Developing a Safety Net to Protect Your Computer Data

Although making a “backup” goes to the heart of protecting computer data, creating a thoughtfully conceived “safety net” developed after an analysis of risks, needs and budgetary restraints, will minimize your frustrations, stress and computer “down” time.


Start by listing possible computer failures and data loss scenarios that may affect all of your devices, including your desktop and laptop computers and your cell phone and tablet. Talk to friends and family and search the internet for ideas. My list includes: internal and external hard drive failures, deletion of files, corrupted files, incomplete backups, inability to access data on an external drive, corrupted backups, failure to boot up, destruction of disks due to fire or earthquake, and loss due to theft. Also consider the impact of being unable to access data–for example, nonfunctioning computers mean the risk of extended downtime from work projects.


Once you have a list of risks you can determine what you “need” as part of your safety net, to address each of the items on your list. The internet, including posts on, will provide invaluable information as you develop your “Needs List”.

Some examples to consider:

1.     Implement complete onsite backups of your computer hard drive, on separate external drives or a Drobo RAID system or similar, as protection from the failure of any of your drives. The recommendation for best practices is to have at least three copies of all computer data.

2.     Utilize offsite backup, in the event your onsite drives fail, are not accessible, or are damaged, destroyed or stolen. By way of example, I use cloud storage through “Backblaze”. I relied upon it when my computer’s logic board was replaced and my computer files were compromised. My external hard drives would not stay mounted due to the logic board failure and backup was inconsistent plus, as I will describe below, the data on one drive was totally inaccessible. The best practices recommendations are to store backups on two different media, and to store one copy offsite. Using external hard drives for backup plus cloud storage satisfies best practices guidelines.

3.     Create a bootable USB recovery drive (thumb drive) for your operating system, in case you are unable to boot up your computer.

4.     Backup to an external hard drive that contains a bootable copy of your computer’s main hard drive. It will enable you to boot up immediately and get right to work using the external hard drive when your computer fails. I use Carbon Copy Cloner. If any of your software applications require activation to work, you may have to reactivate them with your license key when you are working off of the cloner drive.  If your software only allows usage on two computers, and you have installed the application on a laptop as well as on your computer hard drive, you may have trouble activating it. I actually experienced this problem with my Adobe products when my logic board was replaced and my software thought I was using a new computer.  I contacted Adobe Support and they helped me solve the problem.  I recommend keeping an activation keys file, containing all keys, in a convenient location in your working files.

5.     Mirror your every day working files on your backup disks so that you can find and restore deleted files easily. I can’t tell you how many times I have restored deleted files.

6.     Determine what type of backup to implement after you do a full backup (a backup of all files)–differential or incremental. Each differential backup saves all changes since the last full backup. Each incremental backup saves only what has changed since the last incremental backup. If any incremental backup file is corrupted, you may have to go back to the last full backup to restore your computer, which will increase the risk of losing data. In addition computer restoration may take more time. Differential backups take more time to complete and more space on your external drive. If you find this confusing, read about the different backups on the internet.

6.     Decide how often the backup should occur. For example, do you want your system backed up hourly or daily? If you have been working all day on a project, but it has not yet been backed up, you have a risk of losing all work for the day. Also determine how often you should schedule a full backup versus an incremental or differential backup.

7.     Think about the speed of your system—how quickly does it backup?  Perhaps you should change from a USB 2 connection to a USB 3 or possibly a thunderbolt cable if you own a Mac. A slow, sluggish system means that a backup may not be completed before computer failure. Don’t forget to evaluate your internet upload speeds for uploading your data offsite.

8.     Check your backup to make sure it is backing up; verify data and keep software up to date.

9.     Access to external drives may be problematic if you password protect your drive and if you replace the logic board or….

Source: Developing a Safety Net to Protect Your Computer Data

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