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Cyber Security Tips: Backing Up for Digital Safety

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We've all been there: Whether due to a system crash, equipment malfunction, cyberattacks, theft, or simply spilling one too many cups of coffee on your laptop, losing important data can be devastating. Keeping your data safe means taking an active role in protecting yourself through regularly scheduled backups of the data on your computers and other digital devices.

Though you can't prevent every threat, backing up regularly will help ensure that you still have access to your valuable data, even after a technology fail

What Should I Back Up?

You should make and save copies of any data that is important to you. The data you back up may include documents, photos, videos, email and text messages, images, contact lists, business records, and any files or folders that contain information you wish to keep.

Data, such as family photos, home movies and personal documents often can't be recreated, so it's essential to copy and protect this valuable information. In most cases, you do not need to back up your operating systems, software or applications, as these can be reinstalled.

Where Should I Back Up?

When it comes to backing up your data, both offline and online options exist, each with pros and cons.

  • Offline: External hardware backup devices, such as USB hard drives, require you to plug in and use your device's built-in backup tools. The pros: External backup devices tend to be inexpensive and quick to upload files. You can program backups to run automatically when you leave your computer connected to external backup devices. The cons: You must physically connect your computer to the backup device, a task that can be easy to forget. Plus, in the case of an accident, theft or natural disaster, your external hard drive may be destroyed or damaged along with your computer.
  • Online: Internet-based and cloud services allow you to store copies of your data online. The pros: Online data storage allows you to access your data from anywhere with an Internet connection, and it's easy to set up automatic backups so you don't even have to think about it. Since your data is all online, you don't have to worry about physical threats, such as theft or natural disasters. The cons: Though there are a myriad of free options available, most don't offer much storage, so you'll usually end up having to purchase more space. Plus, the initial upload of data may take a long time.

To be safe, back up both online and offline.

How Often Should I Back Up?

In the case of a cyberattack, system crash, theft or hardware failure, backups will preserve important data that might otherwise be lost... but that data is only as current as your last backup. Backing up your devices regularly and often offers a layer of assurance. If possible, set up automatic online backups that run every 24 hours. If you're backing up offline, run a backup at least once a week.

MIT recommends keeping at least a few months of backup data stored at all times.

Backup Pro Tips

Along with regular, frequent backups in multiple places, experts also recommend taking the following extra security steps:

  • Encrypting any backups that contain sensitive personal or business data
  • Store data in multiple offline devices, and keep at least one backup device in a secured location that's removed from your computer
  • Double check backups frequently to make sure data is accessible
  • Wipe all data off your backup devices (USB hard drives, computer hard drives, etc.) before discarding or recycling them

Following these tips can help you protect your data. If you ever find yourself with missing or corrupted files, you'll thank yourself for taking extra precautions.


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