Backing Up Part 2: Keeping it at home – Local Backup

As the name suggests, local backup means that the data is stored locally. This means making use of some form of external storage device, such as an external hard drive or NAS (Network-attached Storage). The positive of using a local backup is that you are in control of the data. You aren’t relying on another company holding it for you, and you don’t need to rely on being online all of the time. The most basic way to backup data is to plug in an external USB hard drive and manually copy the data across. This is a lot of work though, and it’s very easy to forget or just start telling yourself that you’ll “do it next week”. Many external drives these days come with automatic software preinstalled on them, which you can utilise to automate the backup process. They are often proprietary pieces of software which all work a little differently (and possibly not exactly the way you want), but they’ll do the job if needed. You can also use the software built into the computer’s operating system to do the job, such as Mac OS’s Time Machine. There of course is also 3rd party software around which will also work. One thing to watch out for with backup software is exactly how the data is stored. While many will create just a direct copy of all of your files, some will store the data in large data files. These are generally less preferred, as you can’t access any of the files directly, you need to go through some other software first. The large data files also mean that if it gets corrupted, you lose a lot more data than if a single photo got corrupted.

Alternative solutions to the external hard drive include a NAS, or Network-accessible Storage. This is essentially an external hard drive that is connected to your network, so that anyone on a network can make use of it. Many of them even come with a second hard drive which the data is automatically doubled onto for extra protection. These too often come with software for automatic backups. Using CDs or DVDs are also an option for backing up, although they can degrade or get scratched over time and don’t hold nearly as much data. I would suggest using them as a second stage backup, as opposed to relying on them as your primary backup solution. Also be wary as to what disk sleeves you store them in. Some plastic sleeves have been known to adhere themselves to the disk over time and when removed, can destroy the disk. USB memory sticks are not designed for long term memory, and I highly recommend not relying on them as a form of backup. One of the disadvantages of a local backup is that the data is still being held inside your house/building. This means that if there is a fire, for example, that backup could still be destroyed. One way to mitigate this risk is to regularly swap between two hard drives, and the one which is not currently being used for backup kept off location, such as a friends house.

Another, easier option is to use a cloud based backup solution, as we will look at in the next part.