Over the last 16 years I’ve been providing onsite IT Consulting (support and service) to clients in my local area, and I often had to deliver the bad news of loss of data.

I never liked to do it, I always felt bad. Not because it was my fault, but because I understand how terrible it feels when you lose photos, music, videos, documents, spreadsheets, slideshows, financial statements, and/or emails (especially if you use an email client like Outlook or Thunderbird).

With a little investment in time and some money, especially in external drives, network drives, or a network attached storage (NAS) device that feeling could be alleviated.

In my experience, most people keep all of that data in one place – a single computer. Having all of your data in single place is dangerous!

Malware, viruses, software or hardware failures, accidental deletion, fire, theft, or natural disasters are just some of the ways that you could lose all of the data that you’ve accumulated.

The only way to prepare for the unexpected is to have a good backup strategy in place.

What is a Backup Strategy?

Simply put, a backup strategy is a plan of how and where you will backup your data. And, in the event of data loss, how you can recover that data.

I’ve always found that a backup strategy for one client isn’t going to work for another. Everyone has different needs.

For my own technology needs, my rule for data backup is to have several copies, in several places:

I sleep better at night knowing that I have done as much as I can to protect the data that I deem important.

Note: Never backup to your internal hard drive. For local backups, always use an external drive.

Getting Started with Backups

Easy Local Backup for macOS

For computers that are running macOS (MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, iMac, iMac Pro, or a Mac Pro) — you can use Time Machine, the built-in backup feature of your Mac.

Time machine will automatically back up all of your files, including apps, music, photos, email, documents, and system files to an external drive. When you have a Time Machine backup, you can easily restore files from your backup if the original files are ever deleted from your Mac, or if the hard drive in your Mac is erased or replaced.

Once you have your external drive, simply connect it (usually via a USB or USB-C port) to your Mac. Shortly after connecting the drive you should see something like the image below, asking if Time Machine should use the new external drive you just connected. Note, the name of the drive in the sample image “My Backup (1 TB)” may be different than your drive.

Sample image of the Time Machine feature in macOS asking to use a new drive

Just like the sample image above, make sure the “Encrypt Backup Disk” is checked and then click “Use as Backup Disk”. After that, just leave the drive connected to the computer and Time Machine will backup your entire computer once a day. Automatically.

You can read more about Time Machine from Apple’s support pages here.

Easy Local Backup for Windows

I’m addressing Windows 10, as older versions of the Windows operating system just shouldn’t be used online anymore.

Windows 10 does have a built-in feature for backing up your computer, to an external drive, which you can find in the Settings under “Update & Security”, sub-section “Backup”.

Personally, whether it’s for myself or a client, I always recommend/prefer to use a third-party utility called SyncBackFree from 2brightsparks. Be sure to get yourself an external drive (never backup to your internal hard drive) to backup to.

As of late, I’ve had a lot of people contact me for a remote session to set up SyncBackFree for them (I have a lot of experience with it).

SyncBackFree is a fantastic windows backup software that is 100% free for personal, educational, charity, government, and commercial use. In addition to that there is also:

• No Ads, Viruses, Spyware, Trojans
• No Nags
• No Registration
• No Payments
• No Collection of Demographic Info

SyncBackFree gives you:

• Backup and Synchronize: copy files in both directions
• Restore from backups quickly & easily
• Email logs automatically
• Run programs before and after backups
• Automatically schedule backups
• Unicode enabled for non-English filenames
• Simple and Advanced mode
• Runs on Windows 10… as well as 8, 7 and Vista (32/64 bit)
• Extensive Help Documentation

Smartphone and Tablet Backups

iPhone / iPad (Apple)

Every iPhone/iPad comes with 5GB of iCloud “storage” for free. But did you know that photos and videos can fill up the free 5GB fast.

And most iPhone/iPad owners think their devices are automatically backed up to iCloud. Also, unless you are paying for the 50GB, 200GB, or 2TB upgrade option, you are only backing up a maximum of 5GB of iPhone/iPad data.

The “easy” answer is to upgrade to one of the options:

  • the 50GB upgrade is $0.99/month
  • the 200GB upgrade is $2.99/month
  • the 2TB upgrade is $9.99/month

While I do pay for the 50GB upgrade, mainly for the ability to access the plethora of files in my iCloud drive (very handy in meetings). One alternative method I use to ensure I have a full backup of my iPhone is by using an app called iMazing.

Android-based Phones/Tablets (Google)

If you don’t have an iPhone, or iPad, then you most likely have a device that runs a version of the Android operating system which is Google. That’s why you must have a Gmail account in order to use one. Samsung, LG, Motorola, Google Pixel, etc. They are all running a version of the Android operating system.

I’m going to share a link to an excellent guide from the folks over at Android Central titled, “How to back up your Android phone in 2020” (https://www.androidcentral.com/backup-android-ultimate-guide).