Backup Software - What It Is and Why You Need To Have It

Last updated on April 29, 2021

So much of our lives take place through the use of a piece of technology that we all have vast amounts of data and information saved on our computers and phones these days. But do we all have a plan in place should that data get lost, stolen, or destroyed in some way?

While some of us may do, a huge proportion of the population probably do not have a robust strategy for how to protect themselves against lost data or files. For while the majority of us most probably know that we need to backup our data to protect against its loss, we may not have the best backup software or backup service solutions in place.

In this article, we look at addressing this issue by exploring what exactly backup software is and how to decide on the best backup software for you or your business. In doing so, we make a number of recommendations for backup service solutions so that you can make choices with confidence about what software to implement.

What Is Backup Software?

Before knowing how to pick the best online backup service for you however, you really need to fully understand what backup software is. It is only by truly understanding what it is and how it works, that you can pick the best solution for you.

In short, backup software is a way of copying your files or data that you have saved on your main hard drive and devices elsewhere. In doing so, the idea is that you protect that data or those files from being lost forever should your main hard drive be damaged or infected in some way.

Why Is Backup Software Important?

It is important to remember that backup software is a way of protecting yourself against a series of different threats. Those threats don’t necessarily have to be in the form of hackers and online criminals infiltrating your systems – though this is most definitely something that can also cause data to be lost or damaged and why we all need to have antivirus software in place too.

Instead, data loss can be caused for all manner of different reasons such as:

  • Hard drives crashing. Sometimes technology fails us without us being prepared or notified in some way. A backup service can protect you against data loss should this happen and cause any further effects from the loss in productivity.
  • Environmental damage. Accidents happen and computers or devices can get ruined or damaged so that they are inoperative. The result of them being unusable is that anything saved on them is essentially inaccessible so the data is all but lost. If it isn’t lost, it will at least be damaged so it is illegible. If you backup your data – particularly if it is physically backed up elsewhere from the original location – you will have stopped yourself from being setback by the ramifications of losing data due to environmental factors.
  • Stolen devices. Despite the best intentions, devices, tablets and laptops can all get stolen. While the financial impact of this can be a huge grievance due to the cost of replacement, so can the loss of data that was kept on the stolen device. This would not be an issue if that information saved on the stolen device had been backed up.

For all these reasons, backup software is the ultimate form of insurance for individuals or companies – whether they save a great deal of information on hard drives or not. There are two sorts of people in this world – those that have lost data, and those that will. A backup can help minimize the impact that the first loss of data can cause.

How Does Backup Software Work?

While backup software will work in a variety of ways from provider to provider, the concept behind them all is fundamentally the same. Copying your files in a totally different place to where it is originally stored will prevent undue stress and loss of productivity should that original data be lost or damaged in some way.

The copies of those files are then stored so that they can be accessed and used should an instance arise where the backup is needed. This storage has a number of different formats – some will use a rewritable disk, some will use external hard drive, some will simply use another drive or, as is increasingly popular, some will use online storage as a way to backup their data.

If you are using a physical device to backup your work, you will need to have a procedure in place that actively replicates all the files that you have on your hard drive. This can be done by a user copying across all files on a regular basis, or sometimes some devices will allow automatic syncing. That syncing will either do a full system copy or it will just update the files that have been changed since the last sync took place.

Online storage solutions, however, are becoming more and more popular. The reason being is two-fold – the whole process can be automated and scheduled, thus making it a more reliable way of backing up your data. The reason being is that when it is automated, the likelihood of it actually happening is much improved against a person being put in charge of the process. Automating the process ensures that a backup of your system happens on a regular basis, whereas using a person for the process can introduce human error.

The second reason that online storage is an increasingly popular form of backup is that the data is backed up off-site. This is great as it not only minimizes the need for physical space onsite within a home or office building, it also minimizes the risk that environmental factors will damage data storage facilities.

How Do You Decide On The Best Backup Software?

