Backing up your computer and preserving your files

The fantastic Food Storage Made Easy blog has a great post out on how to set up a regular backup process for your computer. They recommend using my favorite backup company, Mozy – a Utah based company that was started by a friend of mine and was acquired about a year ago. Check out their post here. If you don’t yet have a backup plan setup, I highly recommend reading their post and following their advice!

flashdrive2The fantastic Food Storage Made Easy blog has a great post out on how to set up a regular backup process for your computer. They recommend using my favorite backup company, Mozy – a Utah based company that was started by a friend of mine and was acquired about a year ago. Check out their post here. If you don’t yet have a backup plan setup, I highly recommend reading their post and following their advice!

Like Preppers are inclined to do, I want to take their post further down the Rabbit Hole. Having a backup of all your important documents is great – but let’s look at it from a prepper perspective. If for some reason the internet becomes unavailable through, all your backups will be lost. There are lots of possibilities for this to happen: earthquake, flooding, major power loss, a nuclear strike and so on. In a TEOTWAWKI event, the internet may be gone for good or at least a long time – and there’s a good chance that the servers your backups are on will never come back online.

In order to ensure the safety of your most important files in such an event I recommend regularly copying everything you care about to a USB Flash Drive. There are several reasons that I’m recommending a Flash Drive over other options. A Flash Drive is very small and extremely portable, it can’t be damaged by scratching and can survive quite a bit of abuse. Additionally, files on a USB Flash Drive can continuously be overwritten and managed. Other options like a CD, DVD, Tape, portable hard drive or even a laptop are all very susceptible to damage and data corruption. While a USB Flash Drive is not a 100% guaranteed solution, it is much more reliable than the other listed options.

The number of files you can store on a USB Flash Drive are limited by a couple factors: the size of the files (which correlates to the type of the file i.e. a video file is going to be much larger than a simple document) and the size of the Flash Drive (how many gigabytes it can hold).

You can store any file on a Flash Drive that you can store on your computer. This includes all your digital photos, documents, videos, genealogy files and so on. One of the other advantages of a Flash Drive (and some of the other options listed above) is that once the Flash Drive is plugged in to a computer you can access the files on it through the file system as if it were a CD or external hard drive. You can browse through and access the files just like anything else on the computer. Once your done, you unplug the Flash Drive and walk away with it.

As our readers should be well aware, we’re big proponents of redundancy around here :) it is from that belief in redundancy that my next recommendation comes. I recommend that you have at least two flash drives and that you keep a full, current copy of all your important files on each one. One of the Flash Drives should be stored in your Bug Out Bag so that if you have to Bug Out, you’ve got it with you. The other should be stored at a location outside of your house – this may be in your car, at work, at a friends house – whatever. The point in keeping an off-site drive is so that if your house and everything in it are lost for some reason, you don’t lose a decades worth of photos or documents. Since you also hopefully have an internet backup you have now done a lot to insure yourself against the loss of precious files.

The amount and type of files that you need to store will dictate the size of flash drive that you need to buy. I would recommend that you get at least 16 gigs but prefer 32 gigs for myself. The price per gig on Flash Drives is constantly changing. As of this writing, you can get this 16 gig Flash Drive from Amazon.com for just under $30.00 while a 32 gig one can be purchased from Amazon.com for just under $60.00. These may not be the cheapest you can find, but they are good brands at a fairly good price.

So, don’t forget to pick up at least 2 of whichever size you settle on and don’t forget (and I know you will every once in a while) to regularly update the files on your drives.

Do you have any thoughts or experiences regarding Flash Drives that you would like to share with us? If so, please let us know in the comments!

UPDATE: If you liked this post, be sure to catch Jayce’s follow up on how to encrypt the data on your Flash Drive!

23 thoughts on “Backing up your computer and preserving your files”

  1. I am a huge fan of Apple’s Time Capsule for this type of thing for a few reasons:

    1. It’s always up to date. I used to do the hard drive and flash drive route, and I even scheduled in my calendar to continually updated them (I stored the HD in a fireproof safe so it wasn’t continually connected). But I would get busy and ignore the calendar reminders, and so the data grew out of date. With Time Capsule, it continuously synchronizes all of my data.

