“… and you didn’t have this backed up?”
I got to utter those words a month or so ago when I was called about a computer that was taken over by a ransomware program.
As a computer tech these words bring so many emotions. Despair, confusion, anger… they all are there. And yet several times a year we get that computer, tablet or smartphone and the user lost all of her photos, all of her contacts, and all of her documents.
There are several reasons for this, first, you just expect technology to work. There’s also lack of knowledge of backup options, inability to afford costly solutions, lack of time, and let’s face it, sometimes it’s just being lazy.
Well let’s just get this out of the way… your technology WILL fail at some point. Hard drives can only spin so many times before they die, flash memory isn’t immortal and phones get dropped. So knowing failure is inevitable, why would you NOT back up? And it’s easier, and cheaper, than you may think.
Below are a few ways to get information off your phone and into the cloud. We’ve all heard the term “cloud” being thrown around, but it’s simply this. It’s a series of computer servers accessible through a controlled login system that allows users access to their data from any device that can control that access. Meaning if you save something on the cloud, you can usually get to it from nearly ANY phone or computer you own, or in some cases just are able to access the internet.
A quick word of warning! Getting this information off your local device and backed up, even to a system claiming to be encrypted or secure, can make the data more vulnerable.
- Your Mobile Phone Provider Network : Most mobile phone networks have a way to back up your phone automatically with tools like Verizon Backup Assistant. You will get a certain amount of data for free, then pay a small amount to keep more data.
- Dropbox : My favorite backup solution is Dropbox. This cloud service can be set up to automatically back up photos as they are taken, transfer documents to/from your smartphone, and share folders out to co-workers or family. All of my documents I would like to back up are saved on my computer not to the Documents space, but to my Dropbox folder where they are automatically uploaded and saved to other devices. You can also use it to save sound, video and other files. And the cost to get a business account is minimal compared to recovery or ransomware costs.
- Your Google Account : I get common complaints about two things when a new phone is purchased or a phone is damaged; I lost my contacts and I lost my photos. Many of you have a Gmail account, especially if you are an Android user, and if you’re not, they are FREE at https://www.google.com/gmail. There are at least two things that should be done with your Google Account, set up Google Photos, and move all your contacts to be managed by Gmail.
- Google Photos : Google Photos is a free or low cost (depending on the size of files being backed up) storage of photos that are available on ANY device you happend to be logged into. Smartphones can be set up to upload photos as they are taken and your phone has access to wi-fi. This means the risk of losing photos is minimized. But, a word of warning, photos you may NOT want saved are uploaded immediately as well, so blurry shots and photos of subjects you may not want to save for a variety of reasons are backed up, so clean that out on the Photos app as well.
- Contacts in Gmail : By importing all your contacts into Gmail, and then adding new ones to Gmail instead of saving locally to your phone, you are again making these available on any device. So when you log into that new Moto Z Droid and connect your Google account, all your contacts are automatically downloaded to the new device. Easy and free, and can be done any number of times you wish.
- Google Drive : Another major FREE part of your Google account is Google Drive. It can be used really two ways. Some use it as an alternative to Microsoft Office by creating and collaborating on documents right in the browser. A second method is to use it as storage by uploading Office docs, PDFs and other items.
- iCloud : If you’re an iPhone user Apple has the iCloud built into iOS. It’s located in Settings and you can turn off specific apps to keep unneeded data from being backed up.
- Back Up To A Computer : Your phone is essentially a data storage device in the eyes of a computer. You can always back up your photos and other information by plugging it in as a USB device and pushing/pulling data from it almost like treating it as another hard drive. The downside to this is that you’ve moved it from one potential failure device to another, but the odds of both failing at the same time are remote. And for what it’s worth… BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER TOO! You’ll be happy when your hard drive stops, you need that important Word doc, or ransomware takes over your computer and you could fix it by re-installing Windows instead of paying that shady dude on the phone $1k.
- Paid Backup Apps : There are a few paid solutions like Carbonite & iDrive out there. These promise a bit more encryption and safety so if you have more that just a few photos and contacts, you may wish to consider going this route.
Why are you still reading?
Please, please, PLEASE back up your phone and computer data! It really only takes a few moments and you’ll be SO happy when the day comes to either move to a fabulous new phone or your device meets a horrible end. I personally back up my photos/videos to both Dropbox and Google Photos simply because it’s cheap and I can get them from anywhere. And I change phones as a Verizon Lifestyle Blogger every few months so having my contacts sync immediately is a huge benefit.
Or, take your chances that your device won’t ever fail while you own it, and if it does you can pay me a few bucks to try to salvage things off the memory. Personally, I’d rather show you how to set up the new device than attempt to recover damaged data, so you can stop reading and set up your backup now.
Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencing users, I received mobile devices with line of service from Verizon (#ad). No additional compensation was provided nor did I promise a positive review. All opinions are my own. By the way, we meet every Friday @ 2pm CT on Twitter to discuss mobile phones and how you can use them in your daily lives. Join us!