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Backup Recommendations for Desktops, Laptops and Mobile Devices

This article provides recommendations on how to back up data from desktops, laptops and mobile devices.

DSS IT recommends the following for backup:

  1. Our top recommendation, in most cases, is that you make use of DSS file services to store your critical data. Those services are robust, well-supported and thoroughly backed up. However, there are cases where you may need to store data on local computers for which we recommend the options below.
  2. For backup of desktop and laptop computers, UC Davis has a contract for the CrashPlan Pro-e cloud backup service. The service allows you to backup an unlimited about of data from up to 4 computers per license at a cost of $100/year.
  3. For cases where cloud backup is not a good option, we recommend using the built-in backup software (TimeMachine on Macintosh computers and Windows Backup on Windows computers) with an external USB disk. This is an effective and inexpensive option for backing up your data.


In most instances, you should purchase an external disk that is at least 50% larger than the disks you are backing up. Both the Mac and Windows built-in backup software will automatically store multiple versions of files, up to the size of your backup disk. This enables you to restore previous versions of a file, such as when you make changes to a document and later decide you would like to return to the original version.

If you would like a recommendation or quote for purchasing a backup disk, or if you would like assistance with configuring TimeMachine or Windows Backup, please submit a ticket.

Other Backup Options

While DSS IT does not support these options, we do recommend them for your personal use.

Cloud Storage Services

While not strictly backup tools, cloud file storage services like, Microsoft OneDrive, and Apple iCloud provide a small amount of online storage space (2-50GB, depending on the service) for free and additional space for a reasonable price. If you install their client software on your computer, it will automatically sync one or more folders between your computer and the online storage. You can also use the client on multiple computers to keep them all in sync--and your files will be accessible online through the service's website. Most of these services are also accessible from mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets.

We do NOT recommend storing highly sensitive data (e.g., bank or credit card statements, tax returns, documents with social security numbers, protected data sets, etc.) on cloud storage services UNLESS you encrypt those documents before storing them.

UC Davis has contracts for Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, and that provide more storage than the free offerings from those vendors.

Online Backup Services

Online backup services, such as Carbonite and CrashPlan, offer true online backups of your data at very reasonable prices. Most of these services also offer file versioning. Online backup does require a persistent network connection. Over home broadband connection speeds, the initial backup can take a while, though subsequent backups only capture changes and are therefore much faster.

UC Davis has a contract for CrashPlan.

Test Your Backups!

Regardless of how you back up your data, you should periodically test your backups to make sure that you are still able to restore important files. The DSS IT central backups are tested monthly.

DSS IT Backup Strategy

The backup strategy used at DSS IT includes daily backups of all important server data, including all data on DSS file servers. Weekly, backups are archived to tape and stored off-site (at a separate location from both the servers and the backups).

To request that data be restored from backup, please submit a ticket. We will restore data from the past week at no cost. Restoration from archival backups may incur labor costs.

Data Archiving

Powered, spinning hard disks are disks that are going to fail. By archiving your data off of powered disks, you can preserve it for the ages.

While they are powered, typical hard disk drives have an expected lifespan of about 5 years. Even newer solid-state disks (SSDs) have a finite lifetime. Because of their chemical composition, writable CDs, DVDs and BluRay disks have a lifespan of around 10 years. Tape media have a longer lifespan, but tape drives are very expensive for individual use.

If you have important data that you don't need to reference frequently, consider archiving it to external USB disks, then storing those disks un-powered. Un-powered hard disks are one of the least volatile data storage mediums. Only plug in your archive disks when you need to archive additional data or retrieve archived data. For critical data, we recommend storing it on two separate un-powered disks and storing those disks at separate locations.

This is a particularly good technique for dealing with large research data sets that you're currently not using in your research but that you need to preserve for repeatability and possible future use.

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