We asked people in 4 countries how often they back up their data

Tips & tricks
9 mins
  • ExpressVPN’s survey across the U.S., UK, Germany, and France reveals that most people don’t back up their data regularly, with 22% of all respondents not backing up their data at all.
  • Despite the critical role of backups in preventing data loss from threats like ransomware and hardware failures, 38% admitted to losing important data due to not backing up.
  • 37% of respondents meet the recommended weekly backup frequency, with significant variations across countries. France leads in backup diligence, while the UK lags.
  • Lack of knowledge, habit, and perceived complexity are major barriers preventing people from backing up their data. Additionally, concerns about cloud storage costs and trustworthiness deter some users from using online backup solutions.
  • Most people back up photos, with cloud services being the preferred backup method. Security and privacy issues are major concerns, with 77% of participants worried about the safety of their backup data.
  • We offer tips for secure data backups and stress the importance of a comprehensive approach to online security. This includes incorporating regular backups, encryption, and the use of a Windows VPN, or VPN for Mac, iOS, or Android, to protect data during transfers.

Our devices hold more than just bits and bytes; they encapsulate our personal history, professional documents, and irreplaceable moments. Imagine waking up to find this trove vanished into thin air. 

Whether caused by unexpected hardware failures or cyberattacks, the loss of data can be devastating. Especially when the answer to preventing it is relatively simple: backing up. 

With World Backup Day around the corner (March 31), ExpressVPN embarked on a large-scale survey. Spanning the U.S., UK, Germany, and France, the survey delved into the backup habits of 4,000 individuals to shed light on the global approach to data preservation. Our investigation not only uncovers the lack of data backups across these nations but also highlights the importance of saving digital files.

Jump to…
What is a data backup?
The importance of backing up data
How often should you back up your data?
What data are people backing up?
Security concerns of data backups
How to back up your data safely

What is a data backup?

A data backup is essentially a safety net for your digital life. It involves creating a copy of your data so that if the primary copy you use is lost or damaged, you can restore it from the backup. This process can be done using various methods, including external hard drives, USB flash drives, and, increasingly, cloud-based solutions. Cloud backups are particularly popular due to their convenience; they can be accessed from anywhere. They also don’t take up any of your physical space and can’t be misplaced.

The importance of backing up data 

Backing up data protects it from several types of threats: 

  • Malware attacks. Ransomware attacks encrypt files on your device and demand payment for release, but with recent backups, you can restore your data without giving in to extortion.
  • Failures in hardware or software.  Backups help recover data from non-malicious disruptions like files that get corrupted or computers that break down.
  • Lost devices. Know anyone who’s lost their phone or tablet? It’s extremely common, and they often go unrecovered. Backups make the whole ordeal less devastating.

However, despite these benefits, the importance of regular backups is often overlooked until significant data loss occurs. Of those we surveyed, 38% revealed that they had lost important data because they failed to back it up. 

Data loss has substantial financial and emotional impacts, with some estimates putting the monetary cost at around 12 billion USD annually in the U.S. alone. The most common causes of data loss include system or hardware failures (78%), followed by software corruption, malware, and human error.

World Backup Day highlights the essential role of backups in maintaining digital hygiene. It serves as a reminder to individuals and businesses of the importance of regular data backups to prevent loss and ensure data recovery.

1 in 5 people don’t back up their data (and 40% don’t do it often enough)

How often should you back up your data? According to data recovery specialists, it’s recommended that the general population back up important files at least once a week, while businesses or individuals dealing with critical or rapidly changing information—like financial records or customer data—should do so once every 24 hours.

However, as of 2024, it appears that a significant portion of people don’t follow these guidelines. According to our survey data, 22% of all respondents never back up their data. Additionally, 15% back up their data only once every two months, 19% do so monthly, and 7% every two weeks.

Nearly one in four respondents do perform backups at the recommended frequency, with 19% backing up weekly and 18% diligent enough to back up their data daily.

The French are the best at backing up (and the UK is the worst)

Our survey also highlights significant differences in data backup habits across countries, with the UK’s concerning 29% of respondents never backing up their data—the highest figure among respondents. This points to an urgent need for better data preservation education in the UK.

The U.S. is right behind the UK, with 27% not backing up. Notably, 18% of Americans back up their data daily—which is certainly more achievable when using backup services that automatically backup daily.

France leads in backup consistency, with 42% backing up their data at least once per week, with only 17% never backing up. This shows France’s strong commitment to data protection.

Germany follows closely behind, with just 14% ignoring backups altogether. A notable 38% back up their data weekly, including 17% who do it daily, in line with expert advice, showcasing Germany’s disciplined approach and commitment to data security.

Why aren’t more people backing up their data?

Despite 32% of all respondents acknowledging the extreme importance of data backup, a significant portion still abstains.

