External hard drives either a portable or stationary unit depending on your preference are excellent for storing your local backups. There are many options for external hard drives today with interfaces that accommodate fast data transfer rates such as USB 3.0, eSATA, FireWire, or Thunderbolt drive. Choose an option that works for your needs, most drives on the market come from only a few producers these days, so as long as you have warranty, and the drive is new, you are good to go.
USB flash drives would work for small amounts of data, although one can currently find them as big as 1 TB for exorbitant pricing. It is good practice to use two drives and to have two full back ups between them whether or not you plan on using a cloud back up solution.
To automate the backing up process you can use a number of applications on the market depending on your OS.
Time Machine –
- A seamless incremental back up system that is part of Mac OS. It runs automatically in the background with minimal requirements for configuration or management.
Windows 7 –
- You can use the Backup and Restore function to back your data to another hard drive or NAS. If you choose to include a system image with your back up you will be able to restore the OS and applications in addition to the personal and business files. Even though this process is able to restore most software it is always a good idea to have the purchased license keys and disks available, in case of software corruption or other problems. There is also a feature to automatically schedule the back ups, in Windows Backup and Restore. This process is not as seamless as the Time Machine’s incremental back up system, but it does take away the need to have to remember backing up manually.
Windows 8 –
- Windows 8 contains a completely redesigned backup system. One major difference is the Windows 8 version uses File History rather than the Windows Backup feature from Windows 7.
- The purpose of the major changes in the new File History system was to simplify the set up process and work automatically in the background much like Time Machine.
Update for Windows 8.1:
- System Image Backup icon in Windows 8.1 changed locations to the lower left hand corner of the File History feature window, this can be accessed, from the Control Panel.
Extra Tips for Managing Your Data
- If you have extra sensitive data you can encrypt your backups. This is a powerful way to maintain privacy, just make sure to remember any credentials as you can kiss your data goodbye if you have forgotten them and the data access requires them.
- Maintain additional backups offsite in a safe and secure location.
- Make sure to regularly verify your backups to make sure the files are not corrupted and usable.
- Sanitize or destroy your backup media after usage, whether they are disks, hard drives or network storage devices, before having them e-cycled.