The world runs on Windows. More businesses run on the Windows platform than any others combined. Any Windows veteran can tell you that you’re going to run into problems that will require you to rebuild your PC at some point, and that is why having a backup is important. In this article we will talk about what you need to know to develop a good backup strategy and ensure your data is available when you need it.
Now, before we get going too far down the road, you probably want to first read about what Windows System Restore can and cannot do for your PC. System Restore is the precursor to the recovery process built into Windows 8.x and Windows 10. Understanding its beginnings may give your system recovery efforts a better chance at success.
Note: reducing worry and stress due to a dead or dying computer or hard drive is all about preparation. If you understand that you will surely need to rely on some sort of backup strategy and restore plan, then you’re halfway home.
Develop a Backup Strategy
How well you can restore your computer to its previous working state depends on how well you have backed up your data. In short, your backup strategy and its implementation is the key to restoring your data.
A good backup plan should consist of the following:
- A local backup to ensure that if you do need to blow your computer away, you have a quick and easy way back to the way it was.
- An offsite backup just in case your local backup gets corrupted, damaged or infected with malware, rendering it unusable.
- Cloud synchronization because not only does it offer the quickest way to get your data back, it gives you access to your data on ANY Internet-enabled device.
This is usually a program that will back up your hard drive to a local, or onsite location. In Windows you can use Windows Backup to handle your backup program needs. Windows Backup has a setup wizard that will take you through defining where, when and how often you back up your data. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it option, and that’s the key to making not only this option work but every other option in your backup strategy. Set it up and let it handle things in the background.
There is also a multitude of third-party software that you can use to automate the backup. SyncToy is one useful tool created by Microsoft.
Offsite backup apps are very similar to onsite backup apps with two really big exceptions:
- All of your backup data is stored offsite.
- There’s a monthly charge for the service.
However, it’s something that you absolutely must consider putting in place, simply because fire, storms, hardware failure, or any number of other problems can happen, especially when you least expect it. Any of those could corrupt or destroy your local backup. When that happens and you want to restore your system to what it was before, having a second backup not effected by any local backup issues can help save your bacon.
The big issue you have to get past here is time. It takes time to complete your initial backup. In fact, depending on how much data you have to back up, the initial backup can take – literally – months to complete depending on how fast your Internet connection is. It’s also going to take time to download a restore point should you need it, BUT this backup copy is likely to be safe, uncorrupted and virus-free. It should also be encrypted for your safety.
Some of the candidates you can consider include:
- CrashPlan offers a free plan that will back up all of your data, both locally and offsite, and includes a rolling thirty days of online backup. Paid options include one computer for as little as $5 per month (or $60 per year) or two to ten computers for $14 per month (or $150 per year).
- BackBlaze includes a free trial to get you going. After that it is $5 a month or $50 a year to back up a single computer. Each additional computer is another $5 per month. Backblaze offers a way to locate missing computers should one get lost or stolen. They will even provide you with an external hard drive version of your backup for a price.
- Carbonite offers a basic plan for $60 per year, a plus plan for $100 per year, and a prime plan for $150 per year. Carbonite offers a 30% discount for multi-year subscriptions.
All of the above offer unlimited backups (except where noted) and 256bit AES or better encryption.
Dropbox is the most popular choice here, though you can use Onedrive, Google Drive or any other cloud storage service out there. Most of them come with a desktop client where you can easily drop your files into the folder and have them synced to the cloud.
Determining the best way to restore your computer to the way it was depends on the extent of the loss that occurred. Common considerations include the following.
Cloud Sync Restore
If you’re rebuilding and either aren’t worried about restoring your apps or have a separate plan for reinstalling them, reinstall your cloud sync app(s) and bring down all your data. This should be your first restore consideration, as it can get everything back to the way it was in a matter of minutes or hours.
One of the easiest ways to get all of your apps back is to perform a local restore. This will bring back all of your apps as well as all of your data, but depending on the size of the restore set, this could take quite a while longer than just bringing your data down from your cloud sync app. However, this is likely the easiest way of putting your computer back to exactly the way it was prior to the disaster that caused the need for the restore in the first place.
This is a restore of last resort. When you need more than just your data back and your onsite restore is corrupted or damaged, offsite restore can get your computer back to the way it was. Depending on the service you chose, you can get your hard drive back by downloading an image, or you may be able to have a hard drive sent to you by your backup service. These options will take more time to complete and/or will likely cost you some additional money. Look to these options only when all other options fail to produce the results you need.
Sometimes you just need to wipe your computer and start over. For this it is important for you to have a backup strategy and a restore plan. Cloud sync is the easiest way to back up just your data. It’s also the easiest and quickest way to get it back.
Onsite backups are a good way to bring back not only your data, but all of your apps and computer configuration as well. Setting this up to run in the background so you don’t have to think about it is the best way to get this accomplished.
Offsite backups are a key element to your backup and restore strategies and insure that you always have a copy of your important data, regardless of any local issues like floods, fire or just plain hardware or hard drive failure. Setting this up to run in the background is the best way to get this accomplished but will likely take weeks or months to download it all over the Internet.
Making your computer like it was isn’t hard, but it does require preparation … and redundancy.