The best home backup plan options - Part 5: A complete backup strategy

The best home backup plan options: Part 5

If you've been following along with this series, you've now seen the three main methods for keeping your data protected at home. To recap, they are:

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Same machine backup

This is the practice of making copies of files on the same computer and even the same hard drive to help you recover from an accidental deletion or irreparable change.

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External drive backup

Typically backup software is used in conjunction with a separate hard drive that is not the same drive which holds your operating system. This can be an attached USB drive, Networked Attached Storage (NAS), or even a separate hard drive inside your computer.

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Cloud based backup

Files are uploaded to a remote backup server either automatically as the files are changed or periodically based on a schedule. You transfer all of the files you want to back up to a cloud based service, then download the files as needed.

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A complete backup strategy

Any one of the three main methods on its own is better than nothing, in fact you can have a pretty solid backup plan using either the external drive or cloud based methods. There are drawbacks to using just one however. The external drive method will leave you exposed to a potential whole home disaster where your computer and your external backup will be destroyed. The cloud based method relies entirely on your internet connection and a 3rd party backup company. If either of those two things malfunction, or if the backup company vanished, so does your data.

To create a complete backup strategy, it's wise to use a combination of all three of these methods. If you get creative, the cost can be minimal.

Step 1: Shadow Copy

To start, you should enable the shadow copy portion of the same machine backup method. On Windows, this means turning on the Volume Shadow Copy Service. On Mac OS X it involves setting up Time Machine. This will provide you with point-in-time snapshots of your files that you can revert back to should you make an accidental edit or deletion. It will happen automatically and it will be there if you need it.

Step 2: External Drive

The external drive method can serve as the heart of your backup strategy. It's fast, storage is plentiful (for most cases), and it's relatively inexpensive. You should definitely be doing some form of this method to protect your important files such as documents and family photos. There are varying degrees of redundancy and protection available depending on your setup, see Part 3 of this series for details and recommendations.

Step 3: Cloud Backup

To complement the other two methods, having some degree of cloud based backup makes a lot of sense. Having your most important files backed up in a location other than your home is important. If you have a lot of photos, music, and video this can be a challenge but you can at least send your important documents to the cloud. For details on how to use a cloud backup service to its fullest see Part 4 of this series for details and recommendations.

As a lightweight cloud backup plan, consider Dropbox. They offer you 2GB of cloud storage space for free and amazing mobile, web, and desktop tools to manage your data. That should be enough space to hold your most important files at least, and you can always upgrade if you decide you like it enough and want to store everything there.


Using the 3 steps described above and the other posts in this series, you should be fully equipped to create a solid home backup plan for you and your family. If you've been following along in this series, congratulations, you're now more knowledgeable about home backup plans than the vast majority of people out there and are capable of helping them get set up as well.

Take the time to protect yourself.

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