The Computer Corner: What is the best backup?

The Computer Corner: What is the best backup?

Last week I stated it was obvious that ransomware was a threat that was not going away because it was too profitable for criminal gangs. Last year the University of California paid a million-dollar ransom to get its files back. The travel management giant CWT shelled out $4.5 million to the hackers holding its data ransom. Colonial Pipeline paid $5 million to be able to restart gasoline flowing through its pipelines. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation strongly advises against paying ransoms. The city of Baltimore, Maryland, followed that advice and crippled city services for over a month and spent more than $18 million dollars to restore services. The criminals responsible for the attack had asked for only $76,000 ransom.


There are steps you can take to minimize your chances of losing data if you are attacked by ransomware. All you need to do is backup documents, photos, or other data files you do not want to lose. There are different strategies that I will try to explain here.


An “image backup” is a snapshot of everything on your computer, including Windows or MacOS and all your programs. All this could be reconstructed in case of loss, but having an image backup means you can recover your system in an hour, rather than taking days to download and reinstall everything. For most users, an image backup needs to be created only once.


A “data backup” skips all the programs that can be reinstalled and backs up only your personal documents, photos, music, videos, data files, and so on. Unlike an image backup, a data backup can and should be done quickly and often.


An “incremental backup” comes in several forms; the most common is an update to a data backup, although some backup software permits updating an image backup with an incremental backup of the image.


“Cloud backup” is the term for many different services providing backing up your data to remote servers. In the event of any data loss at your location, your files should be available to download from your online storage.


The obvious question is, “What is the best backup?” The answer is that there is not one right solution for everyone. The question asked by any knowledgeable information technology person is, “What is your threshold of pain?” Put another way, “How much personal data do you have, how important is it, and what is the most practical way to protect it?”


Some users with no personal data might be fine with dumping their infected system, restoring their computer to factory defaults, or buying a new one, then going on with life. Businesses and individuals with important data would need to have a backup strategy to allow recovering all necessary data. Next week, I will suggest some strategies to consider.


Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 415 101 8528 or email