These are the 2 easiest ways to protect yourself from data loss.

Digital data is easily one of our most valuable possessions. As photos, music, and video have left our shelves and shoe boxes for a spot on our hard drive, it has become our responsibility to make sure they stay there.

Data loss, especially when it comes to one-of-a-kind files like family photos really stings. You have a few options to help you avoid this fate and I’ll run through two of the best options.

Local backup

The easiest way to keep a spare copy of your data on hand is to back it up to an external hard drive. Both Macs and PCs have built-in backup utilities that not only backup spare files, but can make a perfect duplicate of your internal hard drive. That means, if your hard drive happens to fail, you can buy a new one and have all of your data intact. This also makes moving to a new computer a breeze.

Another major benefit to having a local backup is that it doesn’t take a long time to create or restore from. Unlike online backups, which rely on your internet connection, local backups are done over USB. If you don’t have a lot of data, the process of creating or restoring from a backup might only take a couple of hours. Like I said earlier, local backups are the easiest way to keep a copy of your data and you should definitely have one, but there are two downsides to local backups that I have to mention.

The first is that if you’ve got a laptop, it’s on you to remember to make backups regularly. On a desktop it’s a little more set-it-and-forget-it; just plug a hard drive into your USB port, set up the backup utility, and go. Laptops are portable, and if you’re shuffling between your place, coffee shops, work, and on vacation, it’s easy to forget to make a new backup. The second problem is that local backups won’t keep your data safe from natural disasters or theft. If your external hard drive is plugged into your laptop and a thief comes in, both copies of your data are probably going to leave with them; thankfully there is an alternative.

Online backup

In the age of iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft’s One Drive, what it means to have an online backup of your data is a little confusing. The services I just listed are totally fine for storing some of your data, and specific services like Google Photos and Apple’s Photos are a great place to keep your pictures safe.

Creating the initial backup could take a long time depending on how much data you have, but BackBlaze actually has a tool on their site that checks your internet connection and tells you how many GBs it could back up per day. After the first backup, subsequent backups won’t take nearly as long. Another major benefit of having a complete online backup is that you can access all of your files from anywhere. If you’re on vacation and the file you need is on a hard drive at home, you’re out of luck. If you have an online backup, it’s only a few clicks away.

Regardless of whether you choose to back your data up online or locally, or ideally both, it’s important to remember that only having one copy of your data is a risky proposition. Computer problems do happen, and if your internal drive fails, it’s way better to be safe than sorry.

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