A Self-Publisher’s Guide to Computer Data Backup

Protecting your computer’s data files is something every self-publisher needs to know about and deal with before it’s too late. It’s not a complicated or expensive process. It can be as simple as getting an external hard drive and using cloud storage. No special knowledge or fancy equipment is required. And the process is very easy to automate. It is important that you keep the backup process simple and automatic. It is also important to create multiple copies on-site and off-site. Here is an overview of how we do this in our office.

Using an external drive for data backup

We started with an external hard drive in our office. This is the most basic and easiest way to protect your data residing on your internal hard drive. A branded 3TB hard drive is now $120. Make sure you buy a hard drive that’s larger than you currently need. But don’t buy too much. At the moment this 3 TB has a good price. Over time, the larger hard drives will also fall in price. Another reason not to overbuy is that hard drives don’t last forever. Buy only what you need now, then upgrade to a newer and larger device when you need it. We bought an external USB hard drive that is only 5″ x 7″ x 1.5″. This small size gives you an easy way to store the hard drive in your safe or locker, or take it with you on your working vacation.

Using multiple external drives for data backup

We now use multiple external hard drives. They are installed together and function as a single unit within a storage array box. In this way we can store a large amount of data on multiple drives, all stored in a small desktop box. Even if one or two drives fail, we’d still have a few others still working. Again, just buy a big-name storage array box and a big-name external hard drive to put in it.

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Using cloud storage for data backup

Storing your data online is called “cloud storage”. You should consider using cloud storage as it is a safe and easy way to store your files away from your office – where they cannot be stolen from your office, lost or burned in a fire. There are many cloud storage companies and all of them are easy to find on the internet. Many offer 2GB or 5GB of free storage. There are also many reviews and comparisons of the various services on the Internet. Some companies even automatically back up your data to an external hard drive and to the cloud at the same time. Play it safe and choose one of the reputable cloud storage companies for your business.

How do I find a cloud storage company?

There are many cloud storage companies and all of them are easy to find on the internet. There are many reviews and comparisons of the various services on the internet. Some even back up your data automatically to an external hard drive and also to the cloud. Play it safe and choose one of the well-known companies.

Isn’t backing up to the cloud risky?

Your data is stored in an encrypted format when backed up to the cloud storage company, which should prevent a hacker from easily accessing your information. If you require a higher level of security, you can use your own private encryption key to further reduce the potential risk of data breach. The chances of a server like Apple, Amazon or Google going down are far less than the chance of your own hard drive or local backup going down.

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Working away from home/office

When you’re away from your home/work computer and using your laptop, email yourself the document you’re working on. Also, save it on your laptop’s internal hard drive and on your flash drive. A good general rule is that you should never keep extremely sensitive data on your laptop. Keep it on your flash drive and in the cloud. We take several USB sticks with us on holiday – and keep them in our bag for safekeeping. Flash drives are very inexpensive, so buy and use several. We bought 3 branded 8gb flash dives for under $20.

Should I encrypt my hard drives?

Encrypting your computer or hard drive is not required for most purposes. Encryption is only necessary for extremely sensitive data – like your patient’s medical records. When you encrypt a backup, you add unnecessary complexity to a process designed to simplify and preserve quick access to your information. With this added complexity, the likelihood of a problem increases. Therefore, the possibility of losing access to your backed up data increases. Do yourself a favor and make sure you understand when and why you might need to encrypt your backups, and consider how to ensure you have access to your encryption password when it matters most. Data encryption costs you too much time, money and trouble.

What computer data should I back up?

At a minimum, you must back up everything except software applications. All the data required to run your business must be copied. Most software is easy to replace and generally not too expensive.

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What about our websites, blogs, mailing lists and online publications?

All of these are absolutely necessary to keep your self-publishing business running and thriving. Fortunately, each of them already has a built-in backup. We keep multiple backup copies on multiple hard drives here in our office and also in the cloud. All of our websites and blogs are also secured by the hosting company. Our hosting company will also email us a backup copy. Our mailing lists are maintained by an online mailing list company. The list can be easily downloaded from the mailing list company. We also keep a copy of it on our computers and hard drives. All of our online publications (e-books and e-documents) also have full copies from the companies that sell our publications.


By having a simple backup plan that uses both online backup and multiple external hard drives, you give yourself foolproof security in the event that your computer’s hard drive crashes or your system is ruined by a fire or flood. Don’t risk losing your important files forever when you can avoid this mess quickly and inexpensively with a triple backup plan. And never forget: Don’t completely rely on one method of the other. Internal hard drives, external hard drives, and flash drives can fail. Even your cloud storage company can fail – it can go broke, get hacked, or its software on your computer can fail.