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Guide for creating backup versions of files.

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Backing up data refers to the process of copying and archiving data. It is very easy to misplace or delete important files. Therefore, to ensure that your files are both safe and can be found easily, it is smart to store them in multiple locations where you will be able to retrieve them easily.

Choosing the Right Backup Method

Ensure that you have picked a method that protects your data while ensuring timely access.

Backup Methods

There are several different ways of backing up data. The following is a list of a few simple ways along with some advantages:

External Hard Drive (USB, Firewire, eSata, Flash Drives)

Backing up to an external hard drive. An external hard drive can be small and portable,such as a flashdrive or mp3 player, or it can be larger in order to offer a lot of storage capacity. Using external hard drives allow you to have a backup copy of your important files in an easy to access location if your computer hard drive stops working.

  • Backing up files onto an external hard drive is fairly easy, in most cases it can simply be plugged into the computer's USB port. After it is recognized, you can go to My Computer by pressing the Windows logo+E keys, or simply by going to Start>>My Computer (on Mac computers the hard drive should appear as an icon on the desktop). Once there you should see the new hard drive as an icon for the new hard drive. Double click to open it up. Once the new window opens, any files you wish to save can be simply dragged into the new window. The files will then be copied to the external hard drive where they will be stored until you remove them or the external hard drive dies.

Online (Cloud) Backup Solutions

Backing up your data to the cloud can be accomplished through a number of services.  These fee based services offer different plans, with monthly or annual costs depending on the amount of space you require. Some services even offer free limited plans if you only have a small amount of data to back up or if you’d like to test out the service before committing to a subscription. In some cases, you may not need a lot of space and simply wish to store some files online for easy access. Many free options exist for this purpose with more storage space available at an additional cost.  There are 2 basic types of cloud based backup solutions tho the differences are blurring as these companies compete for your business. 

The first is a Systematic Data Backup referring to a backup system that installs a small program on your computer and allows you to select files and folders to be backed up to the cloud on a schedule you define.  This is most commonly used for recovery from a catastrophic failure of a hard drive or other local storage device.

The second is a Manual Online Access where an online storage location is presented as a folder on your computer and it allows files to be placed there that are then synced to the online storage.  This is most commonly used to save files that you may need to access quickly or from multiple locations.

This linked page provides additional information.

Web-Email Account

Using web-mail (such as Gmail, Outlook live, Yahoo, ect.) is an easy way to transport and secure small amounts of information such as a few documents or pictures. This keeps it safe from any hard drive it is accessed on and is only reliant on the mail client's servers. It is able to be accessed easily anywhere you have Internet access.

  • This form of data backup is simple. Documents can be sent through email to your own or someone else's mail account if you so choose. Documents can be sent in an email via the "attachment" function of the web-mail

    Some mail servers allow you to send file types that others will not), the file can be found by browsing the computer and selecting it.


A CD-R/DVD-R (or RW) offers a secure external storage space to backup data. CD's are reliable and can make for easy storage of data, however, they are susceptible to scratching and environmental damage.

  • The backup process is similar to that of an external hard drive. This can be done by inserting a blank disk into your disk drive. You can then access it by clicking the Windows logo button+E. Once there it will appear where your disk drive is usually located (on Mac computers the disk should appear as an icon on the desktop). Double click on the icon to open a window for the disk (Note: Formatting process may occur at this point). With the window open, files can be dragged onto the disk. Note: burning software is available to make the process easier and give you more options.

Sources and Relevant Links

Outlook live