Data and File Backup Guide

Since we store valuable information on our computers, the need to have a backup strategy has become crucial. If you don’t have a backup strategy, you risk losing all your important data. Your data could disappear due to a malware attack, system failure, theft, or disaster. 

There are different methods for backing up your data. This guide covers the three most common data storage options: USB flash drive, external hard drive, and online backup service (cloud storage).  


 Option 1 - USB Flash Drive
 Option 2 - External Hard Drive
 Option 3 - Online Backup Service

Data Storage Options

The three most common data storage options are described below. Each storage option has its own advantages and disadvantages. Choose the option that best fits your needs.

  • Keep your portable storage device in a secure location. 
  • Transfer your data to a new storage device every 5 years or when necessary to avoid data loss.
  • You may want to consider encrypting your backup data.

Option 1 – USB Flash Drive

A USB flash drive (or thumb drive) is a small portable device that can store from 1 gigabyte (GB) up to 32 GB or more of data. This device is plugged into a computer’s USB port. 

Advantages: small and inexpensive, easy to use, very durable, large storage capacity, fast data transfer rate 

Disadvantages: can be easily lost or stolen due to its size, less storage capacity than external hard drives

How to back up files to a USB flash drive:

  1. Plug the USB flash drive into a USB port on your computer. You should see a pop-up at the bottom right side of the screen.
  2. Once installed, click Windows start button and click Computer.
  3. Double-click the USB flash drive to open it (look for "removable disk").
  4. Transfer your important data to the flash drive. Drag files or folders by pressing down the left mouse button on them, and drop them directly onto the flash drive or right-click the file or folder, select Send to and click Removable Disk.
  5. After your files are copied, remove the flash drive from your computer.

Option 2 – External Hard Drive

An external hard drive is a portable device that can store a massive amount of data (up to 3 terabytes). They come in different shapes and sizes. Some are about the size of a book, while others are about the size of a deck of cards. This device connects to your computer with a simple USB cable.

Advantages: provides much larger storage capacity, easy to use, fast data transfer rate

Disadvantages: more expensive, but prices are falling quickly as technology improves.

Once installed, you can access your external hard drive the same way you access a USB flash drive.

Option 3 – Online Backup Service

An online backup service allows you to back up your data to an online storage space. 

Advantages: you can access your backups from any computer, automatically keeps your backups up to date, data is safe from disaster, no additional hardware is required

Disadvantages: provides less storage capacity (unless you pay for more), requires an Internet connection, backup and restore can be slow, potential risk of privacy and security breach