How To Back Up and Manage Files While Traveling

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The best file storage and backup options for travelers are:

  • Cloud storage
  • SD Cards
  • External hard drives
  • USB Drives
  • NAS

Keep reading to learn more about each backup storage option, who they’re best for, and how to encrypt your files.

As you dive into this guide, you’ll come to understand why it’s a bad idea to store files on your computer. Moreover, I’ll cover various alternative file storage mediums you can use to back up your documents, videos, and other important files.

Why You Shouldn’t Save Files on Your Computer

While storing files on your desktop or laptop offers convenience, it’s not practical in the long run. Some reasons why you shouldn’t save important files on your computer include:

  • The file’s sizes will impact your device’s speed.
  • It can be harder to backup your computer’s files unless you know what you’re doing.
  • These files take up precious storage you could use for applications or games.

However, suppose you still want the convenience of not plugging a device or accessing having to plug a device or accessing a server to access your files. In that case, you can use your computer hard drive as one of many storage mediums.

5 Physical File Storage Options

One of the best ways to store files is to connect to device ports by using file storage devices. I’ll cover information on each file storage medium and who they’ll best serve throughout this section.

By the way, make sure you keep your files backed up on at least one or two of these devices and a cloud storage system.

1. Large-scale External Hard Drive

If you have a library of pretty large files, you’ll need the biggest external hard drives available as a backup to store your files. Unlike typical external hard drives, these types can hold over 18 terabytes (TB) of storage.

I recommend getting the WD 10TB Elements Desktop Hard Drive HDD. It works on both Mac and PC operating systems, and you can even use it for Xbox or Playstation consoles.

2. Portable External Hard Drive

If you want portability and don’t need to worry about backing up as many files, you may want to consider using these smaller hard drives.

Moreover, I recommend getting portable hard drives that can withstand drops and resist dust to enhance their lifespan.

With both types of external drives—large and portable—you can use USB-C, Thunderbolt, eSATA, and Firewire connectivity. However, you’ll need to understand what type of connectivity you’ll use the most before you purchase.

3. USB Flash Drive

These thumb drives are great for storing operating systems and other software you want to boot from multiple systems. However, you can also use them as a means to back up your files. Moreover, you have more flexibility with hiding them around your home to prevent theft.

4. Network Attached Storage (NAS) For Home

A NAS is a server that you can use at home to host your files throughout your network. You can host multiple storage drives to give you the most storage possible. Moreover, you have faster access to files and administrative control over your entire system without using a cloud storage service.

If you’re looking for a great NAS, I recommend trying the Synology 4 Bay NAS DiskStation DS920+. It’s created by a great brand and makes it easy to back up your files with Synology’s various applications.

5. Security Digital (SD) Card

They’re usually used as memory cards for cameras and other portable devices. However, you can also use them to back up your files—up to 2 TB of space.

They’re by far the lightest of the physical storage mediums, which means that you won’t have to haul an external hard drive or a fragile flash drive whenever you want to work away from home.

Cloud Storage: Free and Paid Options

You can have as many physical file storage devices as you can throw money at. However, if a natural disaster were to happen, you’d lose all your files. That’s why I also recommend using a SaaS cloud storage provider to act as a means to store your files.

Google Drive

Google Drive will be your best friend if you work with Google Office applications. You can access any of your files through this free cloud storage platform. Moreover, you can upload whatever files you choose.

With Google Drive, you’ll get around 15GB for free, so it’s not ideal if you work with massive file sizes.

However, Google offers additional storage—for a fee. If you want to upgrade your Google Drive storage, you’ll need to subscribe to Google One, which gives you between 100 and 2000 GB of storage for an affordable rate.

Google Drive Alternatives

You may not want to use Google for all of your needs or just dislike Google. However, I have some alternatives to Google Drive for you to consider to store your digital files.


I love and use Dropbox for all of my file storage needs. It functions the same as Google Drive and allows me to log in with my Yubikey for the most protection. When using Dropbox, you’ll get 2GB of free storage.

However, you can upgrade to Plus or Professional for 2000 and 3000 GB of (encrypted) storage. The one downside to Dropbox is that they don’t do client-side encryption, which you can get around by using Cryptomator—a service that I’ll cover in a second.


A free, self-hosted, and open source cloud storage solution that allows you to choose the server you want to back up your files. Moreover, you can sync these files with your existing NAS or Dropbox account.

Use Cryptomator to Secure Your Files On Any Cloud Storage

If you’re already using Google Drive and Dropbox and don’t want to switch, I recommend using a service like Cryptomator to encrypt your files. Since Dropbox doesn’t have client-side encryption, you’ll want to take matters into your own hands to protect your files.

Here’s a live example. This is what Dropbox sees when you use Cryptomator.

Anyway, Cryptomator is free software you download on your computer. To sync Cryptomator with existing cloud storage solutions, I recommend downloading Google Drive or Dropbox to your computer.

It’s free, and the provider has documentation to help you get started.

Other Options

If you’re on a budget and can’t afford additional storage for your documents and other files, you’ll need to get creative. Fortunately, the internet has a myriad of tools available where you can store your files.

Use a Password Manager (Free or Paid)

If you’re already using a password manager, you can upload files to saved password accounts and download them at your convenience. While each service may vary in how you go about this, you’ll want to look for each account’s “Attachments.”

If you’re not using a password manager, I recommend using a free service like Bitwarden.

Store Files in Email Inboxes

You can go about storing files in email inboxes in a couple of ways.

First, the method involves having two emails. You’ll send an email from one inbox to another and attach as many files as you can. Thus, you’ll have backed up your files in two email inboxes.

The second method involves creating a draft, attaching your files, and leaving the files until you need to access them.


I’ve aggregated the most frequently asked questions about file backup and security. That way, you don’t have to sift through Google for unhelpful answers.

What Is the Best Way To Store Files on Your Computer?

The best way to store files on your computer is to use an encryption service like Cryptomator to create a password-protected environment that allows you to access your secured files easily. Moreover, you’ll want to connect Cryptomator to a cloud SaaS to make sure you’re continually backing up your files.

Are Your Files Safe?

You’ll want to back up your files in multiple locations to ensure your work and information don’t vanish in an unpredictable event. Fortunately, you have various cloud- and physical options available to protect your hard work.

person standing on top of Taipei 101 tower in Taiwan City, Taiwan

About Tee

Tee began first experienced the wonders of traveling when visiting Vietnam. Afterward, he went crazy and ventured to at least… More about Tee