Do You Have Backups or are You Simply Synching?

“I don’t need backups. I’ve got my files synced.”


I have written many times about the need for genealogists and most everyone else to make frequent backups I won’t repeat all that here. You can find my past articles by starting at

However, I have to ask one question: Do you have backups or are you simply syncing your files?

In fact, there is a huge difference.

Many online services provide file synching services, including Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, and several dozen others. A sync service allows you to keep consistent contents between multiple devices, such as between your desktop computer and a laptop or perhaps your home computer and the one at the office. Make one change to the contents of that shared info, and the same thing is copied to all other devices, including file changes and deletions.

That’s a good thing, but it is not a backup.

Depending on how you have syncing and sharing set-up you can delete a file on one device and have it disappear on all the other shared devices.

A true backup product keeps ALL VERSIONS of ALL FILES for a specified period of time. Backups may be saved on an external hard drive, in a flash drive, or in an online service in the cloud. But if you are only saving the latest version of your files, you are not making backups. You are file synching.

What do you do if you need a copy of a file as it existed last week? or last month? Can you retrieve the old version today?

Perhaps you updated a file with new information and accidentally deleted something important that was within the file. What do you do? A true backup service will save you. Simply launch the backup software, click on RESTORE, then select the file name and the date of the file version that you seek.

There are dozens of good backup products available. If you own a Macintosh, look at Time Machine that was already installed on your computer when you purchased it. Time Machine is one of the best backup products I have seen. See for more information about using Time Machine.

Users of Microsoft Windows have a bit more of a challenge. Over the years, Microsoft has included mediocre backup software in some of the Pro versions of Windows but generally not in the Home Editions. However, a number of third-party vendors have rushed in to fill the vacuum.

Backblaze‘s online backup service keeps track of multiple versions up to 30 days. That is a rather short timeframe but is better than most file sync services.

Dropbox is primarily a file sync service but also will create backups of multiple versions of every file. By default, Dropbox saves a history of all deleted and earlier versions of files for 30 days for all Dropbox accounts. If you purchase the Extended Version History add-on feature, you can revert to a previous file version or recover a deleted file at any time within a year of an edit or deletion made after your purchase.

All files stored online by Dropbox are encrypted and are kept in secure storage servers across several data centers.

Other backup services and file sync services may have similar capabilities. The only way to find out is to read the fine print on each company’s web site.


Backed up on the computer, backed up on a cloud, sync’d to two other computers and I back up my work every time I close the project after each session. Periodically, I also back it up to a thumbdrive. Years ago, I thought I’d lost all of my work. With help I was able to recover it. I have never wanted to go through that agony again. LOL


My problem is limited bandwidth with my satellite internet. I tried Carbonite for awhile before I switched ISPs from a very slow and unreliable wireless broadband (the only company around here) to satellite, and with the new ISP I had used up all my high-speed bandwidth in two days because Carbonite was always on, uploading constantly – a great feature if you only need the Internet two days a month, in my case. I can’t think of an online backup that will work for those of us who have limited bandwidth — and have no other choice — no cable, no DSL, only dial-up.


    I’m not sure if it would help, but I recently subscribed to a cloud service that automatically backs up on a schedule that I have set. I also control what gets backed up. I could have it only back up my genealogy data, but I have it back up all of my files. After the first time, it seems to take less than a minute to update. The app is currently being advertised at a very low intro price and offers 1 T of storage.


    If you have poor internet service, then your only option for backups is to an external hard drive or 2. They can be purchased fairly inexpensively now. It would be great if you could store one at a different location than your house, then another one at your house, then swap them out. However, even having one drive as a back up is better than nothing at all.


    I attended a family reunion in a state park in OR this summer. There was NO internet! I had my files on the computer and a backup on a thumbdrive, but checking Ancestry, Genealogy Bank etc while working with cousins was out of the question. An external, even a thumbdrive, is always good to have. Of course, if your computer crashes…at least your files are safe. LOL


My son, who does IT consulting,recommended Acronis and I’ve been using it once a month for several years now. My laptop screen went blank and I had to send it in for repair. I assured the repair people that I was good on backups and when it came back all my files were gone. Alas, I did not have the Acronis install materials on my backup device. But…. I was able to download it again from their website. Lesson learned: be sure you have what it takes to restore your data on the device you keep the data on. You can avoid a lot of heartache if you do.


Windows 8 and 10 have File History, a versioned file backup. It runs in the background as often as every 10 minutes, according to user preference. It does not copy the OS or program files, but unlike many backup programs it stores data files in the same folder hierarchy and file format as my hard drive, making it quick and easy to retrieve an old file. It’s not my only backup but it’s definitely the most convenient and easiest to use.


Perhaps this has been covered in previous articles–but I’ll ask it here. How does one keep a backup that is safe from a ransomware attack? I realize that being very careful about avoiding an attack is the first step, but if one occurs, how can a backup remain safe?


    —> How does one keep a backup that is safe from a ransomware attack?

    A good backup is your best protection against ransomware.

    Save the backup some place other than in your computer. Have a backup in the cloud or on an external hard drive stored in a safe deposit box or stored in your office or any other place where it is not connected to your computer. If your computer later becomes infected with a ransomware attack, your backup will be unaffected.

    You then have to remove the ransomware attack (there are 2 or 3 ways to do that). Then, if necessary, all your data files can be restored from your (unaffected) backup.


I personally use OneCloud to backup all my important photos and files. It works very nicely, and it is very simple. The only troubles I had was when I tried to access my files online, and it was slow in performance a bit from all the storage, but I also found the solution for that. I learned from this: about compressing files before uploading, and I started doing that. Now it works like a charm, and I got extra free storage out of it 🙂


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