Backing Up Your Data

Your photos and videos, your important documents, your contacts – these files live on various devices and without a backup you run the risk of losing them all at any moment. You could drop your phone in the ocean, your laptop could be stolen from your car, your house could burn down. Or your hard drive could up and die (they all do). If you don’t have a backup strategy in place, drop what you are doing and get started.

Mobile Phone Backup

Most people live on their phones. Mobile devices are also much more likely to be lost, stolen, or dropped in a toilet. People also upgrade to new devices every two years or so. Gone are the days that one should have to write “Got a new phone, text me your name and number” on Facebook.

Backing up your mobile device is incredibly easy. It’s also free or really cheap.

iPhone Backup – iCloud

If you have a iPhone, the first step you should take is to enable iCloud Backup as well as iCloud Photo Library (more on that next). Apple offers 5GB of free backup. That isn’t a lot of space when it comes to photos, but it’s enough for your contacts and basic app data on your phone. I suggest that every iPhone and iPad user enable iCloud Backup. Every night, if your phone is connected to WiFi, it will automatically upload a backup to iCloud. Easy peasy.

Here’s Apple’s support page on how to enable iCloud Backup.

iPhone – iCloud Photo Library

If you want to backup your photos and videos, Apple makes it very easy by providing a service called iCloud Photo Library. It automatically backs up your media to iCloud and keeps that data in sync across all your Apple devices (iPhones, iPads, and Macs).

Unfortunately, you only get 5GB of storage total along with iCloud Backup, so for most folks that means dishing out some extra cash. Luckily it’s priced affordably:

Canada (CAD)
– 50GB: $1.29
– 200GB: $3.99
– 2TB: $12.99

For most people, 50GB will be plenty of space. For less than $20/year you can have a backup of all your photos and videos, and you can sync them across all your devices. You can also share albums with friends and family, and even allow them to contribute.

You can also share the larger plans with your family members. If you pay for the 200GB or 2TB plans, your family members can back up their data and photo libraries using the same plan.

Here’s Apple’s support page on how to setup iCloud Photo Library.

iPhone – Google Photos + iCloud Backup

Another option is to use iCloud Backup for your contacts and data and then a free service called Google Photos to backup your photos and videos. You can unlimited upload photos and 1080p HD videos, but the rub is that it reduces the size of your media, so you can’t access the original files. They call it “High quality (free unlimited storage) – Great visual quality at reduced file size.”

If you’d like access to the original size/quality, it’s quite affordable as well:

So there you have it – easy and free (or cheap) ways to backup your iPhone to the cloud. Also note that you can plug your iPhone into your computer and back it up directly using iTunes. This is a good thing to do every once in a while in addition to have a cloud backup.

Android Backup

Being a Google product, Android is of course very tied to Google’s ecosystem. The easiest way to backup your Android device is by using Google Drive and Google Photos. Together, those services will backup:

  • Google Contacts data
  • Google Calendar events and settings
  • Wi-Fi networks and passwords
  • Wallpapers
  • Gmail settings
  • Apps
  • Display settings (brightness and sleep)
  • Language and input settings
  • Date and time
  • Settings and data for apps not made by Google (varies by app)

To start this process, you just have to open your Settings app, then tap System, then Advanced, then Backup.

You are limited to 15GB, so you may need to purchase additional storage as shown above in the Google Photos section.

Laptop and Desktop Computers

Cloud Backup – Backblaze

Since we focused on cloud backups for your mobile devices, let’s start there for your computers. The best and most affordable option I’ve come across is Backblaze.

Backblaze runs in the background and uploads all files and changes to those files every day. The initial backup can take a while, but after that it’s very fast. Backblaze allows you to restore files using a web interface, or in the case of major data loss, they will send you an actual hard drive containing your data.

It only costs $6USD/month or $60USD/year per machine. To me this is a no-brainer, as it also backs up any external drives attached to your computer. It works on both PC and Mac.

Click here to check out Backblaze, sign up, or start a free 30-day trial.

External Hard Drives

A simple way to backup your laptop or desktop computers is by using an external hard drive. You can run to Best Buy or shop at Amazon and buy one for under $100. For instance, this Western Digital 1TB drive is $70CAD.

Most, if not all, external drives come with backup software. Simply plug the drive in and follow the directions on screen or in the booklet that comes with the drive. If you have a Mac, you can use Time Machine instead of the hard drive manufacturer’s software. In fact, when you plug a new external drive in, your Mac will ask you if you want to use it for Time Machine. Click yes and you’re all set.

Here is Apple’s support page on using Time Machine.

Other Cloud Storage

Lastly, there are several cloud storage services available. Some allow you to automatically backup data, and all allow you to manually select and upload files to backup.

The top five for me are:

Dropbox has been around for a long time. It was one of the pioneers of cloud storage and sync. It offers 2GB of free storage. You can upgrade to 1TB for $10.75CAD/month. It has apps for Mac, Windows, iPhone, and Android, and it integrates with Microsoft Office 365.

Microsoft OneDrive
OneDrive comes as a package deal with Office 365, but the pricing is phenomenal. It’s $79/year for 1TB of storage (or $8/month), and that includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, and OneNote on Macs, Windows PCs, and mobile devices. It’s only $30/year more for a family plan for up to six people that includes 6TB of storage total.

Google Drive
Google offers 15GB of storage for free, blowing Dropbox out of the water in terms of pricing. You also have access to Google’s web-based productivity apps in Google Docs – Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms.

iCloud Drive
If you’re in the Apple ecosystem, you might want to take advantage of iCloud Drive. It allows you to store files just like Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive. The information above on iCloud Backup applies here, too: you only get 5GB for free, and after that plans start at $1.29CAD/month for 50GB. Apple also offers free web-based access to its productivity apps – Pages, Keynote and Numbers on Those same apps are also free on any Mac or iOS device. Here’s how to setup iCloud Drive.

Sync is just like Dropbox and the other services mentioned, except it’s based in Canada and is extra secure. It offers 2048-bit RSA, SSL/TLS encryption, and promises not to allow third-party tracking. All data is stored in Canada. They give you 5GB to work with for free, and plans start at $8CAD/month for 2TB of secure storage.


Backup your stuff. It’s only a matter of time before you are at risk of losing data. There are several free or cheap options for every device you own, so there is no excuse!


About Matt

My name is Matt. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada. I am an educator, a photographer, and a lover of all things technology. Check out the About page for more information.