Backing Up and Protecting Your Files On The Road

2 1/2 years worth of pictures, videos, and documents with sensitive information like copies of my passport and social security number. Losing this would be heartbreaking and even worse if stolen. These are the precautions I take and recommend on the road .

Online Cloud Backups

Backblaze uploads everything I do on the computer onto their data servers. The same day I move pictures into my computer, it’s already being uploaded onto Backblaze. The computer and Backblaze are synced. It runs in the background so I don’t even notice it. It scans for all files on the computer. As a bonus, it even scans all external harddrives and backs them up too. All files uploaded within 30 days are kept on Backblaze. That means if I were to upload a file today and delete it from your computer tomorrow, it will stay on Backblaze for 30 days. So if you’ve accidently deleted a file two weeks ago, you can still recover it.

Tips:

  • If you have a lot of files to upload that you want in the cloud immediately, keep your computer on in your hotel or private room hostel. Make sure you lock your door and it’s safe. Perhaps hide the computer.
  • In the settings for Backblaze, increase the bar for Faster Backups whenever you can.
  • I have hundreds of gigs backed up into Backblaze, the first few weeks take awhile to get everything uploaded. If you find it would take months to upload because you have maybe thousands of gigs – Backblaze might not be for you. Or just be selective about what you want to backup in the settings.
  • Backblaze has a software you can use to recover your files. It’s easy to use.
  • You can’t view things instantly on the software. To recover files, you have to go into their software and recover it.

Update: I’ve started using Dropbox in the last year and it’s an amazing software for backing up your computer. They provide 2 gigs for free to start with and several free options to earn more space. They have an affordable option to upgrading your account for an extra 100 gigs or more. You also don’t need any software to view, upload, or download anything onto your Dropbox although it’s recommended that you do so it’s easier to manage your account and drop files into it.

It’s totally different from Backblaze though. Backblaze is a real online backup tool that keeps all files for 30-days even after they are deleted. Dropbox however once a file is deleted, it’s gone forever from your computer and on Dropbox. But files are easier to access on Dropbox and it’s very convenient as a sharing tool to collaborate or share pictures with others. Keep in mind that Dropbox files can not be encrypted while Backblaze files can.

All Harddrives Die (eventually)

Sooner or later, your harddrive will fail. For every minute they are on, they are counting down to eventually failing. I have little trust in harddrives so I don’t let a minute pass by where I don’t have a second backup elsewhere. Whether it’s on a external harddrive or on your computer, it needs another location. This might sound like a little too much but once your harddrive fails, you’ll wish you had done it.

I have a LaCie All-Terrain and Western Digital My Passport external harddrives. Both have survived some intensive travel.

SD Cards and thumb-drives are cheap. You could backup as much as you can on them and mail them home — or hold onto them while you’re traveling.

Internet Bank Robbery

Internet Bank Robbery by michaelmolenda, on Flickr

Upload Pictures

For $20 a year, you can upload an unlimited amount of pictures to Flickr. That’s got to be one of the best deals on the internet. I use to upload every picture I had on Flickr and set only a certain amount of pictures to public. Not everything was worthy enough to send to friends and family. Now I use SmugMug which takes photography to the next level. But for your basic uploading of pictures, Flickr is a great deal.

Do NOT Keep Anything Sensitive On The Computer Itself

Copies of your credit card information, passwords, and everything else should never be kept on the computer. I frequently use Google Docs to save important documents. I also email myself files I need to save for later and label them on Gmail. If something were to happen to my laptop, I can still access all my important files from another location.

In Chrome, there’s an option called Clear cookies and other site and plug-in data when I quit my browser. Enable it. If you’ve been saving all your information on Google Docs, it wouldn’t be very useful if they can login anyway. It can be a pain having to login every time you want to check your email but you’d do that anyway if you were at a internet cafe. Firefox has simliar features. Firefox has simliar features to never remember your browsing history and more. Look through your preferences for your browser.

Encrypt your data and set passwords

Whether you’re using a Windows or Mac OS X operating system, there’ settings in your operating system to encrypt all of your data. If someone were to gain access to your files, it’d be encrypted and difficult to bypass giving you an extra layer of protection. Make sure you also set user and admin passwords for logging into your computer.

You can even take this further and use TrueCrypt. One of the best ways to truly hide your information and protect it.

As mentioned above, Backblaze has an option to encrypt all files that are being backed up.

[disclosure]I’ve included a few affiliate links in this article. These are all products I recommend and use myself.[/disclosure]

33 Comments

  1. Adrienne Smith on September 5, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    This is my first visit to your blog and I found this post very interesting Michael…  

    I don’t travel a lot and when I do, I don’t have a laptop so this isn’t really a concern of mine.  At least not yet.  But I do backup all my files onto DVD’s every couple of months and I don’t keep any password information stored on my computer itself.  I use a program for my passwords called LastPass.  You can set it so that it won’t automatically fill in the password information on your sites just in case someone else accesses your computer.  But I’m sure you are already familiar with this program.  You seem to be very up to date with this type of information.  Thanks for sharing, I learned something new today!

