Your smartphone contains a vast amount of information that makes it uniquely yours: settings, apps, contacts, emails, phone and messaging history, music, photographs, videos and more. Backing up or creating a copy of this information is important so you don’t lose it completely if you were to lose your phone. Even if you don’t lose your device, backing up your data gives you some flexibility in managing your limited storage space.
Most likely, backing up your iPhone data isn’t high on your list of priorities. Data backups in general are almost an afterthought for the majority of people, whether it’s a mobile device or personal computer. It’s only after the worst happens, say, when you drop your iPhone in the toilet, that the concept of backups receives high priority.
Apple provides two methods to back up the data on the iPhone: iCloud and iTunes. Apple’s support knowledgebase provides a detailed breakdown of the differences between iCloud backups and iTunes backups. Another great Apple resource is this hardware- and OS-independent guide to creating iTunes backups. For those interested in creating iCloud backups, a very basic tutorial on enabling iCloud backups for both iOS 7 and iOS 8 can be found in another Apple support knowledgebase article.
The biggest drawback for iCloud is the size limitations. Apple gives you 5 GB of free iCloud storage for your iCloud account, an account that’s shared between all your Apple devices; additional storage can be purchased from Apple for a monthly fee. Another problem is that iCloud backups do not cover music or videos that were not purchased from Apple. You’ll need to restore your iPhone from your iCloud backup and then re-sync with the computer that’s hosting your iTunes.
iTunes backups don’t have the data size concerns that iCloud does, assuming you’re using the iTunes local backup feature; as long as you have the hard drive space, your iTunes backup can be as large as it needs to be.
Another point to consider is backing up the music on your computer. Should something happen to the machine hosting your iTunes, you’ll have to sync your iPhone to a new computer, which will wipe out the non-Apple-purchased media on your iPhone. And, depending on the situation, you may have lost your non-Apple media as well.
You should be making regular backups of your iTunes library, just in case the worst happens. You should also be backing up your individual music and video files as well. One of the best backup solutions out there is CrashPlan. The Home version is free to make local backups (those being placed on local storage, like a USB-connected hard drive) and free to make offsite backups, on others’ (like friends and family) computers that are also running CrashPlan. The kicker, though, is the paid version’s online backup: for a flat fee, you get unlimited cloud storage.
If you haven’t been backing up your iTunes or your computer, but you still have a working iPhone, all is not lost. CopyTrans offers a range of products that will transfer your music and movies from your iPhone to your computer. You can import media into a newly installed version of iTunes, complete with play counts and ratings. CopyTrans also has some backup tools that will back up everything on your iPhone, not just the stuff you bought from Apple. Though you will need to fork over a little cash for the CopyTrans software, the prices are low compared to the services they provide, especially if your media machine has been wiped out.
One more backup service that’s of note is iDrive, which offers cloud backup service and file-sync between all your devices on any platform, Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and even Linux.
For a more comprehensive comparison of a larger range of backup services, check out Tim Fisher’s article here.