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3 Best Practical Ways to Back Up Farm Data

The data* your business generates provides a valuable record for tracking trends, managing budgets, selecting products, measuring productivity, and so much more. But that data needs to be readily available when you need it to benefit your operation.

If you’re still searching your files for those planting records from 2019, it’s probably time to take a hard look at your farm data management strategy. Here are a few ways to organize and protect your farm data.


Invest in cloud-based systems

One of the simplest ways to protect your farm data is by using a cloud-based data storage system to back up your information. One example is Google Photos storage, which downloads photos taken on your phone and automatically saves them in a separate folder you can access from any device. In this example, cloud storage saves the day if a combine runs over your phone or it decides to crash out of the blue. You can still access those corn rootworm photos you wanted to share with your agronomist, even if your phone isn’t functional.

There are plenty of cloud-based storage systems for backing up farm data. Smaller farms may find public cloud services like Dropbox, Apple iCloud, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive useful and affordable. These products are best suited for data that you would typically store on a mobile device, laptop or desktop computer, and the service is delivered over infrastructure shared by multiple customers.   

Larger farms may choose to invest in private cloud services, which function similarly to public clouds. The exception is that a private cloud setup offers isolated access and is typically hosted on your premises, which can alleviate data security concerns. Some examples include Amazon Virtual Private Cloud, Dell APEX Private Cloud and Google Virtual Private Cloud.

If you plan to use cloud-based services to store data, be sure to read the Terms of Service, so you understand how your data may be used. For example, Google’s Term of Service state that stored data may be analyzed using algorithms and automated systems to customize services for users. 


  • Can access data on any device with an internet connection
  • Most backups are performed automatically and frequently
  • No need to keep track of a physical device
  • Has large data storage capacity


  • More concerns over data security
  • Usually, a subscription-based fee required
  • Requires some tech savviness to set up and access data
  • Requires reliable internet service
  • Data may be used by a service provider

Purchase a USB drive

If all the cloud talk has your head spinning, you may want to opt in to an old-school, tried-and-true data storage solution. USB drives have been around since the early 2000s, and today, Popular Mechanics reports that a 2-terabyte (TB) drive can store 34,000 hours of MP3s, 80 days’ worth of video, 620,000 photos, or 70 hours of 4K video. While that’s a vast improvement over those first USBs, it still doesn’t measure up to the storage capacity of cloud services.

Using a USB device is relatively simple. You plug it into a standard USB port on any device and download your data. It’s a low-tech way to back up your information, but USBs require safekeeping to avoid data breach issues.
Some USB companies offer industrial-grade flash storage devices specially designed for extreme environments, like those typical in agriculture. These drives are embedded into agricultural equipment, including tractors, drones, planters and hand-held devices, to decrease the risk of data loss due to extreme conditions.


  • Generally inexpensive
  • Simple to use with plug-and-play technology
  • More control over data security (if you keep track of your USBs)
  • No internet connection required to transfer or access saved data


  • Limited data storage
  • Physical hardware to keep track of
  • Data concerns if USB is lost/stolen
  • Data uploads/downloads may be slow

Transfer data to an external hard drive

As its name implies, an external hard drive functions just as the internal hard drive in your computer does, except it’s portable. Many farmers choose this option for file backup, especially if they want to save many years’ worth of data in one place. External hard drives are physically larger than a USB, making them easier to keep track of.  

Generally, external hard drives have more storage capacity than a standard USB drive, but less than a cloud-based service. They are a nice intermediate option for storing larger files, without paying the premium for a wi-fi-based storage service.

The most common storage sizes for external hard drives are 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB. They work similarly to a USB drive, with plug-and-play simplicity. 


  • Simple to use with plug-and-play technology
  • No internet connection required to transfer or access saved data
  • More control over data security
  • Can store large amounts of data in one place


  • Data uploads/downloads may be slow
  • Physical hardware to keep track of

Other farm data backup tips

Farm data is valuable, and it’s hard to retrieve once it’s gone. You may want to do a backup of your backup to ensure that you have data saved in multiple locations. For example, having both on-site data storage on a hard-drive or USB and a cloud backup offers dual protection.

If you’re using a physical backup method, make sure to store the hardware in a safe place that is not affected by extreme cold or heat. Consider keeping it in a locked, fireproof safe in your farm office or home. 

Finally, be sure to back up your data frequently. Put a reminder on your calendar to make it part of your weekly or monthly to-do list. The winter months are a great time to organize and manage your data to prepare for the new season. Learn how GROWERS Guide™ can help you get started. 

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