    Adrienne

    • Michael on September 5, 2011 at 9:15 pm

      Thanks for the comment and welcome!

      Haven’t heard of LastPass before today actually. Good to know. I do tend to stay logged on with the password saved when I’m sitting in one place for awhile but while traveling, I never save passwords and make sure it’s all clear before I leave for anywhere.

  2. Adrienne on September 5, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    This is my first visit to your blog and I found this post very interesting Michael…  

    I don’t travel a lot and when I do, I don’t have a laptop so this isn’t really a concern of mine.  At least not yet.  But I do backup all my files onto DVD’s every couple of months and I don’t keep any password information stored on my computer itself.  I use a program for my passwords called LastPass.  You can set it so that it won’t automatically fill in the password information on your sites just in case someone else accesses your computer.  But I’m sure you are already familiar with this program.  You seem to be very up to date with this type of information.  Thanks for sharing, I learned something new today!

    Adrienne

    • Michael on September 5, 2011 at 10:15 pm

      Thanks for the comment and welcome!

      Haven’t heard of LastPass before today actually. Good to know. I do tend to stay logged on with the password saved when I’m sitting in one place for awhile but while traveling, I never save passwords and make sure it’s all clear before I leave for anywhere.

  3. fotoeins | Henry on September 5, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Michael, your article is very timely, as I’m considering a number of options to store my ongoing series of photography in the cloud, as well as the usual pocket-sized TB disks.  A friend recommended BackBlaze to me a few weeks ago, and I like what I’ve read thus far.  Thanks again!

  4. fotoeins | Henry on September 5, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Michael, your article is very timely, as I’m considering a number of options to store my ongoing series of photography in the cloud, as well as the usual pocket-sized TB disks.  A friend recommended BackBlaze to me a few weeks ago, and I like what I’ve read thus far.  Thanks again!

  5. Phil Paoletta on September 5, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Great post, really helpful stuff. I had no idea about backblaze. I think dropbox is great for a free 2gb of storage. I typically use it for music projects I am working on with other people. Backblaze seems like a much better engine though for straight back ups. And you’re right, all hard drives do die. I know mine is reaching the end of its life from the sounds its starting to make 🙁

    • Michael on September 6, 2011 at 9:58 am

      Thanks for the comment. Oh and sounds are definitely a bad sign!

  6. Phil Paoletta on September 6, 2011 at 12:05 am

    Great post, really helpful stuff. I had no idea about backblaze. I think dropbox is great for a free 2gb of storage. I typically use it for music projects I am working on with other people. Backblaze seems like a much better engine though for straight back ups. And you’re right, all hard drives do die. I know mine is reaching the end of its life from the sounds its starting to make 🙁

    • Michael on September 6, 2011 at 10:58 am

      Thanks for the comment. Oh and sounds are definitely a bad sign!

  7. Jade on September 6, 2011 at 1:38 am

    I have everything backed up in at least two places – but I’m thinking of backing up with the cloud…. but I am super paranoid about these things!

    • Michael on September 6, 2011 at 9:57 am

      Well if you have any questions at all, feel free to ask!

  8. Jade on September 6, 2011 at 2:38 am

    I have everything backed up in at least two places – but I’m thinking of backing up with the cloud…. but I am super paranoid about these things!

    • Michael on September 6, 2011 at 10:57 am

      Well if you have any questions at all, feel free to ask!

  9. Carina on September 6, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Me too, I didn’t know about backblaze and I will definitely check it out! My harddrive died last week so I absolutely agree on double checking regarding all important information and saving everything on an external harddrive. So true!!!

  10. Carina on September 6, 2011 at 7:56 am

    Me too, I didn’t know about backblaze and I will definitely check it out! My harddrive died last week so I absolutely agree on double checking regarding all important information and saving everything on an external harddrive. So true!!!

  11. Steven Sirski on September 6, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Great advice. Just wondering about the security of cloud storage. Any chance those things getting hacked or some employee going haywire and releasing all your unrefined travel rants to the public a la wikileaks?

    • Michael on September 6, 2011 at 9:35 am

      Good question. You can enable an encryption key to the backup. On the server itself, it’s all encrypted as well. So not only will you need the user/pass, but also the second password to get on the backup.

  12. Steven Sirski on September 6, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Great advice. Just wondering about the security of cloud storage. Any chance those things getting hacked or some employee going haywire and releasing all your unrefined travel rants to the public a la wikileaks?

    • Michael on September 6, 2011 at 10:35 am

      Good question. You can enable an encryption key to the backup. On the server itself, it’s all encrypted as well. So not only will you need the user/pass, but also the second password to get on the backup.

