The Work from Home Survival Kit: Backing Up Your Data

Today, we’re excited to launch a brand new series focused on staying strong during (and making the most of) the prolonged experience of working from home!

Like many around the world, chances are you have not stepped into your office since the early days of Spring 2020. With the spread of the novel coronavirus, many have had to trade their office desk for any available work surface at home––often negotiating access with partners, kids, roommates or other family members. By now, you have mastered the art of the Zoom call and know all about ‘deskercise’. But as the pandemic continues with no clear end date in sight, there are still a number of tricks left to help make remote work more tolerable and efficient. Today, we kick off a series with an often overlooked and under-celebrated component of work-related peace of mind: backing up your data.


Backing Up Your Data: The Why


Backing up is nothing more than the deceptively simple task of creating a second copy of all your important files––be it a file backup (e.g.,photos, financial documents, client databases, emails, etc) or a system/disk image backup (e.g., operating system, executable programs and operating system configurations). Because technology evolves so quickly and, more importantly, because accidents are a regular part of life, devoting some time to backing up your files is an important way to ensure that if equipment is broken, lost, stolen or becomes outdated, you do not lose valuable data. Think about these numbers from the folks behind World Backup Day:


With a staggering 30% of us not backing up our data on a regular basis, the rationale for investing in a sound backup strategy becomes even more compelling. As the data security company Norton points out, “it’s a good idea to make backing up data a part of your cyber hygiene. If you happen to lose your data due to a hardware defect or ransomware attack, having a backup could be the respite you’re looking for.” Backups are vital to the everyday functioning and efficiency of nonprofit operations––even more so during periods of remote work when teams may rely more heavily on sound data management systems in order to collaborate in real time. Routinely scanning your files to identify what needs to be backed up is a great way to:

  • Prevent data loss;
  • Streamline auditing processes, whether internal or external, such as a tax audit;
  • Manage and enhance relationships, for example, by storing and automating information about clients, donors, and others important to your organization;
  • Save time by locating files more quickly, building an archive to document organizational history/best practices, and help inform future policies, to name a few.


This video by World Backup Day walks you through more good reasons why backing up data is a great idea:


Backing Up Your Data: The How


There are several ways to backup your data, ranging from USB keys to cloud storage and everything in between. In this section, we are going to focus on the most commonly used options of relevance to nonprofits.


External hard drives: these are physical pieces of equipment that connect to your computer, either wirelessly or often via a USB cable. They are portable and can often accommodate large quantities of data, making them a convenient choice for organizations who prefer to store information quite literally close to home. (That said, it’s always a good idea to store files––at least the most important ones––in more than one location. External hard drives are susceptible to the same vulnerabilities as anything in the physical world, such as water damage, theft, natural disasters, etc.)

Cloud solutions: these are an option for people who prefer not to store their data in a remote location, but rather on a cloud-based platform that can be accessed any time, by any authorized device, via the Internet. While most storage services have a limit on the amount of space provided, the size of your storage space is often quite large, and can be supplemented via a modest fee through Premium accounts. Some of the most popular platforms include: Microsoft’s OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, Apple’s iCloud, as well as Amazon Cloud Drive.

Backup and recovery software: If you are a TechSoup Canada member, you may be eligible for a number of products designed specifically to meet your data storage needs. The Veritas Backup Exec software runs on Windows server and includes agents and options to back up Windows, Mac, and Linux computers and virtual machines. It offers the option of backing up multiple servers at once, either as part of one backup definition or individually in separate definitions, to nearly any storage device, including disk, tape, dedupe storage, or third-party cloud, including Amazon Web Services (AWS) Storage Gateway VTL. RollBack Rx Professional is system restore software that reverts a Windows-based PC to a previous state. The software takes snapshots of an entire hard disk, not just system files. If you are looking for a solution for public access computers, Reboot Restore Rx Pro is automated system restore software that reverts a Windows-based PC to a previous state on a specified schedule.


But don’t stop at your work files––there are other things worth backing up to ensure a smooth day-to-day workflow! Major browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome have built-in backup to save your bookmarks, search history, add-ons, etc. and have the ability of synchronizing those across your devices. It’s also a good idea to backup your email account––if you are a Gmail user, try Google Takeout. If you use Outlook, Microsoft provides instructions on how to back up your emails. Of course, it’s also smart to backup your mobile devices. Here are instructions for Android and Apple devices. Need extra incentive to start backing up your files? Take the pledge and announce it on social media in time for World Backup Day (March 31st)!


Further Reading

  • The Best External Hard Drives for 2020 (PC Mag)
  • The Beginner's Guide to PC Backup (PC Mag)
  • How to Set up and Use Time Machine to Backup your Mac 2020 (HelpCloud)
  • Best cloud backup of 2020: Online services to get your data backed up (TechRadar)
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