Keeping backups is probably your most important data management task. There is a real risk of losing data through hard drive failure or accidental deletion. As a reminder, have another look at the data disasters in the Introduction.
It is recommended that you keep at least three copies of your data on at least two different media. Keep your storage devices in separate locations with at least one off-site, and check that they work regularly. Backups are logically made from the master copy location, which should hold the most recent and correct version.
There are several backup strategies to choose from. You either always do a full backup of all files, or perform partial backups. You could consider backing up files with high change rates more often than other files.
The backup strategy you choose depends on:
Some master copy locations provide automatic backup. In that case, at least inform yourself on the backup scheme used. And make sure that the backup location is secure as your master copy location. Moreover, check if the time and effort needed to restore a backup copy is acceptable for you.
To ensure that your backup system is working properly, you should regularly test it by restoring your data files from your backups to check that you can read them.
Two professors from the University of Edinburgh talk about backing up their research data.
Professor Lynn Jamieson, Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, talks about the importance of keeping regular backups of research data.
Richard Rodger, Professor of Economic and Social History, talks about the different ways he backs up his research data.