What’s Your Backup Plan? 

Let’s face it, at one point or another, you’re computer is going to crash and crash hard.  Your hard drive is going to die. It’s inevitable.

And if you’re not prepared, you’ll lose everything! 

You could lose your bookkeeping, your family photos, your iTunes library, your work, the book you started writing…everything.  And depending on how it crashed, you might not be able to retrieve any of it (or all of it).  No matter how much you’re willing to pay.  And trust me, you WILL pay.

I’m not trying to be an alarmist or a pessimist. I’m just trying to help you be prepared for the inevitable.

Computers and computer hard drives weren’t meant to last forever (what is these days?).  In fact, many different factors can trigger a computer’s hard drive to fail.  And though your computer’s age can be a contributing factor, sometimes age has nothing to do with it at all.

We’ve had hard drives crash on many different occasions.  In fact, it happened (again) in our home just a couple months back with our old PC.  If we didn’t do regular backups, we’d have been in HUGE trouble as we would have lost our entire Quickbooks file and, as luck would have it, we were in the middle of finally updating our 2009 and 2010 taxes…yes, in 2011!

Lucky for us we had backups.  And yes, that’s backups with an S.  Trust me when I say…one backup system is not enough.

We subscribe to the 3-2-1 Rule in our home…

  • 3 Backup copies of anything you deem important enough to keep (photos, documents, music library, etc.) in different locations consisting of…
  • 2 different storage media
  • 1 offsite storage site

But before we even begin with the 3-2-1 Rule, I think we should spend a moment talking about “the Cloud.”

Basically, “the Cloud” is the out there part of the Internet.  You know, the “I clicked send and it went out there somewhere and then it appeared in your inbox” sort of out there.  The Cloud is, for lack of a better term, the Internet…the whole of the Internet.

More specifically, it’s the place where you store things out there, on the Internet so you can quickly and easily retrieve them virtually without having to lug around any sort of hard drive.  It’s most commonly refers to where you store files on the Internet…music, photos, documents, videos, etc.

What makes it so great is that you can access stuff in “the Cloud” from any computer, anywhere in the world. You just need an Internet connection (and yes, you can even access “the Cloud” from your smart phone).

If you’ve been using a web-based email or calendar then you’ve been using “the Cloud”.  If you post photos up on Flickr, Picassa or any sort of service to share with your family or friends, then you’ve been using “the Cloud”. And if you’ve used Google Docs or Open Office, then you’ve been using “the Cloud”.

So as you see, it’s not that scary of a place after all.  Just remember, when you are using “the Cloud” for your storage, make sure it’s a secure service.  I have two great resources that utilize “the Cloud” later in the article.

Now, I’ll break that 3-2-1 Rule down for you…

First: Take some time and organize your files.  Create folders where you want to store your different files – maybe one for work stuff, one for that book you’re working on, one for your important family files, etc. And yes, you can put folders inside of folders – a home folder with a subfolder for each member of the family, and medical and insurance folders, etc.  And don’t forget to make scanned copies of your important documents like your passports, titles, deeds, marriage license, etc.  Should anything happen to say your passport, I hear it’s much easier and quicker to replace with a copy of it. We want you prepared for any emergency here including natural disasters.

Second: The default setting for most computers is to autosave to your Documents folder.  Some people think that saving to their desktop (ahem, I’m talking to me…er…you!) keeps things front and center.  I doesn’t really matter which school of file saving your prefer, now organize those folders so that they’re maybe not all living on your desktop or all in the Documents folder.  Remember, the goal here is to be able to “save” as many important (and organized) files as you can, as simply as possible.

Third: Copy any files or folders you might need later to CDs or on flashdrives (these can be purchased in all different sizes so don’t worry that you won’t fit everything on one drive).  Then put these files in a safe place like your firebox or wherever works for you.  This is backup #1 and media storage #1.

Fourth: Transfer all of your files to a backup hard drive that you have connected to your computer (and make sure to set it to do regularly scheduled backups of those particular folders you have decided are most important).  This is backup #2 and media storage #2.

Fifth: Research various “Cloud” or online storage options to see which works best for you and your needs.  We use both DropBox and Mozy and both are free for limited amounts of storage (and both paid options are quite inexpensive compared with the stress and expense of having to send your hard drive or computer off to the repair shop in hopes that the info can be retrieved).  The cool thing about DropBox is that I can also share my files with anyone by simply adjusting the privacy settings and sharing via an invite link (I use a separate account for business).  This is backup #3 and offsite (cloud) storage #1.

And there you have it, your 3-2-1 Plan for keeping your computer backed up and ready to go in the face of any sort of emergency.

Two Final Suggestions:

Look into using a browser plugin that allows you to sync your bookmarks across various computers.  In this day and age, many of us now log on and work off of more than one computer.  If you use an application that allows you to share your bookmarks, you’ll always have access to them no matter what computer you’re on, anywhere in the world (I use Xmarks which works across Google Chrome, Explorer, Firefox and Safari).

I would also suggest using a login and password service like LastPass.  This has been a lifesaver in our home and office life. My husband and I frequently share passwords back and forth.  It also allows me to use his computers and save my logins for future use.  It also allows clients to log in to our secure sites without sharing the actual login info and passwords with them.