If you’re in charge of a big business and need to back up a server, you’ll have a very different set of needs compared to an individual who just wants to make sure their favorite family photos are safe. While it’s tempting to believe that the best backup and restore technology is the one with most features, this isn’t always the case. In many instances, the more feature-rich the application, the more sluggish its behavior. Instead of looking for an app with all the bells and whistles, focus on these important considerations when figuring out which one to opt for:

What do you want backing up?

While some of us may be content to simply backup documents, photographs, video and audio files, others might want to save a copy of their entire hard drive, including the operating system and applications as well as data. Imaging backups are the best insurance against a complete system crash but take longer to create, especially if you’re using cloud storage and have a slow internet connection.

How often do you need to back up?

If you’re writing a book and only backup once a week, you could end losing great swathes of work, making real-time backups essential. This type of backup automatically saves a copy of every item you change, thereby capturing every version that you save to your local hard drive.

Do you want access to previous versions?

While you might be content with just overwriting previous files, the best backup solutions gives you the option of retaining several previous versions of a file. The most advanced will even allow you to create a set of rules dictating how many versions you save and at what point the oldest ones are deleted.

Does Speed Matter?

While most backup and restore technology performs the main processes during your downtime so as not to interfere with your other activities, there may be instances where you want to save backups as you work. Some apps are resource-hungry and will slow your entire operating system down while performing those functions, especially if you’re saving to an online cloud. Making sure you have an app that won’t disrupt your other activities is, in cases such as these, an important consideration.


While one app might work perfectly on your Android phone, it might not play nicely with other operating systems so, if you’re looking for a single backup and restore solution for all your devices, make sure it’s compatible with all of them before committing.

The Dangers of Not Backing Up

For businesses, the consequences of not backing up important data like employee records, customer data, legal records, and accounting information are far-reaching and can even result in hefty fines and penalties. While losing your important data may not have quite the same devastating impact, it will still cost you dearly, especially if you lose copies of important documents like passports and drivers’ licenses.

As cybercriminals become increasingly sophisticated in their attacks, so they can use malware to infect your device and steal your data. While losing a few photographs of your dog may not be overly worrying, photos of your family or your house could put you in danger should they fall into the wrong hands.

Ransomware can leave your entire device frozen until you agree to hand over the money, while phishing attacks that use malware to infect your device can result in your online banking information and passwords being stolen.

So, what does backup mean and how can it help? Firstly, it means you can retrieve all the files, images, apps, and documents stored in your backup so you can carry on working without having to spend hours trying to retrieve your data. It also means you can quickly change passwords and other sensitive information and limit the damage.

As advancing technology means more of us can work from home, so keeping data safe becomes even more of a priority. After all, you wouldn’t want your poor security habits to lead to a data leak any more than you’d want to be the one responsible for the loss of the past two years of accounts.

On the other hand, having remote workers can sometimes save the day – just ask the creators of Toy Story 2. In 1998, the sequel to one of the world’s most popular animated movies was almost complete when a member of the Pixar team accidentally executed an erroneous delete command. Staff “witnessed Woody’s hat slowly fade from view, then his boots, before he just completely vanished. Buzz Lightyear, Mr. Potato Head, Hamm and Rex soon followed”.

Horror turned to panic as they realized the back-up system, they had in place had stopped working a month before the incident occurred. Fortunately, the supervising technical director, Galyn Susman, was working from home at the time and had a copy of the missing files on her personal device, salvaging the film and saving the day.

Backup Software – The Bottom Line

Without a doubt, backing up your hard drives with one of the best online backup services is one of the most important things that anyone who uses a computer can do. On a personal level, so much of our lives are carried out through the use of a mobile or desktop device these days, that we make ourselves increasingly more susceptible to losing vast amounts of data if we do not back up files. For a business or company, the implications of not backing up data can be huge. If that data is lost, damaged, or stolen in some way, it can materially affect a company’s productivity and therefore their bottom line.

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