What if you woke up tomorrow and your computer was destroyed? Would you mourn the loss of a $600 appliance, as though it were a broken refrigerator? Good for you. You’ve probably got everything saved somewhere else. You’ve got a backup.
If that idea brought on a rush of panic, you HAVE to back up your data immediately. Every computer on this planet will fail. Yours, mine, the ones at NASA. All of them. It’s just a matter of time. When yours fails, you need to be ready. You need to back up your data. If you don’t, you will lose everything.
Step 1. Find a Backup Buddy. This is someone you will trust to keep your backup data with. The important thing is that they are offsite. If your house burns down or a hurricane swept through, it would be devastating on many levels. It will be even more devastating if you lose all your digital pictures and old emails too.
Step 2. Buy two portable hard drives. An 80 gigabyte hard drive is the smallest common size and should do fine, unless you have a lot of video.
Step 3. Use backup software to copy your computer’s data to one of the hard drives. Windows XP comes with a free backup utility under Program Files\Accessories. Windows Vista comes with Backup and Restore Center found in Control Panel. There are also a number of other backup softwares out there too.
Step 4. Get your Backup Buddy to backup their computer on the other hard drive.
Step 5. Exchange hard drives. You keep their hard drive and they keep yours.
Step 6. Back up your computer again on the other hard drive. Make a backup once a day or once a week. Only you really know how often you should back up. The test is to ask yourself, “If I lost everything on my computer from now until the last time I backed up, would it be horrible?”
Step 7. Once a month, exchange hard drives with your Backup Buddy.
If you are worried about privacy, use a fire-proof safe or a safety deposit box as a Backup Buddy. The important thing is to get the information on your computer out of your house and somewhere completely safe from fires, burglars, hurricanes or whatever else life throws at you. Having two separate back hard drives gives you the convenience of backing up your information right at hand, and the added security of knowing it’s backed up in two different places.
Some people may think, “Well, if my house burned to the ground, losing my digital pictures would be the least of my worries.” Those people couldn’t be more wrong. If you lose your house, those precious photos, emails and *ahem* family recipes could be the one thing that helps you get through it all.