For contacts and calendars, using iCloud or Google (both free) to store your calendars or contacts is safer than keeping them only on your Mac. Although the exact steps involved vary from service to service, iCloud makes the process especially easywhen you initially activate an iCloud account on your Mac and turn on contact and calendar syncing, the service automatically converts all of your local contacts and calendars into cloud-based calendars.
The magic click
Suppose that youve dragged your most important files into Dropbox and that you've turned on iCloud syncing for your contacts and calendarsall in 9 minutes, 30 seconds. A great way to spend the last 30 seconds of your allotted 10 minutes is to find (or buy) a blank external hard drive and hook it up to your Mac via USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt.
A dialog box will pop up on your screen asking you if you want to use the drive for Time Machine, the backup software built into OS X. Click Use As Backup Disk. That single click tells Time Machine to start backing up your entire disk to the external drive once an hour, and you dont have to lift a finger to keep those backups going.
Yes, I've stretched my promise of simplicity. Buying an external hard drive requires you to spend both time and money, and you need to make sure that the drive is both large enough and formatted correctly. (For more information, see "How to format a hard drive.") But in principle, you can set up a complete, ongoing local backup of your disk in as little as one click. If you dont have a broadband Internet connection that makes cloud-based backups feasible, Time Machine is the best option for painless backups.
The next step
You might never notice your data syncing and backing up processes when you adopt these methods, but the first time you need to restore a lost or damaged file, youll be glad you took those few minutes to set up basic backups. If you're interested in taking your backups furthermaking redundant backups to guard against media failures, for example, and creating a bootable duplicate of your disktune in for the next installment in this series, Bullet-proof backups.