A new year is a perfect time to talk about ways to protect your data. You should be backing up and you know it, and if you are already backing up, it’s time to test your strategy and include things you may be forgetting.
1. Set up Time Machine
If you aren’t using Time Machine, it’s time to start. This is your first, best line of defense on a desktop or laptop. Backups made using the built-in OS X feature are non-intrusive, and recovery of files is nearly instant. Although external hard drive prices are high right now, most everyone will benefit with Time Machine. Hook up an external hard drive and OS X will ask you to use it for Time Machine. I generally recommend getting a hard drive 1.5 times the size of your internal drive.
2. Set up online backup the proper way
I suggest online backup services as your second line of defense. It’s important to keep backups offsite in case of a disaster or theft at your location. If you do your initial backup all at once it can take months and you’ll find you are missing a key file just when you need it — I wrote about how to optimize your strategy here — and be sure to leave your computer on and awake if you want your backup strategy to work. Also, please remember that sync software like Dropbox isn’t a true online backup system, since it has the ability to remove files.
3. Back up your online email system
If you use online email systems such as Gmail, you need to back that up as well. Don’t rely 100% on your provider. Your account could get hacked, or you could accidentally delete your email. Follow this guide on backing up your Gmail using POP access. A similar strategy would be applicable to Hotmail, AOL and Yahoo (though Yahoo may require a paid upgrade to do it).
4. Test your backups
I’ve written about this before, but if you aren’t testing your backups, how do you know if they’re working? Do you know how to restore in case of disaster? Trust but verify as they say. Simply try restoring files from your backups to make sure they work as expected.
5. Back up your iOS devices
With iCloud, backing up to your computer isn’t technically necessary because you can restore from the cloud. On a practical level though, that takes time, and there’s also no guarantee your backup will always be there when you need it. At least every month, it’s important to hook up your iOS device to your computer for a quick and immediate backup of your data. To do a manual backup via iTunes, follow these instructions.