How to back up all your devices

It’s becoming vital to back up not only PCs but smartphones and tablets too. We show you how to protect every device you own

It’s perhaps the most often-repeated advice in computing: “back up your data!” Yet many of us simply don’t do it, or don’t do it as often as we should. That’s understandable: duplicating and archiving your data feels like a chore – and, most of the time, a pointless one at that. But as the saying goes, there are only two types of computer user: those who’ve lost data due to a system crash, and those who will. In these days of iPads and smartphones you can also lose important data by literally losing it – or having it stolen. If you haven’t kept a backup, your photos, messages, contacts and more may be gone for good.

Backing up your data will probably never be fun. But with the right tools and processes it can be largely automatic – which means there’s no excuse for not protecting your data. Sadly, there’s no single backup system that can protect all your devices in one go. But in this feature we’ll show you how to keep each of the devices in your home backed up with little or no effort, so that when a data disaster does strike you’ll be prepared.

Backup for PCs and laptops

For most of us, the Windows PC remains the main repository for documents and media, so if you only keep one thing backed up, it ought to be this. Probably the most fuss-free approach is to invest in a continuous cloud backup service.

Backing up to the cloud has several advantages over using your own physical media. Because your backup destination is physically remote, there’s no clutter in your home – no stacks of external hard disks or boxes full of DVDs. Your data is safe from physical hazards, such as burglary or fire, and so long as the backup service uses strong encryption and data protection practices your personal information will be more secure too, as thieves will be unable to read it. Best of all, you never need to worry about running out of space. Many services provide unlimited space at quite reasonable prices.

You can expect backing up a 100GB media folder to take more than three weeks of solid uploading

There are downsides to cloud backup, however. Clearly, you need a reliable internet connection: without one, you’re unprotected. The need for connectivity may also be a showstopper for laptop users who rarely connect to the internet, though we suspect those are a dying breed.

Even if you do have a constant connection, your first backup may take a very long time to complete. Domestic broadband rarely offers more than 1Mbit/sec upstream, so you can expect backing up a 100GB media folder to take more than three weeks of solid uploading – tying up your connection and leaving you only partly protected in the meantime.

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