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Know your phone backups

Yesterday was World Backup Day, highlighting how few people back-up valuable content on their phones

World Backup Day came and went on 31 March without much impact, as most organisations involved in backup services only woke up to the educational opportunity on the day.

Despite thousands of phones being lost, damaged or stolen each week, one in four South Africans are not backing up their phones. The numbers are likely to be no different across Africa. Insurance company Dialdirect deals with the fallout of these losses through insuring many of the lost phones – and sees first-hand the consequences of not backing up. It has conducted a survey that shows 25% of the respondents don’t backup their phones, with 16% saying that they can’t, due to data or storage limitations.

“The issue is that while insurance can replace lost, damaged or stolen phones, it can’t replace the precious data that’s on it,” says Anneli Retief, head of Dialdirect.  “Think about what you have on your phone right now – likely at least a hundred or so contacts, e-mails, apps, screenshots and pictures of moments you love to look back on. Rebuilding contacts and data could already be a nearly insurmountable task, but replacing memories captured on photos and videos is virtually impossible, making a solid backup strategy an absolute must.”

She provides the following tips for doing backups:

  • Know how to back up: The most basic, but still effective way of backing up is simply copying and pasting files and folders to a new storage device to create a duplicate. Most software on modern smartphones and other devices, however, allow for easy, automated backups, which can be done at the click of a button or automatically at scheduled times, or when your device isn’t in use, in case you forget.
  • Know what to back up: Prioritise more irreplaceable items like pictures, videos, e-mails, address books and documents first, then things like program and music files.
  • Calculate your storage requirements: Check the amount of data that your device has stored on it, normally in Settings – Storage, and make sure that you have adequate space on your backup device. Additional SD cards, memory sticks, external hard drives, cloud storage and backup service providers are all options to consider, depending on your space requirements, and needn’t cost a fortune.
  • The 3-2-1 rule: Digital security company, Norton, suggests creating three copies of your data, on at least two different storage platforms and having one of them stored remotely. The benefit of having data stored remotely, away from the device you’ve backed up, is that if your laptop bag and phone, house, office or local network is affected or targeted, it’ll still be safe and accessible.
  • Use backup time to declutter: Delete any pictures, videos and documents you no longer need before backing up, as this can save a significant amount of space. If you’re confident that you have enough backups in place and that they work, delete the originals from your phone if you are pressed for storage space.
  • Label your backups clearly: Use physical labels on devices, as well as smartly labelled folders, to make sure that all your data is easy to sort and find.
  • Backup care: Make sure that your backup devices and drives are stored as specified by their manufacturer – mostly in clean, dry and cool environments. Check your backups from time to time to make sure they work, as none of these devices have an infinite life span. Make backups of the backups if and when needed.
  • Protect your info: If certain information on your backups is sensitive, it’s wise to password protect the files and/or folders they are contained in.
  • Do it now (especially if your device is acting up): The biggest regret that many people have is that they postponed their backups for too long, because they didn’t have time or storage, or because they were confident that “it won’t happen to me”. Months’ worth of memories and data are worth a couple of minutes of your time. The average backup takes a small amount of time – anywhere from around 30 minutes to 2 hours, although it may be slightly longer if you haven’t backed up in a long time or have added a lot of new stuff to store.
  • Set reminders: Even if you schedule automatic backups, be sure to set reminders to check your backups every now and then to make sure that they are taking place and working.

“It might take a bit of time to learn how to do backups, but the effort will be well worth it,” says Retief.

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