Back It Up: Keeping your Provider Documents Safe

By Carrie Truesdell, Information Specialist

As computers continue to be used increasingly in child care programs for record keeping, marketing, and program planning, it’s important to remember one thing: they crash. And recovering your files, pictures, music, and other information from a failed hard drive is not always possible.

What should I back up?

You should regularly be backing up all your personal files. Programs and apps can be reinstalled, but your personal files can’t be recovered if they’re wiped from your computer. To decide how much storage space you’ll need for your personal files, right click on your My Documents/Documents file and click on “Properties.” The size of the file should be in the pop-up.

Though it’s not a necessity, you can also back up your operating system. The easiest way is to create a restore point. Use your computer’s Help button to get instructions. You should also keep a list of what programs you have installed on your computer, especially if you purchased a program that has a key code. If your computer crashes, you’ll need the key to re-install the program or you may have to pay for it again.

What is the best way for me to back up my computer?

USB Drive: USB drives are also called “flash” or “thumb” drives – small drives of varying sizes that can hold your files, folders, pictures, and more. Depending on what you want to back up, you can get a medium size flash drive for as under $30. Insert the drive into one of your computer’s USB ports, copy all your documents, and paste them into the drive. After you’ve done this once, when you copy and paste your documents again, you’ll be prompted that the files already exist. You’ll want to over-write the old files to save any changes you’ve made. Remember that your back up is only as good as you are – copy and paste your files often so that changes and new files are always on the back up.

Use this option if: you’re looking for something cheap and you don’t mind regularly moving your files over.

Cloud storage: Many companies like Apple and Microsoft offer cloud storage, both free (usually for limited sizes) or for a fee. Software can be installed on your computer to make backing up your files even easier. You can use your cloud drive in the same way you can use a USB drive, uploading your files rather than transferring them. Note: you’ll need to be connected to the internet to be able to upload your files. As a bonus, you can log in to your cloud service from any internet-connected computer, and many smartphones, so you can get your files anywhere. In addition, check into any software that you’re using. Software like MinuteMenu™ will automatically back up your information when you save it, giving you one less thing to worry about!

Use this option if: you aren’t going to need a lot of space and/or you don’t mind paying a small fee and you want to be able to access your files from any internet-connected computer.

External hard drive: External hard drives can be set to back up your computer as soon as they’re attached. In Windows 8 and 10, use File History to set up an automatic back up. In Windows 7, you can use Windows Back up. For Macs, Time Machine will allow you to set this up. Use a reminder or alarm to regularly connect the external hard drive to your computer, or leave your external hard drive attached to the computer and your back up program will run automatically.

Use this option if: you don’t mind spending a little more so that you don’t have to remember to keep backing up your documents and/or your computer isn’t usually connected to the internet.

Back up service: Companies like Carbonite® offer back up services for various amounts, depending on the size of the computer and how much you want to back up. After paying the fee, you can download a program and set up your account. Generally, back up services will back up your computer daily, or as often as your computer is connected to the internet. Like cloud storage, using a back-up service is generally dependent on internet access.

Use this service if: you don’t mind spending a little more so that you don’t have to remember to keep backing up your documents, your computer is usually connected to the internet, and/or you want to make sure your programs are back up along with your files.

Whichever back up you choose, it’s important to remember to not only keep up with the process, but also to occasionally check to make sure your files are being backed up properly. When the inevitable strikes, you’ll be ready to put all your files back on a new or restored computer!