©2018 by Donald R. Snow

This page was last updated 2018-01-21.  Return to the  Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Home Page  or  Don Snow's Class Listings Page .
ABSTRACT: Ways to back up the data on your computer(s) include local and online backups.  Each has pro's and con's.  Local backups require external hard drive(s) plugged into your computer(s) and changed out and moved to other locations periodically.  Online backups require commercial subscriptions which then automatically upload the files in folders you specify, but you have to be connected to the Internet.  Every backup method protects against losing data, some causes of which are computer crashes, fires, floods, tornadoes, and even break-ins with theft of your computer(s).  Everyone has, or will have, the experience of losing an important data file sometime, so everyone
needs to give thought to the best way for them to backup their data.  Online storage of files is available, which is related, but different from online backups.  This class will discuss things to consider about all of this.  The notes for this class and related articles, all with active Internet links, are posted on my website .


  1. Instructor is Donald R. Snow ( ) of Provo and St. George, Utah. 
  2. The notes for this class and related articles, all with active Internet links, are posted on my website
  3. Tips:  (1)  To put an icon on your desktop for the URL for these notes, or any webpage, just drag the icon in front of the address in your browser to your desktop.  (2)  To open a link while keeping your place in the original page, hold down the Control key while clicking the link, so it opens in a new tab. 
  4. The problem for today:  What are considerations in backing up your computer data and/or storing data online and how is the best way to do it?

  6. There are several types of backups and storage including local and online -- consider what works best for you and there is no "one size fits all" answer 
  7. Local backups
    1. Your computer's hard drive(s) is one form of local backup and you can save copies of important files in two places on the same hard drive or else get a second (or third or more) hard drive in your computer -- saving everything, even duplicated, but on only a single hard drive is dangerous since when the hard drive fails, the originals and backups are gone
    2. Flash drives -- these are better used for temporary backups and storage, but shouldn't be considered as permanent backups since they also fail
    3. External hard drives with USB connections -- fairly inexpensive now, e.g. 4 terabytes (4000 gigabytes) for less than $100, but you need to copy files to them and then periodically physically move the hard drive to some other location so it's not in the same location as your computer
    4. External hard drives come in two varieties, ones that do not require a power source are sometimes called passport hard drives and get their power from the USB connection; ones that do require external power sources require a transformer plugged into the electric power to operate
    5. Inexpensive enclosures are available for internal hard drives ($20-30) to make them external hard drives with USB connections -- laptop hard drives are 2 1/2" wide and desktop hard drives are 3 1/2" wide; cases are available for both sizes
    6. Local external hard drives protect against computer crashes and problems and inadvertent deletions, but to protect against home disasters, e.g. fires, floods, or computer theft, you need to periodically change them out and store it elsewhere, e.g. at a bank vault or the home of a relative
    7. There are free programs that will automatically backup your internal hard drive(s) to an external one, if you leave the external connected
    8. Local backups have the advantage over online backups that you can use them even when the Internet goes down and inadvertently deleted files may still be on the older backup hard drives so you can retrieve them any time later, unless you clear the old hard drive
  8. Online backups
    1. This encrypts your data and sends it over the Internet, so it requires a good Internet connection
    2. You subscribe for the service and tell the program which folders of your hard drive you want backed up; for simplicity you can backup all folders on your hard drive, if you subscribe for enough online storage space; you really don't need to back up the programs, just the data you have generated; the programs would have to be re-installed later, anyway
    3. The first time the online backup starts it may take a long time (several days, maybe), depending on the amount of data and your Internet speed
    4. After the first backup, it recognizes the changes made to the files and only has to upload the changes; this is called incremental backups and it happens without you noticing it 
    5. Online backups protect against everything local backups do, plus local disasters such as fires, floods, tornadoes, and even break-ins with theft of your computer and external hard drive(s)
    6. Backed up online data is usually stored in several server farm locations with everything stored in each and they are all linked, so even if one server farm goes down, your data is still available to retrieve from another one
    7. Server farms consist of large arrays of hard drives connected together and all linked to the other locations and most companies have them in several widely separated locations, e.g. different time zones, even
    8. Inadvertent file deletions are recoverable, but only if you notice the deletion within about 30 days since, otherwise, it assumes you wanted to delete the file and it deletes it from the server farms too; there are some exceptions to this
  9. Online data storage
    1. Online data storage is different than online backups since it stores whatever you upload and keeps it there as long as you pay the bill
    2. There are programs that will automatically store your incremental backups "in the cloud" in your own online storage space, but you have to set these up yourself.
    3. Online storage saves you having to buy more hard drive space, but to upload or download data, you need to be connected to the Internet.
    4. Some companies have both online backups and online storage, but the subscription plans are separate.


