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Create a Strategy for Backing Up Important Files

Globe Atop Hard Disk Drive

The vast majority of people overlook a very important part of their digital lives: Ensuring their important files, music, photos, and videos are safe.

To do that, these files must be backed up. That means they must exist in at least two different physical places. One set of files on you computer’s hard drive (for daily access and use), and another set on a different hard drive. This second set can be on another disk in the same computer or on a portable disk drive (portable USB drive or maybe a thumb drive).

The safest approach, though, is to have a set that exists outside of your home. This protects your digital files from catastrophic events like fire or flood.

The idea is a simple enough, but implementing this can be a thorough pain in the neck.

Fortunately, online backup service are better and more affordable than ever. There are many solutions with varying degrees of complexity. Power users may enjoy the level of granularity associated with Amazon S3 (cloud storage infrastructure) and a third-party solution like CloudBerry or Jungle Disk, but normal people don’t want to dedicate that much effort and planning. They just want the data backed up.

Trustworthy and comprehensive online backup solutions are not free, but they’re not out of reach, either. Vendors like CarboniteMozy, and Backblaze offer fine solutions for one or more computers with generous or unlimited storage. I useCrashPlan for my remote backup needs. All of these offerings provide a free trial so you can test them and find which works best for you.

The premise is simple. You download and install an application. Configure its settings for things like what files to backup and when to back them up (overnight? whenever there are changes?). Then the application uses your Internet connection to upload your files to the vendor’s servers. This can take many hours or even days, but it happens in the background. You will just need to leave your computer on during that time. Many vendors also offer free mobile apps so you can retrieve your backed up files on the go.

I strongly advise everyone to find some way to back up their important files, especially pictures. Hard drives are replacing our photobooks, and hard drives fail (and can be damaged by fire and water). The cost of this insurance is cheap compared to losing those priceless pictures and videos you have on that fragile hard disk.