Digital File Storage Plan

Your digital files are extremely important, and can be easily lost if you’re not careful. The great thing about digital files is that they can be copied and stored in multiple places. Because of this, you should always store your files in 3 places. So, what is the best way to store your files?

Most large companies will have a proper storage system created by IT professionals. However, for many people and small businesses they will have to create their own system. If you’re a small business or if you’ve always wanted to ensure your files are properly stored and accessible, I suggest creating the following storage plan.


LOCAL
Local files are the easiest to save and access. These files are located on the device itself, and require no backup because the moment you save a file it’s updated on the device. Also, you don’t have to rely on an internet connection to access the files.

File Types:
Try to store as many of your files locally if you can. However, most laptops, tablets, and smartphones have limited space so you will likely have to be picky about which files to keep. If a file meets one of the following criteria I make sure to store a copy of it locally:

  • Need to access on a daily basis
  • Need to access regardless of my internet connection

Accessibility:
Excellent. As long as the device is running properly and you have access to it, you have access to your files.

Backup Schedule:
None needed. Since files are instantly saved, there’s no need schedule a day to update the files on your device.

Risks:
If the device is destroyed and you don’t have the device on you, you won’t be able to access the files.


CLOUD
Cloud storage services are a great way to back up your files with minimal effort on your end. The main downside to cloud storage services is the recurring costs. However, it’s a small price to pay to ensure your files are stored and accessible from anywhere that has an internet connection.

File Types:
Your service plan, and the number of files will determine what you’ll want to store. If your plan offers a large amount of storage, then it’s best to backup all your files. However, if you have limited space, I use the following criteria to prioritize my files:

  • Need to access anywhere, on any device
  • Important files that would cause irreparable damage if lost

Accessibility:
Very good. As long as you have an internet connection you’ll be able to access your files.

Backup Schedule:
None needed. Since files are instantly saved, there’s no need schedule a day to update the files on your device. It is important to check every week that your cloud storage is properly backing up your files.

Risks:
If the cloud storage service closes down or is doing maintenance you won’t have access to your files.


EXTERNAL HARD DRIVES
External hard drives have been a staple for file storage for many years. Even though cloud storage is the newest trend, it’s hard to beat the price of an external hard drive. For under $100 most people can purchase an external hard drive that will be able to store all of their files.

File Types:
Most external hard drives will store more data than your local device. Because of this, they’re excellent candidates to store large files (like movies, music, etc.) that you may not access all the time. It’s also important to use your external hard drive to back up all local files.

Accessibility:
Decent. You’ll need the external hard drive and a device to access the files.

Backup Schedule:
Monthly. Set a reminder at the beginning of every month to get out your external hard drive to backup your devices. Also, you can automate this process if you have a Mac and an Airport Time Capsule.

Risks:
External hard drives only tend to be reliable for 3–4 years, and can easily become corrupted if not properly ejected. Also, if the external device is lost or damaged the files are gone.


OFF-SITE
Storing an external hard drive off-site from your house or business is great way to mitigate file loss. Ideally, you’ll want to store the external hard drive in a location that is accessible, but far enough way that a natural disaster won’t destroy it and your local files at the same time. A great example would be storing it with a family in another part of the country that you visit regularly.

File Types:
Since you won’t be able to access the external hard drive often, you’ll want to use the hard drive as a back up only.

Accessibility:
Poor. You’ll need to travel to where the external hard drive is and have a device to access and backup the files.

Backup Schedule:
Twice a year. Set a reminder every 6 months to get your external hard drive. If you generate a lot of files, you may want to do this quarterly.

Risks:
External hard drives only tend to be reliable for 3–4 years, and can easily become corrupted if not properly ejected. Also, if the external device is lost or damaged the files are gone.


TL;DR
Create a digital storage plan and stick to it.
Remember: If you don’t have a file in 3 places, you don’t have it all.