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Backup Your Client Work, Photos, Music and Files TODAY!

Have you ever had your computer or hard drive fail? It’s not nice and unless you’ve got all your files backed up you could be in all kinds of trouble. This article tells of my experience with a recent hard drive failure and will hopefully encourage you to double check how and when you backup your important files!

Backup TODAY!

Firstly, a little background information…

At the start of January this year I was unfortunate enough to have my hard drive fail on my computer. Usually the panic that comes with this kind of thing is often followed by relief when you restart the machine or swap a faulty power cable and you are back in business! Not this time. Nothing I tried would get my hard drive to boot and a trip to my local friendly computer repair shop confirmed it was well and truly broken. That is when the panic really sets it.

You try and think how long ago you’ve backed up your files to your web hosting or an external hard drive. You realise you’ve got urgent client deadlines to meet. You worry your online backups may not have worked – after all, when was the last time you checked? And to top things of, if you need your computer to earn a living you can expect the inevitable lost couple of days while you reinstall all your software and files on a new operating system. Not a pleasant experience at all!

When this happened earlier this year to me I was quite lucky. Most of my music and photos (with the exception of about a months worth of recent files) were safely backed up to an external hard drive. My client work too was backed up both to a hard drive and via an online backup service. Two in fact! I use Dropbox for the active client work I am working on and also Carbonite for pretty much everything else on my computer.  A bit of a belt and braces setup to cover all bases as much as possible. Now it was time to see how they got on restoring my files…

How did Dropbox do?


Dropbox had everything synced and up to date (about 10 GB of files) and downloaded them to my computer in lightning quick time. That has to be the thing that impressed me most about Dropbox – the speed. It had uploaded all my files before the hard drive failure and downloaded them again in just a couple of hours. Perfect and highly recommended!

I was so impressed I’ve upgraded my Dropbox account to allow me to backup even more files. Having the ability to sync between more than one computer is a wonderful feature too. If I was to mention a slight downside to Dropbox it would be the large amount of system memory it uses to sync (either uploading or downloading) if there is a large queue of files but it does get the job done quickly! Learn more…

How did Carbonite do?


Carbonite had the bigger job of restoring about 150 GB of files. Because my internet connection is quite slow it hadn’t quite backed up everything and was missing around the most recent 10% of files. This isn’t Carbonite’s fault, more the fact that my broadband was a bit too slow to keep up to date with it. Something I should have considered more carefully in retrospect.

The restoration process was not as easy as Dropbox but once I’d worked out how it worked I had my files downloading and it restored most things in around 3 days on my slow connection. The speeds were not as fast as Dropbox but you are given unlimited space which is handy for larger backups. I’d recommend both Dropbox and Carbonite as they work in the background and give valuable peace of mind. Learn more…

How did my manual backups do?

I was lucky to have pretty much my whole hard drive backed up to an external drive too. The trouble is it can take an absolute age to back everything up (often more than a day) so I’d got in to the habit of doing it just once a month. All my files were safely preserved but I was missing a few weeks worth. A better solution would have been a system like Time Machine for the Mac. I do most of my design and development on a PC (don’t hold it against me!) and I’ve yet to find something that works as smoothly as this.

If you’ve got any recommendations for software like this on a PC please leave a comment at the end of this article! I now backup once a week to an external hard drive (usually after finishing work on a Friday afternoon) and leave it running until it has completed. Each week I swap between two different hard drives rather than trusting just a single drive with all the data.

What other things are there to consider?

I think I was quite lucky. Admittedly I didn’t get all my files back but everything important was recovered. It is all well and good having both online and manual backups in place but what happens if they go wrong?

Fire: A fire near your computer could damage the main hard drive and any external hard drives you may have in the vicinity. I’d recommend storing your external hard drives in a safe place whenever possible.

Theft: A horrible thing to consider but if your computer equipment was stolen would you have a way of getting your data back? It may be worth considering storing your external hard drives in a secure safe or even in another location.

Syncing Problems: Once an online backup system is setup the idea is you leave it to run in the background. Consider the possibility that the sync could stop, get corrupt or even reach your storage limit. Keep a close eye on these regularly to check files are backing up properly. Since having my hard drive fail I’m definitely on top of backups more. I got off lightly last time and don’t want to have to go through that again!

