General Election 2024

Read our updates on issues relevant to charities for the upcoming election. Learn more

Backing up your data

This page is free to all

Use this page for learning about how to back up your charity's data.

Think about how much you rely on your charity’s critical data. From your beneficiaries' details to volunteer data to governing documents. Now imagine how you'd do your work without them.

All charities should take regular backups of their important data. Backups ensure your charity will function following the impact of flood, fire, physical damage or theft and cyber-crime. You need to make sure that those backups are recent and can be easily restored. Your charity will be more resilient to cyber crime if you have backups of your data that you can recover.

Here’s how to do it.

Identify what data you need to back up

Your first step is to identify your essential data. That is, the information that your charity couldn't function without. Essential data for you could be:

  • documents
  • emails
  • contacts
  • legal information
  • calendars
  • financial records
  • supporter or beneficiary databases.

Think about where you store this essential data. It may be a few common folders on your computer, phone, tablet or organisation’s network. Or it may be much more widespread.

Once you've identified what's essential and where it's kept, make a copy of this data. A copy of your essential data is often called a backup.

Keep your backup separate from your computer

There are many ways you can keep a backup of your essential data.

  • On a USB stick
  • On a separate hard drive
  • A separate computer
  • Stored online in the cloud

Your data backups should be restricted so they:

  • aren't accessible by all staff or volunteers
  • aren't permanently connected (either physically or over a local network) to the device holding the original copy.

Why is this important?

Malicious software can often move to connected storage automatically. If your backup was permanently connected it could also be infected. This would leave you with no backup to recover data from.

Store your backups in different locations

If you keep physical backups you should store them in a different location to any devices with the same data on them. This will help keep your data secure. A fire or theft won't result in you losing both copies.

Cloud storage solutions are a cost-effective and efficient way of achieving this. This would store your backups online.

Use the cloud

You've likely already used cloud storage during your everyday work and personal life. You may not even have known that’s what you were doing. For example, unless you're running your own email server, your emails are stored 'in the cloud'.

Cloud storage is where a service provider stores your data on their infrastructure.

Reasons to store your backup data in the cloud.

  • Your data would be physically separate from your location.
  • You can access it from any location.
  • Service providers can supply your data storage and web services without you needing to invest in expensive hardware.
  • Most providers offer a limited amount of storage space for free, and larger storage capacity for minimal costs for charities.
  • You don’t need to remember or schedule your backups to the cloud.

Make backing up data part of your everyday business

We know that backing up is not a very interesting thing to do. There'll always be more important tasks you feel should take priority. But, if you don’t have a solution that makes backups automatically, you'll need to do this.

If you're manually backing up your data, you may want to consider investing in a solution that does it automatically. Using automated backups not only saves time, it also ensures that you have the latest version of your files.

Many off-the-shelf backup solutions are easy to set up. They're affordable considering the business-critical protection they offer. When choosing a solution think about:

  • how much data you need to back up
  • how quickly you need to be able to access the data following an incident.

Find out more

Looking for a cloud service provider? Not all service providers are the same. But cloud technology isn’t new anymore and most providers have good security practices built-in so you have reliable options.

Read the NCSC's Cloud Security Guidance. It'll help you decide what to look for when evaluating services, and what they include.

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 02 March 2021

Back to top

Sign up for emails

Get regular updates on NCVO's help, support and services