1. Get an external USB drive (this is a good one). Dedicate it to backups; nothing else. Make sure it’s about three times as big as the amount of data you’re going to backup.
  2. Get a CrashPlan subscription, and install the app on your computer. You can just take all the defaults unless you know you want something different.
  3. Tell the CrashPlan app to backup to both the USB drive and the CrashPlan cloud.
  4. Sit back and wait. Backups are a slow process.

About backup speed

Depending on how much data you have, it’s going to take a while for the first backup to finish. The USB backup will be done in a day; maybe two. The cloud backup, though, could take a couple weeks, depending on your Internet connection speed. Don’t worry; that’s completely normal.

Also, that’s just for the initial backup when CrashPlan is working through all your data. After that first big push, CrashPlan will be running in the background on your computer, immediately backing up all the changes you make to your data. If you dump a passle of photos or videos onto your hard drive (like clearing off your phone, for example), it might take until the next morning for CrashPlan to catch up, but that’s pretty good!

About restore speed

Getting data from your USB drive will happen within just a few seconds, of course. Restoring from the CrashPlan cloud is completely dependent on your Internet connection speed and the amount of data you’re restoring.

If you have fiber to your house and you’re just restoring a couple gigabytes of stuff, you’ll be done in a half-hour. If you’re rebuilding your entire computer from scratch and your ISP relies on carrier pigeon for your connection… it’s gonna be a while.

Can I get a little help, plz?

Are you feeling like “Ain’t no one got time for this!” right about now? Or have you tried to set things up, but you ran into a little hiccup? I’d love to help you out! Get hold of me, and we’ll get you squared away.