Below are some links to useful backup software and resources which I hope you find useful. So don’t delay, backup TODAY!

Backup Software

Backup Links and Resources

What About You?

Have you experience the loss of your data and files? Did you manage to restore everything you needed? Have you had any good or bad experiences with backup software? I’d love you to comment below and share any stories or advice!

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61 Responses

2nd Jun 2011

I have been using dropbox ever since it came out and am impressed by it. I really appreciate the effort you people are taking to help others prevent a disaster in advance by backing up their valuable data.

2nd Jun 2011

Excellent read Phil.

I have been procrastinating recently on back-ups and it’s something I need to get on top of. I have an external drive that I use for backing up my files as well as putting all my client stuff online via my hosting.

I need to get in to a far better routine, once a week is definately what I’m going to start with.

2nd Jun 2011

My external HDD recently failed and in trying to repair it, I managed to mess up my main HDD too, d’oh! Luckily, I had copied over all of my important work related files to my Mac just before this happened but I lost a lot of personal files.

I now have a 50GB Dropbox subscription and I’ve created Symbolic links to keep everything synced. I’m also waiting on the delivery of a NAS box.

If you’re on Windows, I recommend a free bit of software called SyncToy. It’ll scan your drives for modified files and move only those over to your backup devices. It’s very quick and surprisingly, for an MS product, it works well.

2nd Jun 2011

Thanks for the SyncToy tip Ian, I’ll check it out :)

3rd Jun 2011

I remember a couple of months back now I got the BSOD and my computer failed to remain on for more than 5 minutes. In the end I had to reinstall the os and thank god I made a backup to my external HDD.

I’ve been put of making backups frequently though because I haven’t found a program which does a good job. Hopefully the one Ian suggested above will make it easier.

Thanks ;)

3rd Jun 2011

I was just thinking of doing this and what a coincidence I come across this as a reminder. I use dropbox, which is awesome.

I did have an experience of losing previous work on my old computer. And it’s not a good feeling. Even my new iMac has a chance of failing on me!

13th Jun 2011

I will be trying the above services. It is a pain to back up my clients websites but the worst is to keep up with the updates.
I have tried eVault service but i am looking for a cheaper solution. Thanks!

14th Jun 2011

A timely reminder if one was needed that i need to backup my stuff. Since my PC went bellyup early last year, i’ve taken to mostly working from an external harddrive and then backing up the data on the external harddrive.

Thanks for the reminder.

15th Jun 2011

I have been procrastinating recently on back-ups and it’s something I need to get on top of. I have an external drive that I use for backing up my files as well as putting all my client stuff online via my hosting.

I need to get in to a far better routine, once a week is definately what I’m going to start with.

16th Jun 2011

I use SyncBackPro for non-online backup as it was recommended to me by my IT friend and guru. Even though there’s a one off payment of around £40 it’s the best backup software I’ve found and I can backup to FTP too if necessary. I can set it up to run whenever I want and like SyncToy it can scan the system for modified files to save backup time and energy. I highly recommend using the 30-day trial.

19th Jun 2011

We use a combination of Dropbox and Time Machine for Mac, works perfect for us. As a result, if any of our hard drives fail we always have 2 backup copies of our files.

20th Jun 2011

Data security is one of the most important aspects of any business. Many businesses are using cloud-based data backups this is a wise tactic.

You can never have enough backups. I strongly agree that many businesses fear the lose of data. More businesses are using Hosted Desktops because all their software, applications and files are kept in a highly secure data centre and in one place.

One of the questions you must ask yourself is: can your business survive if you lost all your data?

It’s best to have your data located in a secure location away from your place of work.

21st Jun 2011

I recently upgraded my work PC and transferred a huge amount of data. This process would have been easier if I were backing my files externally using DropBox or Carbonite. Not to mention the benefits of accessing the data when working from home.

22nd Jun 2011

I am using Dropbox and Time Machine that’s improve my work but i always keep two copies of every file.

23rd Jun 2011

I use a portable hard drive to back up my files. They are quite cheep these days.

It is always vital to back up important files.

5th Jul 2011

Nice post, reminds me that I need to backup a few drives aswell. So far a big fan of Dropbox handy to be able to access it everywhere.

6th Jul 2011

Great job Phil, I would definitely try out Dropbox, Thanks!

