A beginner’s comprehensive guide to backing up a PC

A beginner’s comprehensive guide to backing up a PC

Backups are crucial to a business’s security strategy, with about 91% of organizations employing some form of backup solution to safeguard their data. But it’s not just businesses that should understand the fundamentals of backing up files. Whether you're an individual or part of a larger institution, today’s numerous and severe cyberattacks make it an absolute necessity for you to make copies of your data.

Below, we'll walk you through the why, what, and how of backing up your PC, so you can learn how to ensure the safety of your valuable files even in times of unprecedented disaster.

Why you need to back up your files

With the amount of data the average user creates and manages per day, backing up files is not just a smart choice – it’s an essential one. Whether it's due to hardware failure, malware, or accidental deletion, losing your important files can be a devastating blow to your projects or business operations. By regularly backing up your PC, you safeguard your files from potential disasters and enable quick recovery when needed.

According to Acronis’ latest statistics, 72% of all users had to recover from a data backup at least once in the previous year, with 33% facing this challenge multiple times, highlighting how data loss can happen to anyone.

Which files should you back up?

When backing up your files, it’s important to focus on irreplaceable files. While you can easily reinstall your operating system and programs if your hard drive fails, your personal documents, photos, videos, and any other critical data should be your top priority. Alternatively, you can back up your operating system, programs, and settings for added convenience, as this makes the recovery process far easier if your entire hard drive fails.

It is also important to maintain multiple copies of your data. Businesses often follow the 3-2-1-1 backup rule, which recommends having three copies of data (original plus two backups) stored on two different media types, with one backup stored offsite and another kept offline for data protection and recovery. This setup provides an extra layer of security by guarding against various data loss events.

Best ways to back up your data

Leverage the cloud

Cloud backups involve third-party service providers maintaining your files on remote servers. Popular platforms include Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive.

  • Accessibility – The cloud lets you access your data from anywhere with an internet connection.
  • Automatic sync – Many services offer automatic synchronization, ensuring your data is always up to date.
  • Data security – Cloud providers implement robust security measures to protect your files.


  • High costs – Storage limits may require paid subscriptions for larger backups.
  • Internet dependency – The cloud requires an internet connection for file access and uploads.
  • Privacy concerns – Concerns about data privacy and potential breaches exist, despite providers using encryption.

Use an external drive

Backing up to an external drive entails copying files onto an external storage device, such as an external hard disk or a USB device.

  • Offline access – Your data is readily available without an internet connection.
  • Control – You have full control over your backup and its physical security.
  • Speed – Backup and recovery are typically faster than over the internet.


  • Physical vulnerability – External drives can be damaged, lost, or stolen.
  • Manual process – Storing files on external drives equires regular manual backups, which can be tedious.
  • Limited space – The storage capacity is limited to the size of the external drive.

Backup up to a network-attached storage (NAS) device

Using a NAS device as a backup solution involves using a dedicated network storage system that connects to your home or office network. It offers a centralized location to store and access your files.

  • Centralized storage – NAS devices provide a single location for multiple users to back up and access files.
  • Automated backups – Many NAS systems support automated and scheduled backups.
  • Data redundancy – Some NAS devices support RAID configurations for data redundancy.


  • High costs – NAS devices can be relatively expensive, costing a few hundred dollars at minimum.
  • Complex setup – Initially setting up and configurating a NAS device may require great technical knowledge.
  • Reliability concerns – Access speed and reliability depend on your network's performance.

Take advantage of online backup services

While similar to the cloud, online backup services such as Backblaze, Carbonite, and IDrive offer automated and continuous backups of your system and files to remote servers, focusing on data protection. Cloud backup storage, on the other hand, primarily provides storage space on remote servers for you to manually upload and manage your data.

  • Automation – Online services offer automated and continuous backups, reducing manual effort.
  • Accessibility – Access your data from anywhere with internet connectivity.
  • Security – Data is encrypted both at rest and in transit for enhanced security.


  • High costs – Some services require a subscription fee.
  • Internet dependency – You need an internet connection for data recovery.
  • Limited control – You have less control over data storage compared to local options.

Seeking greater data protection? Our experts at outsourceIT can offer further advice on boosting your data backup strategies. Get in touch today to ensure your digital assets remain protected and accessible.

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