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The Most Neglected Essential

– Posted in: Security

External drive, suitable for backupInsurance is expensive. But what if you could keep all your possessions totally safe for almost no cost just by spending a few minutes every so often doing a simple routine. Would you do it? Of course. Then why won’t people do that for their data? A simple backup routine could ensure that they never lose their electronic possessions. Do they not value them, or do they find the process too onerous?

I admit to being baffled by people’s failure to do backups. So much of my life is on my computer–writing, photos, e-mail, financial data, art, work. I am not willing to lose any of it, and there’s no reason why I should.

I am, perhaps, a little extreme. I do most of my work on my laptop. I never turn it off without backing up to two flash drives, one of which goes with me always. Once a week or so, I transfer my updates to my desktop computer. I then back up the desktop to an external hard drive. I keep a second drive off site, and that flash drive I always carry has everything that has changed since I swapped the drives. This means every file is backed up at least three times over. I am not willing to lose anything.

Backups need not be complicated or difficult. There are a number of free and paid programs that will let you configure the sort of backup you want. Some will even run automatically in the background, creating a backup on a schedule or, for some, any time you save new work.

There are also programs that will backup your data to an offsite server, ensuring you can access it from anywhere. Carbonite is one I know of, but I’m sure there are many others (I have not used any of them; this is not an endorsement). They also are set to run automatically once you have them configured.

External hard drives run less than $100 and often come with backup software. Windows comes with a backup program, and I would imagine Apple’s OS does too. A backup program that you could purchase may have more features. But once you have purchased the external drive and, perhaps, the software, doing backups will cost nothing but time. Online services have a monthly or annual fee.

Not sure how to set up a backup? Hire someone! Spend a little money and get everything set up so all you have to do is click an icon (or just let it run, if you have an automated routine). Do make sure that whoever sets it up verifies that it works and that files can be restored. Isn’t your data worth a little effort?

It really doesn’t matter how you backup. What matters is that you do it adequately (which is why I have an offsite drive as well as one that stays home), and that if there is a task you have to do, that you actually do it.

Use this simple guideline: how much am I willing to lose? I’m not willing to lose anything, which is why I back up before I turn my computer off. If something goes wrong and it is unable to ever start again, I’ve got my data. But if you are fine with losing a day’s or a week’s or a month’s worth of data, you can choose a longer time.

I have no sympathy when someone tells me that his computer crashed and he lost everything. Unlike your other possessions, your data’s safety can be 100% assured. Back it up.

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