6th Jul 2011

A really interesting read, something as simple as a backup you would think we could all do it easily but there is always an experience we have of loosing work due to your hard drive dying or thefts. Sometimes we don’t even learn from it and still don’t back up our work.
I have used drop box quite a lot to work with clients and never considered using it as a back up so something I will definitely take away from this blog.

I have been using dropbox ever since it came out and am impressed by it.

My PC went belly up early last year, i’ve taken to mostly working from an external hard drive and then backing up the data on the external hard drive.

7th Jul 2011

i use time machine, can’t beat it.:)

7th Jul 2011

Great article – backup is SO important. We’ve had a few data loss scares over the years and now rely on a solution with plenty of fail-safe solutions in place.

For off-site we went with Backblaze, which you mentioned in your post. It’s similar to Carbonite but has a pretty cool feature built in which will track your computer’s location should it get stolen.

It also allows you to back up an OS X server (something for which Mozy and Carbonite, we tested both, charge extra for).

In terms of on-site we keep all of our data on a Drobo. They’re not that expensive (they run about £300/$500) and allow you to have a setup which you can a) grow and b) doesn’t rely on every hard drive in the setup. If one fails, you pull it out, replace it and you’re protected from drive failure again.

We have toyed with Time Machine for individual computer backups and while I love it there doesn’t seem to be a way of limiting space usage on it, meaning that you end up having to dedicate a drive to backup rather than having a shared storage pool as such.

If anyone has any suggestions as to the above or a way to fix it then please let us know – I’d love to be able to pick up old versions of files without having to resort to downloading them from Backblaze.

Also worth noting is that Backblaze is great for pulling down a file you don’t have locally when you’re out of the office. Think of it as a cheap version of VPN ;-)

12th Jul 2011

Got to say only started using online backups a month ago but I’m so chuffed I do now. I think I’ve added an extra hour to my sleep each night. Not the easiest thing to set up when you host over 50 websites but the piece of mind is near priceless.

16th Jul 2011

I allready have a custom backup-service, but it would be a great idea to use it in combination with one of these backup-services. Thanks for the advice!! :-)

18th Jul 2011


I learnt the need to backup the hard way when a client web site I had been working on became corrupt.

I now have a process of backing up all client work onto mirrored external hard discs.

I also back up onto my online server space.


18th Jul 2011

The moral of the story – you can never have too many back ups!

24th Jul 2011

I’m with you on dropbox. Not only is it great for backups but its a great file sharing tool between designer and client too.

25th Jul 2011

Great article thanks! I have had the same issues as most people in the past and lost a ton of work, I use Dropbox but the thing I don’t like about it is the worry of losing my files if someone gets access from another location or is something goes wrong at Google’s end.

I run a web design business so have to take backups very seriously, I started using an online data backup service which backs up all my important files online every day and runs in the background so I don’t even notice it or have to do anything.

I was so impressed that I invested in the software company myself and now offer it as an additional service! You have to take data backup seriously, before it’s too late!

You’ve just made me realise that I have nothing backed up! That’s tomorrow’s job then!


19th Aug 2011

Dropbox is an excellent back up tool. I use it all the time. I’m also obsessive about backing up on external hard drives. Nothing is worse than that feeling of knowing you’ve lost a whole host of important files and that they aren’t backed up.

3rd Sep 2011

back up is a must, used Dropbox great back up tool

3rd Sep 2011

This is a really helpful article, I back-up to external HD’s but really should look into Dropbox etc, thanks for posting

7th Sep 2011

This is very true, should always backup data

14th Sep 2011

I’ve been using dropbox for a while now like a breeze great online app so I would highly recommend.

19th Sep 2011

What a great informative post.

8th Oct 2011

Excellent article, i’ve had a disk fail on, luckily it started with a few errors – so i new knew something bad was on it’s way.

Here’s my routine.
My work pc has two drives in it, one with my os and work files, the other just for backups. I use autover a freeware tool that keeps upto the minute versions of all files i’m working on. I use macrium reflect to do backup images of the os/work files each evening, then synctoy copies the images onto another networked pc. Finally my work files are copied (again using synctoy) onto a usb key each evening that is always with me.

29th Oct 2011

Backup of work in external hard drive is good idea to make all your work safe and you will get it any time also after crash of your hard drive

18th Nov 2011

Its really useful post.Thank you for sharing.

