Life is busy, but backups need to occur, when is the best time to backup your systems?
Morning? Lunchtime? Evening? Overnight?

The best time to backup depends on what device you are backing up, whether it is part of the supporting infrastucture or an end user device, and what the general schedule of usage is for that device. Here’s some thoughts on the best time to backup for each type of device.

First: What Are You Backing Up?

Backups are not a “one size fits all”. An open time to backup a desktop computer or laptop is not going to be the same as backing up a server. Picking the right time to backup requires a review of how things work in your environment.

This would be where you want to start: Review your environment and get an understanding of what happens when, and what type of data is being backed up. Backing up office files and documents is different to backing up Databases and CRM data.

In this article we will separate out three types of devices and offer suggestions for backing up each; Servers, Desktop Computers, and Laptops

Don’t forget the 3-2-1 Backup Rule!

Know the 3-2-1 Backup Rule: Three copies of data, in two different places, with one place off-site.

This must always be part of your overall backup plan. No point in having a backup that you can’t recover from.

Best time to backup a Server

Servers are usually a critical component to the business and almost never turned off. They are always connected to the network and the Internet and so always available for a backup.

The best time to backup a server is usually overnight.

Backing up overnight is a good time for a server because normal daily activity is at its lowest, the server is not trying to do many other things while being backed up. Ideally you can start the backup after the office closes, and you want to limit the backup time so that it stops before people arrive the next morning.

For many organizations and companies then, the best time to backup a server is about 7:00 pm and set the backup to use all the time it needs until about 6:00 or 7:00 am in the morning. If your organization covers multiple time zones you will need to take that into account.

Server Backup – Things To Consider

Beware of scheduled tasks and cleanup routines.

If your server is running Exchange, SQL or other special or proprietary software then check your scheduled tasks and look for when cleanup routines run and for how long.

As an example; here’s a list of scheduled tasks that run on servers (it shows Vista but it also applies to Server 2012 and up). It doesn’t show execution times but you can easily find that out by going to Scheduled Tasks on the server.

Consider disk defragmentation

Disk defragmentation is another scheduled task routine. You don’t want to be trying to defragment the server and running a backup at the same time.

If you can do it, the best time to backup a server is after the clean up routines and defragmentation and scheduled tasks have all concluded.

You may need to review and reschedule your scheduled task times around to create space for the amount of time the backup needs.

Set A Stop Backup Time

A full backup with lots of data can take all night. Make sure the backup stops before the office opens in the morning. Most backup software can specify the length of time a backup can run, then stops even if it is not finished.

Cloud backups don’t take long after the initial load as they are incremental. An incremental backup may take an hour or less.

Once you know your average time to complete a backup, you can adjust the backup schedule for the best time for your business.

Best Time To Backup A Desktop Computer

Unlike a server, a desktop computer is generally only on when it is being used and is often turned off overnight or automatically shuts itself down after a period of not being used.

This can make picking the best time to backup a desktop or laptop a little more difficult.


Here’s some thoughts:


  • Do you really need to backup the desktop computer? If all documents and files are being stored on the server or cloud drive then you may not need to back it up at all.
  • Desktop computers really don’t need to be shut down overnight anymore, and if you can train people to leave them on then they can be backed up overnight much like a server. The best time to backup a desktop could then be overnight, the same as a server.
  • Watch out for software that stores data locally on the desktop or laptop. This could be email systems which, depending on whether you use Exchange or not, tend to store their data locally. Quickbooks and other financial programs also by default will want to store financial data on the local drive rather than a server, NAS, or shared device..

Best Time To Backup A Laptop

Laptops almost definitely turn off overnight, so backing up a laptop overnight is generally not an option.

If you can’t schedule a backup for overnight for a laptop, then take a step back and be creative based on the work activity schedule of the person using it.

  • Like desktop computer; if data and files are being stored on a server or cloud drive then you may not need to backup the laptop at all
  • When do they start in the morning and how does their day generally run?
  • Do they always have a 10am or 2pm meeting?
  • Do they almost always take lunch at noon and head down to that snack place with the great salads? Well then lunch time is the best time to backup for them.

Backup clients are built to work in the background and create very little overhead, so you could schedule a time even when they’re using the computer.

Pick a time and try it for a while. If things change and another time is now better you can always change the backup schedule.

Another option is what is known as “real-time backup” where the backup program and detect when changes are made and backup those changes on the fly. For a desktop or laptop backup in an office environment this may be a good solution, even more so for a road warrior. This option is generally available for cloud backups and as long as there is an Internet connection these real-time backups are even stored off-site, away from the computer.

The bottom line is; the best time to backup a laptop is a time that fits the schedule of the person using it.

Just Backup!

If you’ve got this far then you know you need to backup.

If you don’t have a backup system in place yet don’t put it off and say; “I’ll do that tomorrow.” – tomorrow might be too late. Nobody knows when the next disaster could strike, when the black screen of death will happen, or when the computer just won’t boot up.

The best time to backup is Today!

CloudPockets can get you started with 25Gb for $9.95 a month, up to multiple terabytes, all stored in Canada. Take a look at our cloud backup.

Pick the best time to backup that works for you or your staff, and take the step to get that critical business data backed up and protected.