Backing Up Your Data

What is a Backup?

A backup is a second copy (or more) of your digital files and it can protect you from data loss. You can access this backup in the event your device or data become inaccessible, destroyed, or damaged. Data loss can occur in many ways: a computer or hardware crash, a lost or stolen device, data corruption, or malware that encrypts it and holds it for ransom. 

Two types of backup are sync services and traditional backups:

  • Sync (or cloud) services backup individual files and do not include applications or programs. Google Drive and Box are examples of a sync service.
  • Traditional backups enable a full system restore including programs, applications, settings, and files. Setting up an external hard drive with a backup program, like Time Machine, will backup your apps and data files, and enable a full system restore.

How to Back Up Your Data

There are several ways to back up your data - including some that are ready to use through UC Berkeley. Check with your local IT support or ITCS itcsshelp@berkeley.edu to see what options are available to you. If you want to back up on your own, review the types of backup listed below and use one that suits your needs.

Methods for Backing Up

External hard drives (HDs)

  • External HDs are portable and generally easy to use especially with built-in programs like Time Machine or Backup and Restore. Be sure to encrypt your HD and disconnect or “unmount” it after backing up. This will protect your backup should your device get compromised through malware. Remember, if it’s not connected, it can’t infect it.
  • Flash drives can also be used for backups. However, the storage capacity is small and, unless encrypted, it will not have additional security features if lost or stolen.

Note: Physical security is important! Store your HDs and flash drives in a secure location.

Cloud Backup and Sync Services

Note: Sync services will not necessarily protect you from Ransomware if you are using an automatic sync client software (e.g. Box Sync, Google Backup and Sync, Google Drive File Stream). You may be able to restore files to previous versions (varies) but the Sync clients will synchronize encrypted, infected files just like anything else you place in the sync folders. 

What’s the Best Solution?

The best data backup solution is the one that works for you and works for your data. If you are backing up protected data and don’t have IT support, please contact us at security@berkeley.edu for guidance.

Here are few things to think about when choosing a method:

  • How easy it is to set up
  • How much storage space you need
  • How much it will cost (one time vs monthly)
  • How quickly the data can be backed up
  • The security of the data
  • What you need to do to restore and recover your data 
  • Any applications or tools needed to sync or access your data, i.e., whether the backup process is manual or automatic

All valuable data - whether on computers, connected storage devices or on personal electronic devices, such as your smartphone, should be backed up regularly. As you can see there are various ways to back up your data and you might even make more than one backup. Preserving your valuable documents for future access and use requires planning, time and sometimes money, but it is well worth it should your data become inaccessible.