Protect Important Business Files and Recover Older Versions with Local Backups

Local Backups

In the first entry of this series, I wrote about why backups are vital for everyone in business. Yet too few people consider making backups until it’s too late.

The thing is, there are various scenarios that can seriously negatively impact your business if you don’t have readily available backups. If your laptop is stolen, the data’s gone for good unless you’ve got a copy elsewhere. Should you overwrite a mission-critical document in error, you’ll kick yourself if you cannot recover older versions. And if your computer’s internal drive seizes up, you’ll have to throw time and money at a recovery company, in the hope they can retrieve your data.

That is, unless you have another copy of your documents. To that end, you can protect your important business files with local backups.

Invest in Local Backups

With a little effort and expenditure up-front, none of those dark scenarios mentioned above should happen to you. Spending a few minutes and a handful of dollars setting up a local backup (preferably multiple local backups), thereby ensuring your vital data is secure, is one of the best investments you’ll make.

For the most rigorous, secure backup system, you need multiple layers of protection, but there’s always a first step. The built-in back-up system your computer ships with is a good place to start. These combine file backup and version browsing, and you’ll need an external drive for the system to backup your documents.

Find out the capacity of your computer’s internal drive and buy an external mobile drive (since they’re portable and quiet) with double the capacity. 1TB options cost around $50. If your computer only has USB-C ports, you may also need a USB-C to USB-A adapter/cable, depending on what the drive you buy ships with. If so, don’t skimp – get a good quality one, such as those by Anker.

Backups: Mac and Windows Built-in Options

If you’ve a Mac, plug the drive in and you’ll be asked if you’d like to use Time Machine. Click Use as Backup Disk and your Mac will start backing up your files.

You should see a Time Machine icon in the menu bar (an analog clock with a circular arrow around it). If not, turn it on in the Time Machine section of System Preferences. From the menu bar icon, choose Enter Time Machine to browse the frontmost folder’s history, or explore elsewhere. You can also use Time Machine to restore your computer in the event of disaster – see Apple’s technical note.

The equivalent system in Windows 10 is marginally more complex, but still easy to get started with. Plug in your drive, click Start, and go to Settings > Update & Security > Backup. Click Add a drive and select your drive.

Like Time Machine, File History on Windows 10 lets you get at items from the past – type Restore files into the taskbar’s search box, and select Restore your files with File History. You can then browse your documents – using playback controls to access different versions – and restore them. (Alternatively, right-click a document in File Explorer, and go to Properties > Previous Versions.)

Be Consistent with Local Backups

Be Consistent with Local Backups

Once you start a backup routine, don’t let it slip. Time Machine and File History only work well when they are constantly protecting your documents. Don’t just plug in your backup drive on an ad-hoc basis, whenever you happen to remember.

Again, this is why an external mobile drive is a good bet – if you’re a laptop user, you can take your backup drive with you. Although do store it separately from your laptop, in case your computer is stolen. Having your laptop and backup drive disappear in one go would be a disaster.

That said, I did earlier note you should have multiple layers of protection, and so in the next part of this series I’ll look at off-site backup – an affordable way to secure your data and access it from anywhere, keeping your files safe even if every piece of hardware you own is taken from you.

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