“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 https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Aeogn.com+backups&t=hu&ia=web.
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.
Here is the big question: Can you restore a version of a file as it existed days or weeks ago?
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? More than once I have deleted a file or overwritten a file with updated information then, a few minutes or a few hours later, I have said, “Oops, I need to use the information I deleted earlier.” If I was using a simple file sync service, the earlier version of the file would already be deleted or overwritten on all my other copies. However, if I was using a true backup program, I can go back at any time and retrieve the earlier version(s) of the file.
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 a free backup program that was already installed on your computer when you purchased it. Time Machine is one of the best backup products I have seen and it is available free of charge to every Mac owner. It will allow you to restore files as they appeared in the past, even years ago. See https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201250 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 of the simple file sync services.
Dropbox is primarily a file sync service but also will create backups of multiple versions of every file. By default, Dropbox Basic and Plus users will find a history of all deleted and earlier versions of files for 30 days for all Dropbox accounts. If you purchase either the Professional or Business versions of Dropbox, all versions of all backed up files will remain available for 180 days. See https://help.dropbox.com/files-folders/restore-delete/recover-older-versions for the details.
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.