Earlier in this series, I outlined why backups are vital, and how to secure your computer’s data using local and online backups. However, mobile devices are no longer just portable phones with a contacts list, and a rubbish version of Snake to fiddle about with when waiting for a meeting to start. They’re now instrumental to your life – for work and beyond. So they need backing up, too.
After all, at any given moment, your smartphone might be packed with photos of special occasions, but also house snaps of whiteboards from meetings. Perhaps you use it to scan documents, record presentations in audio or video, and make notes. If you’ve a tablet, you might use it instead of a PC for important work tasks, like mind-mapping and creating mission-critical business documents.
Should you lose your Android device, iPhone or iPad – or it abruptly dies and isn’t recoverable – you need to ensure this is only a minor inconvenience, because you’ve already made your data as safe as anything stored on your PC or Mac.
Here’s how to backup your iPhone, iPad and Android mobile devices.
Use the cloud
Cloud-based storage shouldn’t be conflated with backups. If something’s stored in the cloud, that merely means it’s immediately accessible on a range of devices, rather than providing redundancy in case of deletion or data loss. (That said, most cloud services do let you restore older versions of items, should disaster strike.) Even so, when working on mobile, it’s a good idea to store as much as possible in the cloud.
Save/export work done on mobile devices to the cloud
Use your system’s built-in cloud-based calendaring. Send photos to private cloud storage, be that Google Photos on Android, or iCloud Photos on iOS. When working on individual documents, save them to iCloud Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, or Microsoft OneDrive. With apps that automatically prefer saving data locally rather than going through an obvious ‘save’ step, get into the habit of exporting content you’ve created as a matter of course.
At this point, you know that if your device is suddenly rendered inoperative or lost, you will still be able to access the data. However, you should also be backing up your mobile devices, so you can restore your data in the event of disaster, or transfer said data to a new device.
Backup your iPhones and iPads
Apple provides two options for backing up iOS device data: iCloud and iTunes. Use them both. On your iOS device, open the Settings app, tap your name, and navigate to iCloud > iCloud Backup. Turn on iCloud Backup and your device will automatically be backed up on a daily basis (usually overnight) – assuming it’s powered, locked, and on a Wi-Fi network.
This backup includes your photo library, app data, documents, and settings. A full backup on iCloud can be restored to a new iOS device. During that process, apps will be downloaded, assuming they’re still available on the App Store. Note that backups can be sizable, and so you may need to purchase extra iCloud storage – go to Manage Storage > Change Storage Plan if so.
To get going with iTunes, plug your device into a Mac or PC, using a USB cable. Click the device icon in the top toolbar, or select it from under the Devices heading if the sidebar is open (View > Show Sidebar). If you want to include passwords, Health data, and HomeKit data in the backup, ensure Encrypt is selected. Then click Back Up Now under Manually Back Up and Restore. Such backups can take a fair while, and may impact on your computer’s performance while they happen, so start the process during downtime.
I’d recommend making this kind of backup at least monthly (preferably weekly), as a safeguard against your iCloud backup failing.
Backup your Android devices
The best way to backup Android devices is to the cloud. In the Settings app, search for Backup and select it when it appears. (The location of this option should you want to manually navigate to it in Settings varies by manufacturer and OS. In current vanilla Android, it’s under System > Advanced > Backup > Back up to Google Drive. But it may also be under Backup & reset, in the Personal section.) Tap Account and then OK.
This backup will store your app data, call history, contacts, device settings, photos, videos, and SMS. It’s automatically encrypted using your Google account password, and can subsequently be restored to a new device.
The Android File Transfer app
The other standard means of Android backup is via USB. Search in Settings for USB and select USB Preferences, and ensure Use USB for is set to File Transfer. On Windows and Chromebooks, the system should automatically detect your device, enabling you to drag and drop documents. On Mac, you’ll need the Android File Transfer app. Do be careful when fiddling around with files and folders in this manner.
However you backup – backup!
Whichever method or methods you choose to safeguard your mobile data, don’t delay. Mobile devices are easier to misplace, and are more prone to theft, than laptops. Even if your phone or tablet merely houses cherished photos of your kids, you won’t want to lose that data. But if it holds critical documents relating to your business, not having it backed up could be catastrophic to your organization.