Every March 31 is World Backup Day, that day on which tech bloggers do their best to get the word across to readers that digital devices need backups. So we're here today to ask you the big question: if your Mac hard drive failed today or you broke or lost an iOS device, would all of your data be backed up somewhere?
For owners of iOS devices, there's really no excuse for not having your most important data backed up once a day. Apple built a solid backup mechanism into iOS that creates a daily backup of settings and critical app information. Your apps can be reloaded, of course, but the information needed to tell your iPhone or iPad exactly what apps were on that device needs to be backed up somewhere.
Sure, you may actually have to pay for the extra iCloud storage to back up your devices, especially if you have a few of them. But isn't that a small price to pay for peace of mind, knowing that if a device is broken or lost, you can replace it and within a few hours have everything back where it needs to be?
Turning on the automatic backups is simple. Just go into Settings > iCloud > and tap on Backup. Make sure it's turned on. If you do so, your device will "Automatically back up data such as your accounts, documents, Health data, Home configuration, and settings when this device is plugged in, locked, and connected to Wi-Fi."
Even if you do have iOS backups turned on, it's useful to occasionally make sure that the backups are running as planned. If your device isn't backed up within a certain amount of time, you'll receive a warning from iOS, but you may want to just check manually every week or so. The information on when your last backup ran can be found at the same place: Settings > iCloud > Backup.
How about your Mac? For many years, Macs have had a built-in tool called Time Machine for running backups automatically. Time Machine doesn't require much - just buy a disk drive (I usually recommend one with twice the capacity of your Mac's storage), plug it in, and give Time Machine the OK to start backing up. You can pretty much ignore what's going on from there on out.
If you want to see what's going on with Time Machine, visit System Preferences and click on the Time Machine button to see a pane showing oldest, most recent, and next backup times (see image below).
Time Machine also helps if you're ever in the situation where you accidentally deleted a document or email and you need to get it back, since it takes hourly "snapshots" of your system each day that capture any changes you've made. You wouldn't believe how many times it's saved me from a bad situation when I've deleted something I didn't mean to!
I won't get into the mechanics of restoring your data in this post; there are a lot of online resources with that information. But having a recent backup is critical if you want to have a chance of getting your data back.