22nd Nov 2011

Glad to find this informative post. However, I would be a bit conservative in taking bakups. I read on a blog sometime back that there was a security loophole in dropbox (not sure if that was true). So I would prefer taking backups on external hard drives

22nd Nov 2011

We use Time Machine (which is great), and Apple Backup (which is slow and hogs resources). Also, when Apple kill off MobileMe next Summer, Apple Backup won’t be able to backup to the cloud, so thank you for sharing these solutions- we’ll be reading with interest.

24th Nov 2011

I have never had a hard drive fail on me, but spoken to people and heard some horror stories.

29th Nov 2011

A good few years ago my computer died with everything on there, both personal and business related. I mean everything. The most gutting was years of photos.

After that I back everything up on external hard drives twice and use dropbox, I then make sure they are updated once a month and if there is something really important I back it up straight away. I couldn’t bear lossing it all again!

Good job on bringing the subject up!

21st Dec 2011

How many people host websites for other people/companies?

What kind of backups do you do for them? I have recently put cPanel Remote Backup on my server and each day its backed up to a server in a different country..

Dont leave it till it’s too late!

21st Dec 2011

No offence – but this is the first thing all of us should be doing – regardless of budget or technical limitations.

No use going to a client – who see’s you as the IT expert (just cause u know about web design) – and saying it’s all gone….

Daily (if not hourly backups) should be the minimum. Both on the machine and to an external source. There’s some great back up software out there – I use Acronis (yes, I use a PC – the shame of it), and this is stored both on a dedicated backup drive on the machine, and a separate file server.

Don’t leave it till it’s too late.

And good commentary on the online services and their effectiveness.

10th Jan 2012

Dropbox makes my life sooo much easier, working between office and home is so simple with dropbox.

24th Jan 2012

A hard drive meltdown seems to be one of those “it’ll never happen to me problems” and I’ve always thought of it like that, after reading this i might give DROPBOX a look though, thanks.

Wow, glad I read this article! I haven’t really thought about this much because as the previous commenter said, its one of them things you never think will happen to you!

Definitely getting onto one of these ASAP, luckily my host backs up everything i upload, but still a lot more hassle then its worth!

A good few years ago my computer died with everything on there, both personal and business related. I mean everything. The most gutting was years of photos.

18th Mar 2012

Great article! I use dropbox myself and love the fact that it gives me great flexibility and options to recover deleted items. I have used the share folder option to publicly share with friends information and pictures, cloud storage is definitely the way forward. Get rid of your USB sticks!

22nd Apr 2012

Great This one is very nicely written and it contains many useful facts.Thanks to sharing

26th Apr 2012

Backup on my server and each day its backed up to a server in a different country.. backups do you do for them? I have recently put cPanel Remote

14th May 2012

We use a combination of Dropbox and removable HD’s so if any drive fails we always have plenty of backup copies. Best not to learn the hard way!

14th May 2012

Makes so much sense to have multiple backups of all your sites, just think about the worst case scenario and cover for any eventuality. If your data is important then don’t take any chances!

16th May 2012

of thing is often followed by relief when you restart the machine or swap a faulty power cable

20th Jun 2012

I recently had a hard drive failure. The second time this year! Fortunately I backup into 2 removable hard drives and on Dropbox. It still takes about 2-3 days to get back up and running on a machine, so I have 2 computers that sync recent work. It’s incredibly important to keep backups!

27th Jun 2012

Improper back up could be a big problem specially for small business, the last year one of the company I work for
spended over 3000€ to recover from a data loss.

20th Sep 2012

Very good resource for backup of work data, photo and music file.

12th Oct 2012

So, So important I sometimes have a panic suddenly realising stuff isnt backed up and rushing to my computer, I have a weekly alarm on my phone to warn me just in case now.

19th Apr 2013

My question is this: How safe is the backup? We all just assume that something is backed up for ever when we back it up, but how long do such as hard drives, flash memory and even DVD / CD technology last!!
Personally I use cloud back up on my web servers than operate RAID5 disks

1st Jan 2014

Wish i read this article last year, i lost loads of files when i changed servers.. thanks from the Bromley Roofers

7th Feb 2014

Thanks for the article.
Also lost a lot of files when I changed servers.

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