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Back It Up, Or Lose It!

May 19, 2014
| Articles

Ah, those famous last words: “I’ll get around to backing it up eventually”. How many documents, images, videos, and whatnot have died in vain, lost forever, because “eventually” never came? Your data is one hard-drive hiccup away from being totally lost.


The sad thing is, no one thinks it can happen to them. A system crashes. A cell phone gets dropped in a toilet. The dog chews on your iPad. There’s a reason that these things are called “accidents” and not “deliberates”; you can’t decide when they will happen, and you can bet they’ll happen at the worst possible time.


But you don’t have to put yourself at the mercy of the whims of fate. You can make your own luck by simply being prepared and making sure that your data is backed up. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re trying to decide how much and how often you should back up your files.


The One Big Question

When you’re trying to decide what data you should back up, ask yourself that one big question: “How far up the creek will I be if I suddenly lose these files?” It’s safe to say that it’s not necessary to back up your weekly grocery list. But those tax records from last year? Back them up. Your resume? Absolutely! Those digital photos of your wedding? If you know what’s good for you and you don’t want to end up sleeping on the couch indefinitely, you damn well better back them up!


If you consistently use a desktop or laptop in the course of performing your job, if you’re a writer or a graphic artist for instance, your work needs to be backed up. The same goes for financial information, purchases, important e-mails, and personal budget information.


Files that you paid for, things like e-books, PDFs or music (iTunes immediately comes to mind), should also be backed up. If there’s anything more painful than losing files, it’s paying for them again in order to replace them.


After you’ve taken care of the heavy-duty stuff, there are the things that are not crucial to your life, but would just be a pain in the neck to lose and have to recreate. The things that come to mind immediately are browser bookmarks and shortcuts to favorite sites. Think about it; if you’ve spend the past eighteen months slowly building up your collection of frequently visited websites. Don’t you want to have copies set aside in the event of a catastrophic failure?


Fortunately, any browser worth its salt, such as Explorer or Firefox, has easy bookmark backup functions. And when it comes to smart phones, there are ways of backing up Android and iOS bookmarks. As the cliché goes: “There’s an app for that!”


The Rule Of Three

Yes, that sounds like something associated with magic and mysticism, but that’s The Power of Three. This is slightly different. The Rule of Three says that your data must exist in three different forms. Sort of like water, if you think about it. But instead of “solid, liquid, and gas”, it’s “original data, backup data in one format, backup data in a different format”. The best way to store that third data format is offsite on something like DropBox or a similar cloud-based file backup service.


Incidentally, backing up your data doesn’t mean copying files from one folder on your system to another folder on that same system. What happens if someone comes along and spills an entire pitcher of sangria on your laptop? Well, first of all, you’re out of sangria which is tragedy enough, but only slightly more important, your laptop is now a very expensive paperweight, and the original files as well as their copies, all which reside on that same dead system, are now gone.


How Often Should You Back Up?

Good question. How often do you modify your files? While it may not be practical to constantly update each copy of your data whenever a single little change is made, try to hard-wire an absolute backup time into your weekly routine. Maybe when you start off a new week you perform a new series of backups.


Granted, this really depends on just what sort of data has been backed up. Things like the above-mentioned resume, projects you’ve done, or wedding pictures, never change so obviously you don’t have to keep creating new backups copies of those files. Use common sense.


Parting Words Of Wisdom

Don’t put your trust solely in any one form of media storage.  Even the cloud is not infallible. Let your data reside on your machine, and one copy on a portable storage media (and don’t keep it next to the computer; that sort of defeats the purpose), and ideally, one copy off-site.


While there’s no way of completely making your data invulnerable from harm, by taking these steps you at least tip the odds in your favor. Good luck!


Image credit: 123rf.com

By John Terra
Categories: Articles
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