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Backing up your computer files with OneDrive

I have had a lot of people ask how to back files from their computer so they can get rid of it or replace it or rebuild it with a new operating system (OS). There are a lot of options out there that can do this in different ways. I tend to bucket all these into two main categories. Cloud-based back and physical back-ups.

Cloud-based backups are services that sync files into an online service run by some other company. Your files are synced to servers they run and manage and provide some level of guarantee about reliability, security, and availability.

Here is some popular option:

Physical back-ups are backups you make of the files with some type of physical storage you have alongside the computer you are backing up. Normally these are point-in-time backups. Meaning your data is only backed from that last time you remembered to do a copy of the files yourself (I know there are physical devices that will do scheduled backups but we are not going there right now).

For this post, I am going to talk about OneDrive. OneDrive comes with a number of different plans. The interesting thing is most people don't even realize they can get 5 GB of storage free nor do they realize if you are on a windows PC you probably already have this capability on your machine. You can upgrade this to 50 GB a month for $1.99. If you have an Office 365 subscription for work, or through your kid's school or some other means you can get a lot more then that. An Office 365 subscription gives you access to Microsoft Office (so Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc).

The next challenge is normally around how do people that are not tech savvy get started? OneDrive provides a good "Getting Started" area on their website that helps people understand how to use it. This includes videos and step-by-step instructions on how to do certain tasks. I don't want to spend a lot of time recreating the documentation Microsoft has already created and working to keep up to date. So here are some links to get you pointed in the right direction.

  • Manage files and folders in OneDrive - If you have data stored in one drive and want to work with it, either to download those files to another machine or just organize them. 
  • Set up your mobile apps - If you want to use mobile apps to sync data either from your mobile to OneDrive or from OneDrive down to your phone. You can also have pictures from your phone automatically sync to OneDrive so they are automatically backed up for you ( this is just one way to do this). 
One benefit of using OneDrive with an Office 365 subscription is protection against Ransomware ("Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) designed to block access to your files until you pay money"). Ransomware has become more and more commonplace.  

One of the nicest things about using a cloud-based backup is that it is always syncing your data. Because it is always syncing your files are backed up all the time, any time they change. This protects your files from the random computer crash or malware attack. If you are only backing up your files when you change computers you really are not backing up your files. You are simply moving them from location to another. If anything ever happens to that one location, your files are gone, forever. 

I use OneDrive to store a lot of files. While it protects you from the worse case scenarios (malware, computer crashes, etc) this is not normally where it is most helpful (although if it ever happens to you it will be a huge help). For me, it tends to be those times when I want to switch computers. Since my files are already backed up to the cloud I just install OneDrive on my new machine and tell it to start syncing. A short while later my new computer has all the files my old computer had. 

Again, when it comes to online backups there is no shortage of options. Really it comes down to features, storage need and price point. Depending on how much data you need to back up you might be able to do it free of charge. If you are under 5GB OneDrive is a good option. Of all the space you use to back things up most likely the most space is consumed by some combination of pictures, video, and music. If you are an Amazon Prime member look into Amazon Photos to offload some of that storage demand with their unlimited photo storage.

No matter what service you use, I HIGHLY recommend you get an always-on backup (this means a service that is always busy syncing and backing up your files) in place. Hope this helps!


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