The Ultimate Home & Office Guide to Data Backup

You’ve heard it dozens of times: “Don’t forget to back up your data.” Backing up your information can prevent data loss in the event of hard drive and/or device failure, theft or damage, giving you a little extra peace of mind. It’s also easier than you might think.

Here are some of the best backup options for keeping your data safe, based on device.

Portable External Hard Drives: Portable external hard drives are small and sleek, and offer high-capacity storage and often feature automatic backup options. That means you’re freed from backup tasks after initial setup, unless you want to change the settings. These are a great option for desktop computers and laptops.

Desktop External Drives: Powered by a standard AC cable and available with up to 6 terabytes of storage, desktop external drives are a great option for a home office or for storing select data from your PC outside the network attached storage. They can usually be positioned either vertically or horizontally, so they can fit nicely into any desktop space.

Personal Cloud Drives: Offering remote access to all your data and keeping it safe on your private network, personal cloud drives are network attached storage that lets you store all your data in one secure place — on your password-protected network. There are no fees, and you have a backup of your information that isn't stored in the cloud. You also have the ability to selectively share files as you wish. This works for small businesses and home offices that have multiple computers. You can even use it to back up cell phones and tablets as well.

USB Flash Drives: Generally used for transporting small to moderate amounts of data, USB flash drives are perfect for transferring photos, videos and other files between devices. They’re small — one can fit in the palm of your hand or on your key ring — and affordable. USB flash drives are a convenient option for storing photos from a vacation, or all the files involved in a specific work project.

SD and Micro SD Cards: These small cards are perfect for expanding memory on a mobile device. SD and Micro SD cards fir in the existing SD storage card slot found on many Android devices. Using them helps to prevent you from running out of memory, giving you extra space to store photos, songs and apps, rather than directly on your device — plus you won't lose the data if something happens to your device.

NAS: For small companies or homes with multiple computers, network attached storage (NAS) is a good option because it can centralize storage functions. Rather than getting external drives for each computer, everyone can back up to the same location, which also facilitates document and printer sharing. These storage options are often packed with other advantages as well, such as simple uploading and plug-and-play setup.

Online Backup Services: There are online services that let you put your data into their “cloud.” The advantage of this type of backup is that you can access data from any computer, anywhere there’s an Internet connection. Prices are based on how much storage you need, and can rise quickly.

Backing up your data is critical. The best practice is to have two backups in the event that one fails — for example, both cloud and hard drive backup for your PC or both the cloud and SD card for your smartphone. That way, if one backup system fails for any reason, you won't suffer loss.

Once you choose a backup option and your data is safe, then you can move on to other activities — like reminding everyone else to back up their data, too.

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