Don’t Be Foolish. Backup Your Data.

markus-spiske-207946My car has 180,000 miles on it. Like the human body, cars age gradually, somewhat predictably and not always gracefully. Most people generally have a pretty good idea when it’s time for a new vehicle.

Not so with your computer and electronic devices. One day they work; the next day, nothing.

Imagine sitting down at your home computer only to discover it’s died overnight. No warning. No high pitched squeaky sounds or spontaneous shakes to hint that the end may be near.

Just kaput.

A lifetime of family photos and videos, your private music collection, personal contacts and important documents disappear forever.

March 31st is World Backup Day.

The day before April Fool’s Day is “World Backup Day” – a day in which people are encouraged to backup the data on their computers and other electronic devices. Better yet, set aside April 1 as the day you commit to developing an entire system to ensure your electronic data is protected regardless of how it may be lost.

Yes, this could happen to you

Experts estimate that the biggest cause of computer failure is human error. Your computer is dropped, spilled upon or damaged in some other way. Computers can also get lost or stolen. Data can be erased by viruses, malware, or ransomware. Houses and offices can burn down, get flooded out and even blow away with the wind.

A 2015 survey by Backblaze found that over half of all computer owners backup their data less frequently than once a year. A full 25% have never backed up their computer or other devices.

Research by cloud storage company, Carbonite, found similar results.

Are you one of them? If you lost all your information on your computer or other electronic devices, do you have a way to recover it?

Create a system

Backing up your data doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does involve more than hitting the “Save” command on your Word documents.

Start with an online backup service like Backblaze or Carbonite. An online backup stores all the info in your computer on a secure, offsite server and automatically backs it up every day. For as little as $5 a month either service will automatically backup your photos, files and (sometimes) videos allowing you to retrieve them if and when your computer fails.

Even if your house goes up in flames with your computer in it, you can still retrieve the information stored in it. For $5 a month, it’s a cheap way to protect your data.

An online backup service is probably the easiest way to backup your computer; however, cloud-based storage services aren’t perfect. They only retain the data that is actually stored on your computer at the moment they do the backup. When data is deleted from your computer it is also removed from the online backup the next time your system updates. To have a backup of everything that is saved on your computer you may also need an external backup system.

Make an external hard drive part of your system

When you store data on an external hard drive it’s like having a second copy of your computer – whatever is saved on the computer’s hard drive is also saved on the external hard drive. A quick search on Amazon.com lists several external hard drives for as little as $60.  The more storage space you need, the more it will cost, but generally a terabyte or two should do the trick.

Depending on your computer and how you have it set up, most systems will automatically back up to the external hard drive throughout the day if the external hard drive is connected to your computer.

Like online backups, external hard drives also have their limitations. If your external hard drive is connected to your computer and your computer is the victim of ransomware or you experience a power surge, or your home or office is destroyed by an act of God, your computer all of its contents as well as your external hard drive could be at risk.

The easy fix is to have a second external hard drive that you connect to your computer occasionally (once a week, for example). When you are done with the backup, disconnect the external device. That way you can’t lose your data unless you lose your external drive.

Ideally, this 2nd external drive would be stored in a location other than the one where you keep your computer. If you have an online backup this may not be necessary, but if your livelihood would be affected or you are especially worried about losing your data, the extra step may give you some peace of mind. When it comes to protecting your most important information and documents a little redundancy doesn’t hurt.

Don’t stop there.

For your most important documents consider a service like Dropbox or Google Docs. Both allow you to share and store documents online. I personally don’t find it necessary to dump all the info from my computer onto Dropbox. It’s the accessibility and the sharing features of services like Dropbox that I like most.

Using the appropriate app you can access your documents from your smart phone, computer or any other device that provides online access. Plus you can share your information and allow others to access it online as well.

Your will, power of attorney documents, health care directive, tax return, beneficiary forms, all these documents can be easily accessed and shared remotely using Dropbox or Google Docs. If the trustee of your estate needs to have access your financial documents or your adult children suddenly need a copy of your health care directive or some other emergency pops up, your documents are available and easy to get to.

Action Items

  • Test your system to be sure you have a backup plan (as well as a backup to your backup) and that it works.
  • If not, sign up for Carbonite, Backblaze or a similar service.
  • Get at least one, maybe two external hard drives to provide an onsite backup
  • Consider storing some of your most important documents, especially those that someone else will need to access in an emergency, on Dropbox or Google Docs

Don’t be a fool.

Backup your devices by April 1. If you store information on a computer, smartphone or other electronic device, put a plan in place to recover it when it gets lost or stolen.