    2. Since it’s wireless, I have secluded my Capsule in a hard-to-find location in the house. So if my computer is ever stolen, I’ll still have the data on the hard drive.

    3. It’s large enough (in terms of storage space) that I can store all of my data, not just my important documents and items.

    Now if there was a fire, I’d be screwed. So in that case I’d recommend what you have here, locking the flash/hard drives in a fireproof safe somewhere that’s easily accessible.

  2. I am a huge fan of Apple’s Time Capsule for this type of thing for a few reasons:

    1. It’s always up to date. I used to do the hard drive and flash drive route, and I even scheduled in my calendar to continually updated them (I stored the HD in a fireproof safe so it wasn’t continually connected). But I would get busy and ignore the calendar reminders, and so the data grew out of date. With Time Capsule, it continuously synchronizes all of my data.

    2. Since it’s wireless, I have secluded my Capsule in a hard-to-find location in the house. So if my computer is ever stolen, I’ll still have the data on the hard drive.

    3. It’s large enough (in terms of storage space) that I can store all of my data, not just my important documents and items.

    Now if there was a fire, I’d be screwed. So in that case I’d recommend what you have here, locking the flash/hard drives in a fireproof safe somewhere that’s easily accessible.

  3. This is good info, and thanks for the links to Amazon!

    If you do put all of your critical personal data on a Flash drive, be careful with that drive. Encryption might be a good idea here.

    There’s a special form of encryption which would let you give 1/8 of a key to each of your kids and then allow any 3 (or 2 or 4 or whatever) to decrypt. This could come in very handy. I forget the formal name of this but will find out.

  4. This is good info, and thanks for the links to Amazon!

    If you do put all of your critical personal data on a Flash drive, be careful with that drive. Encryption might be a good idea here.

    There’s a special form of encryption which would let you give 1/8 of a key to each of your kids and then allow any 3 (or 2 or 4 or whatever) to decrypt. This could come in very handy. I forget the formal name of this but will find out.

  5. @Connor
    Great comment, thanks! I’ve thought about using the Time Capsule several times and I think it sounds like a great solution for part of the problem – as you’ve indicated.

    I also have issue with it in that it’s not a grab and go, then plug in anywhere solution (or is it?) to my understanding. I totally agree with you on getting complacent about backing up your files, it’s a big problem.

    For me personally, I have the files on my hard drive backed up offsite via the internet, critical stuff redundantly on an external hard drive and 2 flash drives with my most important files on them – mostly family photos for the last decade. I keep one flash drive at my office and one in my go bag at home.

    I can see a time capsule fitting in there to take place of the external drive like you have covered – I think it’s an excellent solution to replace that part of the plan.

  6. @Connor
    Great comment, thanks! I’ve thought about using the Time Capsule several times and I think it sounds like a great solution for part of the problem – as you’ve indicated.

    I also have issue with it in that it’s not a grab and go, then plug in anywhere solution (or is it?) to my understanding. I totally agree with you on getting complacent about backing up your files, it’s a big problem.

    For me personally, I have the files on my hard drive backed up offsite via the internet, critical stuff redundantly on an external hard drive and 2 flash drives with my most important files on them – mostly family photos for the last decade. I keep one flash drive at my office and one in my go bag at home.

    I can see a time capsule fitting in there to take place of the external drive like you have covered – I think it’s an excellent solution to replace that part of the plan.

  7. YAY for another Mozy fan! My brother was one of the very first people to sign up for Mozy several years ago.

    Thank you for going into further detail about backing up your info. As you know from our blog, we try to keep things easy so that people will actually DO IT. I know from experience I have been meaning to back up my computer and important docs for about a year (and still never did it until Mozy!). So Mozy is definitely a great interim step which is “better than nothing”. But you are absolutely correct that there could be a situation down the road where the internet is unavailable so to have multiple forms of backups is great. (We recommend an emergency binder for paper documents, and USB drives are great for copies of those things too)

    I’m so glad you have a blog that takes things deeper than we are able to go yet. We don’t want to scare off beginners and that is a huge portion of our readership.

