Backups 101: Get the 4-1-1 on how to keep your information safe!

What is a backup?

A backup is a copy of your electronic data/information stored somewhere other than just locally on your computer or mobile device.

Why do I need a backup?

If your device is unrecoverable (think blue screen of death or fatal crash), gets lost or stolen, the data is corrupted or you get a virus you can easily recover your information from a backup. Simply put, it provides peace of mind!

Do I back up all my information?

What you choose to back up is completely up to you, but it’s recommended that you go one of two ways:

  1. Back up specific information/data that is important to you
  2. Back up everything, including your entire operating system

Most backup solutions automatically back up specific information, but if you are unsure of what is necessary and what isn’t, it is best to back up everything.

How often do I need to back up my devices?

If your device comes standard with a backup program (like Time Machine for Apple devices or Backup and Restore for Microsoft Windows), you are able to create an automatic schedule which will allow you to choose how often your device is backed up: hourly, daily and weekly are just a few of the options. Other backup solutions have “continuous protection,” which immediately backs up new or changed files every time you save.

How should I back up my devices[1]?

There are two ways to back up your devices: using cloud services or using a physical media device (external drive, USB, etc.)




Physical Media Device

  • Enables you to back up and recover large amounts of data quickly
  • If your device is infected, malware could spread to your backups when you plug in your media device
  • Disasters (fire, theft)

Cloud Services

  • Backups happen often and automatically
  • Files accessible from anywhere
  • Not affected by home disasters
  • Can help recover from malware
  • Can take a long time to back up and recover large amounts of data
  • Some solutions are not secure or private

In regards to mobile devices, most automatically store your data (email, calendar events, contacts) to the Cloud, but application configurations, photos and system preferences generally are not automatically stored. Apple products (iPhone, iPad) can be backed up to Apple’s iCloud, but Android devices depend on the manufacturer or service provider.

Time to recover!

It’s important that you check on your backups periodically to ensure that they can be recovered. Retrieve a file and make sure it’s the same as the original, and always make a full system backup before a major upgrade (such as buying or fixing a new computer or device.)

Check out the SANS OUCH! August newsletter for more information and links to other resources.



[1] SANS Securing the Human August 2017 Newsletter

Last updated: October 18, 2017