What are the best backup strategies to protect against ransomware?

If your hard drive crashes or malware infiltrates your system, you’ll want to know that your most valuable files are safe and sound, somewhere you can find them. Here’s our guide explaining the different types of backups available to you and why you should use them to complement a robust antivirus service.

If you have a robust backup solution, even the most unbreakable ransomware is nothing to worry about. All you need to do if you can’t get rid of the infection is reinstall your operating system and restore your files from your back, and you’re up and running.

There are many types of backups, which can be used together to create a convenient, easy-to-restore, and highly-customized backup solution.

Cloud saves are uploaded to the internet. You need a fast internet connection if you want to back up and restore entire PC backups in this way.

Cloud syncing, like Microsoft OneDrive or a standard Google Drive setup, doesn’t back up everything, but keeps an online copy of any file stored in your sync directories. Cloud synchronization alone is not a true backup solution, but can work very well in parallel.

External backups are stored on a USB drive plugged into your PC or on a network-attached storage (NAS) device on your local network. The main thing here is to make sure your backups are done regularly.

A second local hard disk, that is, a disk physically installed on your PC and used by your operating system, is not a suitable backup target. I used a large hard drive as additional storage for files I’ve already backed up elsewhere. Indeed, if my PC is physically destroyed or encrypted by ransomware, this disk fails with it.

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Your Minimum Viable Backup Solution

At the very least, you want your most important data (personal documents, business records, family photos, that novel you’re working on) backed up in two places that aren’t physically connected to your computer. Make sure each user’s files are backed up, not just your own, and consider files that might be stored in unexpected places, such as backup files.

Cloud storage and a USB drive are an ideal and easy combination, as long as you remember to regularly save to that USB drive and unplug it when you’re done. Any external drives connected when the ransomware strikes are likely to be encrypted as well.

This solution is effective both against physical damage to your PC, such as fire or flood, and against the majority of malware infections, including ransomware, as cloud storage services usually have version control features that retain previous versions of files for a specified period or number of copies.

If you use a cloud sync service such as Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud or Dropbox and you have a fast internet connection, I suggest you use a genuine cloud backup service in parallel, such as BackBlaze or Carboniteas these provide more robust protection against file deletion or encryption and store unlimited versions of your backed up files.

Unlimited versioning means that no matter how long a file has been deleted, encrypted or otherwise damaged, you can always revert to a version

If you’re unsure of the difference between cloud backup and cloud sync, check out my guide, which includes recommendations for the best free and paid backup and sync services.

Dedicated backup software

While you could just manually copy your most important files to a USB drive once a week, that’s certainly not the best approach and I don’t recommend it, given the number of free and easy automated backup solutions out there. are available.

Windows 10 and 11 both have File History Backup integrated. This allows you to create on-demand and scheduled backups to network or USB drives. However, its functionality is relatively limited compared to some commercial and open-source alternatives.

Carbonite Online Backup Service provides an application that can also manage your local backups, which is extremely useful if you are a Carbonite customer, but my favorite general purpose backup utility is Doubloons. It’s available for Windows, macOS, and Linux, is free, and lets you back up your files to a USB drive, local network share, or almost any type of online storage you can think of. It also has some encryption and security features.

If you want something with fewer options, Easus Todo backup is a nice classic, although the free version is a bit too ad-heavy.

It’s not a backup unless you can restore it

Test your backups! Regularly perform test restores of critical files and directories. If you have a lot of data to restore, it may not be possible to restore everything, but you should at least ensure that your most valuable files can be recovered from the backup if necessary.

If you’re using an online backup service, there’s probably a web interface you can browse to make sure all the files are present and correct. You can usually use these interfaces to upload your backed up files, making it easier to test the integrity of your most important backups.

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Know where your licenses and passwords are

For a smooth recovery from a damaged system, you may also need to know where all your software license keys or their associated accounts are located.

If you are a Windows user, make sure your operating system licenses are linked to a Microsoft account that you have access to. Most licenses, from Adobe’s Creative Cloud to a collection of games on Steam, are tied to an online account by default.

Standalone license keys and accounts should be stored in a secure location. A cloud-based password manager such as Bitwarden is ideal for this.

If you’re using a derivative of KeePass, make sure you don’t keep the only copy of your password database on your local hard drive, otherwise it could be lost along with everything else if your drive dies or becomes infected with ransomware.

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