  8. YAY for another Mozy fan! My brother was one of the very first people to sign up for Mozy several years ago.

    Thank you for going into further detail about backing up your info. As you know from our blog, we try to keep things easy so that people will actually DO IT. I know from experience I have been meaning to back up my computer and important docs for about a year (and still never did it until Mozy!). So Mozy is definitely a great interim step which is “better than nothing”. But you are absolutely correct that there could be a situation down the road where the internet is unavailable so to have multiple forms of backups is great. (We recommend an emergency binder for paper documents, and USB drives are great for copies of those things too)

    I’m so glad you have a blog that takes things deeper than we are able to go yet. We don’t want to scare off beginners and that is a huge portion of our readership.

  9. @Jodi Yeah, big mozy fans here. We’ll be actually going into this more with some future posts, including the encryption concepts, which are very vital.

    @Connor Time Capsule is great for the Mac users, but offside, and multi-disk storage is important. I’ve lost too many things to single disk backups before. But as always, use all the tools available, you’ll need them all at some point :)

  10. @Jodi Yeah, big mozy fans here. We’ll be actually going into this more with some future posts, including the encryption concepts, which are very vital.

    @Connor Time Capsule is great for the Mac users, but offside, and multi-disk storage is important. I’ve lost too many things to single disk backups before. But as always, use all the tools available, you’ll need them all at some point :)

  11. I also have issue with it in that it’s not a grab and go, then plug in anywhere solution (or is it?) to my understanding.

    From this review:

    Time Capsule can be used as a source to restore files to the machine that created the backup via Time Machine; used with Migration Assistant to move files to a new system; and used to restore a system that’s booted with the Leopard installation DVD. The sparse image files can also be mounted over a network to retrieve files manually, or copied as a monolithic file for an archive of the entire backup set stored in the sparse image.

  12. I also have issue with it in that it’s not a grab and go, then plug in anywhere solution (or is it?) to my understanding.

    From this review:

    Time Capsule can be used as a source to restore files to the machine that created the backup via Time Machine; used with Migration Assistant to move files to a new system; and used to restore a system that’s booted with the Leopard installation DVD. The sparse image files can also be mounted over a network to retrieve files manually, or copied as a monolithic file for an archive of the entire backup set stored in the sparse image.

  13. @JeffBarr
    Great suggestion, I’ve not heard of the algorithm you’re describing but I REALLY like the idea! Jayce and I discussed whether to include encryption in this post and decided that it really deserved its own writeup. We should be publishing that soon.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  14. @JeffBarr
    Great suggestion, I’ve not heard of the algorithm you’re describing but I REALLY like the idea! Jayce and I discussed whether to include encryption in this post and decided that it really deserved its own writeup. We should be publishing that soon.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  15. @Jodi

    You ladies did a great job of writing up Mozy and doing backups! Way to get the conversation started :)

    We definitely like to take things as deep as we can here as you’ve noticed. We plan to do it quite a bit with your blog posts. Not always like this one did but to talk about things that complement some of your food storage posts…. you’ll see :)

  16. @Jodi

    You ladies did a great job of writing up Mozy and doing backups! Way to get the conversation started :)

    We definitely like to take things as deep as we can here as you’ve noticed. We plan to do it quite a bit with your blog posts. Not always like this one did but to talk about things that complement some of your food storage posts…. you’ll see :)

  17. I’m a huge fan of Mozy because they keep my files encrypted. Plus, it’s way more likely that I’ll lose an unencrypted jump drive than that their earthquake protected datacenters will completely go down.

    If anyone’s interested in one of their free accounts, use my referral link and we’ll both get an extra 1/4 GB free.

    https://mozy.com/?code=P2GWBL

  18. I’m a huge fan of Mozy because they keep my files encrypted. Plus, it’s way more likely that I’ll lose an unencrypted jump drive than that their earthquake protected datacenters will completely go down.

    If anyone’s interested in one of their free accounts, use my referral link and we’ll both get an extra 1/4 GB free.

    https://mozy.com/?code=P2GWBL

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