Depending on how critical your files are, you need to consider which backup strategy is most appropriate and easiest for you.

  • No backup method will work unless you actually use it!
  • Always have two or more backups.
  • Make sure one of these is a mirrored backup of your entire computer. If your computer fails, that can be used to restore your information to another hard drive or computer.
    For example, Apple Time Machine provides a full restoration of your computer as well as work with individual data files. So if your laptop hard drive died on a Friday and you had a paper due Monday, a mirrored backup would give you access to all your files on another computer.

The following table summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of various backup options.

Type Description Advantages Disadvantages
External Hard Drive
  • Essential, regardless of other backups you use.
  • Should be at least as large as your computer’s hard drive.
  • Initial backup can take several hours, but subsequent backups are much faster.
  • Use with Time Machine on Apple OS X and third-party software on PC (e.g., Timeline) to back up automatically over a wireless network.
  • Fast
  • Inexpensive
  • Readily available
  • Portable
  • Can be booted to if done as a “mirror”
  • Connect to a network or wireless router
  • Can fail
  • Can be stolen, lost or damaged
Google Drive Best for documents; more info at
Google Drive
  • Automatic file saving as you work
  • Can revert to earlier versions of a file
  • Free & accessible with any Web browser
  • Google file format takes up little space.
  • Final file can be downloaded, re-formatted as needed (e.g., in Word) and then stored in Google Drive
  • Need local software to work offline
  • Can sync only one Google Drive account at a time to a computer account
Other Cloud storage
  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • iCloud
  • Accessible over the Web via any computer
  • Usable on many portable smart devices
  • Requires Internet
Flash drive or USB drive
  • Inexpensive
  • Small, easily portable
  • Fairly fast
  • Reusable
  • Can fail
  • Limited number of “writes”
  • Can be stolen, lost or damaged