5 Ways to Back up Your Data

How to Keep Your Stuff Safe

You know you need to do it. You know what will happen if you don't do it. So without going into all the horror stories of the people who didn't do it, let's go into some of the different ways you can do it. No method is perfect, so the pros and cons of each technique are listed.

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Save It to a NAS Device

Image of WD Red 750GB NAS Hard Disk Drive - 5400 RPM Class SATA 6 Gb/s 16MB Cache 9.5 MM 2.5 Inch - WD7500BFCX
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A NAS (network attached storage) is a server that’s dedicated for saving data. It can operate either wired or wirelessly -- depending on the drive and your computer – and, once configured, can display as simply another drive on your computer.


  • Can back up several computers at once
  • Can “set and forget” for automatic backup


  • Pricey
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Save It to an External or Portable Hard Drive

LaCie Rugged Mini USB 3.0 / USB 2.0 1TB External Hard Drive 301558
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External and portable hard drives differ from NAS devices in that they connect to one computer at a time. They are usually wired devices, although some have wireless capabilities. Many external and portable drives are now coming with USB 3.0 capabilities, but your computer must also have USB 3.0 to take advantage of this.


  • Easy to use
  • With software, can “set and forget”


  • Hard disk drives run the risk of failure
  • Solid-state drives have less risk but can be expensive for large-capacity drives
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Burn It to a CD (or DVD or Blu-ray Disc)

Image of a CD being inserted into a computer drive
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Once the gold standard in data backup, burning data to CDs is now a much less popular, albeit still reliable, method of data backup.


  • Drive failure not an issue
  • Can store safely in a second location (safety deposit box, for example)


  • Time consuming
  • Relying on future of CD-capable technology
  • Can get pricey for large amounts of data
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Keep It Online

Image representing cloud storage
Cloud Storage. Hero Images/Getty Images

The number of locations for storing data “in the cloud” is growing monthly. Current options include Mozy.com, ADrive.com, Dropbox.com and Amazon.com/S3


  • Usually affordable
  • Data secured in a very remote location


  • Capacity limitations
  • Run the risk of site closing
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Put It on a USB Flash Drive

USB flash drive about to connect to laptop
USB flash drive about to connect to laptop. Jeffrey Hamilton/Getty Images

USB flash drives are like tiny solid-state drives that you can carry your pocket. While once expensive and available only in small capacities, their prices are dropping and their sizes rising every day.


  • Affordable
  • Portable
  • Now available in USB 3.0


  • Extremely easy to misplace (not recommended for long-term storage of crucial information because of this risk)
  • Not always durable
  • Capacity limitations