  13. Laura E. Pence on September 6, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    It amazes me how many people don’t think of any of these things! I’m already doing them all, but consider myself ahead of the curve in this area. Great advice, sir, great advice!

  14. Laura E. Pence on September 6, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    It amazes me how many people don’t think of any of these things! I’m already doing them all, but consider myself ahead of the curve in this area. Great advice, sir, great advice!

  15. Nomadic Samuel on September 12, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Michael, these are great ideas!  I’ve been good about backing up my photos on Smug Mug and external hard drives but I think the online cloud backups are the next step and one I should make very soon.

  16. Nomadic Samuel on September 12, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Michael, these are great ideas!  I’ve been good about backing up my photos on Smug Mug and external hard drives but I think the online cloud backups are the next step and one I should make very soon.

  17. tomschinablog on September 12, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Great info. Sometimes I question whether or not I have enough stuff on my computer to justify paying for a backup service. Even though I don’t have a huge need for my photos, I’d still be really pissed if I lost them. I do see the merit in not saving your passwords, but you lose a ton of convenience by doing that. In fact I depend on autosaved passwords to enter a lot of sites just because I would never remember them. It’s a tough world though and things can happen. Based on this article, I like the idea of drop box because you can retrieve documents from another computer, and don’t need any software to do it. Might be helpful to compare prices of these two services, though. If you have drop box, would it also be necessary to have flickr since the photos will already be backed up? Don’t need a double back up , right?

    • Michael on September 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm

      Usually people don’t see how important things are until they lose them. I definitely recommend having some sort of backup system for your photos. If it’s not a whole lot, try just using Flickr and you can set your album to private.

      Documents itself I use Google Docs as it’s much easier to edit and work on documents. Dropbox seems better for not just for documents but for other filetypes like pictures, programs, or other larger files. Maybe like a whole zip file of a bundle of pictures.

      In Dropbox, you can’t publicly view your pictures. You have to share them and download the pictures. With Flickr, you have them instantly. If you’re just backing up pictures, I think Flickr is just fine but if you want more than just pictures, than use Dropbox as well. I wouldn’t use only Dropbox for pictures though since I can’t view or go through my pictures to share with others or download at anytime. Plus there’s a bigger and most costly limit on Dropbox than Flickr where Flickr allows unlimited storage of pictures while Dropbox does not.

  18. tomschinablog on September 12, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Great info. Sometimes I question whether or not I have enough stuff on my computer to justify paying for a backup service. Even though I don’t have a huge need for my photos, I’d still be really pissed if I lost them. I do see the merit in not saving your passwords, but you lose a ton of convenience by doing that. In fact I depend on autosaved passwords to enter a lot of sites just because I would never remember them. It’s a tough world though and things can happen. Based on this article, I like the idea of drop box because you can retrieve documents from another computer, and don’t need any software to do it. Might be helpful to compare prices of these two services, though. If you have drop box, would it also be necessary to have flickr since the photos will already be backed up? Don’t need a double back up , right?

    • Michael on September 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm

      Usually people don’t see how important things are until they lose them. I definitely recommend having some sort of backup system for your photos. If it’s not a whole lot, try just using Flickr and you can set your album to private.

      Documents itself I use Google Docs as it’s much easier to edit and work on documents. Dropbox seems better for not just for documents but for other filetypes like pictures, programs, or other larger files. Maybe like a whole zip file of a bundle of pictures.

      In Dropbox, you can’t publicly view your pictures. You have to share them and download the pictures. With Flickr, you have them instantly. If you’re just backing up pictures, I think Flickr is just fine but if you want more than just pictures, than use Dropbox as well. I wouldn’t use only Dropbox for pictures though since I can’t view or go through my pictures to share with others or download at anytime. Plus there’s a bigger and most costly limit on Dropbox than Flickr where Flickr allows unlimited storage of pictures while Dropbox does not.

  19. Matthew Karsten on September 12, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Good tips! I’m looking for an online backup option at the moment, and will check it out.

    I also use LastPass, and love it. You just have to make sure to log off it when you’re not using the computer!

  20. Matthew Karsten on September 12, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Good tips! I’m looking for an online backup option at the moment, and will check it out.

    I also use LastPass, and love it. You just have to make sure to log off it when you’re not using the computer!

  21. eriksmithdotcom on September 23, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Good things to know. I just had one of my laptops crash on my recent trip to California. Turned out to be a hardware issue, but I was still glad I had backed up everything at multiple sources. 

  22. eriksmithdotcom on September 23, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Good things to know. I just had one of my laptops crash on my recent trip to California. Turned out to be a hardware issue, but I was still glad I had backed up everything at multiple sources. 

  23. Zoe on July 15, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    Thanks for all the tips

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