  10. There are many online backup companies, each with different features and costs -- a few commonly known ones are
    1. BackBlaze -- 
    2. Carbonite -- 
    3. Mozy --
    4. Dropbox -- -- this is really a temporary storage website, but works well for some things
  11. Different features are things like backing up from only one or more computers and/or devices, limited or unlimited data backed up, and keeping track of earlier versions of files
  12. Comparisons and lists of backup providers are at  and
  13. BackBlaze is the online service I use since it is inexpensive, allows unlimited data backup; but since it is only from one computer, I have to make sure that everything I want backed up online is on that computer; I have three internal hard drives on my desktop computer and, for simplicity, I told it to backup everything on each, so I presently have 2.5 terabytes (2500 gigs) of data backed up on their servers; it costs me about $60 per year; I first became aware of them at RootsTech conferences since they support family history; the company is based in the San Francisco Bay Area with servers in various locations; before I signed with BackBlaze I had been using another online backup company and was paying exactly 4 times that much.

  15. When you first sign up for a backup program, you select the password and tell it what parts or all of your data to backup -- You need to remember the password since the company doesn't keep that, only you do.
  16. The program analyzes the data to be backed up, encrypts it, and starts transmitting it; it is set to not interfere with your working on the computer, e.g. only backup late at night 
  17. BackBlaze (and probably the other companies do too) sends me an email once a week telling me how much I have backed up on their servers (2.5 terabytes at present) and the last time it backed up my computer, which is almost always "Last backup: today." -- very comforting to see these emails and each has the link to click in case I want to download anything; these emails also alert me if something is wrong so BackBlaze can't upload my incremental changes due to a setting I may have changed in my firewall, for example.
  18. I also have a DROPBOX account, but only use that for ease of access of data on each of my computers and devices and I don't have unlimited space on it; DROPBOX has an option that you can go back and download any earlier versions of a file you stored there by going to your account on the DROPBOX website.

  20. When you need to restore a file or collection of files, go to your account on the company's webpage; your backuped data will be encrypted there, but stored with the same folder and file names as on your computer, so you can download any file or folder or an entire hard drive
  21. You must have your password, since the backup company doesn't keep it and you can't get into you account without it -- my children know where all my passwords are so they can get into anything, if needed
  22. BackBlaze also has the feature that if you want, they will ship you by overnight express an entire hard drive with your data to store to your computer
  23. Ransomware is a new malware problem where the bad guys lock your computer and request money, usually several hundred dollars, to unlock the data or they will erase your entire hard drive; online storage protects you against that since you can just unplug your computer from the Internet, get rid of the ransonware, reformat the hard drive, and download all your data from the backup company; it takes time and is a problem no matter what, but is a major safety factor.


  24. Online storage stores all data you upload for as long as you continue to pay the bill and for static storage (stuff you don't want to change or update) it works great
  25. You could set up a mechanism yourself to use an online storage site as an online backup site, but it's easier to just use an online backup company
  26. Computer jargon used with online storage is explained at
  27. A comparison table and good article about online storage companies is on the PC Magazine's webpage -- -- companies include IDrive, SugarSync, Google Drive, and Dropbox; their top rated one for the price is IDrive and I see ads regularly for IDrive very cheap

  29. My daily journal
    1. I do my daily journal on a digital recorder every night -- I write the outline of days activities in my appointment book and then dictate into digital recorder -- only takes 7 or 8 minutes and is a complete accounting of each day with many details; is an enormous amount of data
    2. Problem is transcribing it all to make it readable and searchable; worst case scenario would be that I have to pay someone to type it all off.
    3. When the journal is only on my digital recorder, it is not backed up, so about once per month I transfer all the files to my desktop computer so it is then immediately backed up online
    4. My file naming system makes the daily files easy to find and organizes them chronologically by date (See some of my class notes and Freeware Corner articles for details.)
    5. I also keep a local backup of my entire journal on an external hard drive in my other condo  
  30. Digital camera photos
    1. Similar to how I save my journal -- every couple of weeks I transfer the pictures from my digital camera to my desktop computer and they are automatically backed up online.
    2. As soon as I upload them to my hard drive, I run a freeware program to extract the exact date and time they were taken from the metadata and put that at the start of the file name; that makes them easy to find by date so by looking in my appointment book for when I was in a certain location, I can easily find the photos taken that day, even before I have taken the time to rename them with all the details in the name 
  31. Story of a call from a neighbor who had lost the only copy of a life story audio interview of her deceased husband on her computer
  32. Can you have too many backups?
    1. Unexpectedly, my answer is yes -- problem I have had is that I copy files to various flash drives and external hard drives to use in classes, for example, and later wonder if I need to save that file
    2. Example -- I recently found in my bank safety deposit box in Provo 3 small flash drives from 15 years ago with old PAF files on them -- completely forgotten; took time to check and compare with my current genealogy database (not PAF) to see if I have all that old data
    3. To avoid such problems I now try to name the copies so I know I can delete them later without checking


  33. Everyone has had the unfortunate experience of losing a file sometime and everyone needs to have a good way of backing up their data
  34. Work out something that works for you; I've shown you what works for me and storing some of my backups off-site and online is comforting.

Return to the  Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Home Page  or  Don Snow's Class Listings Page .