One primary barrier appears to be a lack of knowledge, with 9% of individuals not knowing how to back up their data. Moreover, 6% recognize the importance but haven’t developed the habit, while 5% find the process too cumbersome. 

Interestingly, a small fraction, 3%, prefer to keep their data offline for a greater sense of control, and another 3% cite the cost of cloud storage as a deterrent. Concerns over cloud provider trustworthiness also play a role, with 2% of respondents wary of entrusting personal information to these services.

What improvements or changes would you like to see in backup solutions?

Increased storage capacity with affordable prices41%
More affordable pricing37%
Simpler backup methods36%
Greater privacy protections35%
Faster backup and restore speeds34%
Integration with other services12%

People mainly back up their images 

So, what are the people who are backing up actually saving? The majority (89%) prioritize pictures and photos, underscoring the value placed on personal memories. Documents and reports are also important, with 66% of respondents backing these up. Sensitive data, such as financial information, is backed up by 47%. Videos and films are backed up by 43%, with music and audio files at 34%.

Cloud services are the preferred choice for data backups 

When it comes to the methods used for backing up data, cloud services lead the way at 59%. External hard drives follow closely, with 34% of respondents using them as a source of backup, suggesting a preference for tangible storage solutions. USB flash drives are used by 28% of people and network-attached storage is utilized by 16% of respondents. Surprisingly, 7% still rely on printing or creating hard copies.

As for cloud services, Google Drive emerges as the preferred choice for a majority (50%) reflecting its widespread availability and integration with other Google services. Microsoft OneDrive is used by 23% of respondents, followed by Dropbox at 16%, showcasing the variety of cloud storage preferences among users. IDrive and pCloud, with 9% and 7% respectively, along with Sync at 4%. 

Security and privacy concerns about backup data?

When you back up your data in a cloud service, it’s sensible to question how securely your data is being stored. Can the service provider access it? Do you trust them to keep your files safe? Could someone hack into your account? 

Our study reveals that 77% of participants harbor anxieties regarding the security and privacy of their backup information. These concerns range widely, from significant for 18% of participants, to moderate for 29%, and to mild for 30%. Only 16% of respondents haven’t considered the risks, and 7% report no concerns about the security of the data they back up.

Do you have concerns about the privacy and security of your backup data?

Yes, it is a major concern18%
Yes, it is of concern29%
Yes, it is a slight concern30% 
I’ve never really thought about it16% 
Not at all 7%


Among the concerns specified by respondents, data loss or corruption emerges as the top worry, cited by 45%. Following this, 35% express anxiety over the risk of data breaches or unauthorized access, pointing to the critical need for robust security. Moreover, privacy concerns, particularly regarding cloud providers’ potential access to data, were on the minds of 15%. 

How to back up your data with security and privacy 

There are best practices when choosing a backup method and choosing a platform, if you use a cloud service. But the most important word is probably “encryption.” Here’s how to back up your data safely and securely: 

  1. Choose a cloud service that works with your devices: Select reputable services that work well with your devices, like Microsoft OneDrive if you use Microsoft. 
  2. Choose cloud services with higher encryption standards. pCloud, IDrive, and Dropbox are stronger than most when it comes to encryption, making it harder for intruders to access your files.  
  3. Encrypt your data before backing up: Use software to encrypt your files before transferring them to your backup location. This adds a layer of security by ensuring your data remains unreadable without the decryption key, even if the storage medium is compromised.
  4. Perform backups regularly: Establish a consistent backup schedule. For personal use, weekly backups might suffice, while businesses or those with frequently changing data should consider daily backups. Utilize software that supports automatic backups to streamline this process.
  5. Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) for cloud storage: Prevent unauthorized access to your cloud-based backups by enabling MFA. This requires a second form of verification beyond just a password.
  6. Consider a hybrid approach for sensitive data: For highly sensitive information, consider storing backups in multiple locations, combining both physical and cloud storage. This minimizes risks associated with relying on a single backup method.

How a VPN can protect your data during backup transfers  

Using a VPN can significantly enhance the security of your data backups by encrypting your internet connection. \Whether employing a Windows VPN or a VPN for platforms like Mac, iOS, or Android, the primary advantage remains consistent: safeguarding your sensitive information during transfer. This is especially vital over unsecured or public Wi-Fi networks, where the risk of data interception is higher.

While a VPN offers a robust layer of protection by making it difficult for unauthorized parties to intercept or monitor your data, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t mitigate all cybersecurity risks. A comprehensive approach to online security—combining the use of a VPN with regular data backups, encryption, and antivirus software—is essential to protect against a broad spectrum of cyber threats.

FAQ: About data backups

Can I recover my data if I’ve never backed it up?
What are the steps for backup data recovery?
How can I back up data on WhatsApp?
What is the best method for backing up sensitive data?
Can I use cloud storage as my only backup solution?
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