Back up your stuff
At some point, you’re going to lose your digital stuff. Computers and mobile devices (phones & tablets) die. Glitches and viruses happen that will wipe your devices or lock you out. You might lose or have your devices stolen. The point that I’m trying to make is that you will at some point lose your stuff. You need to back it up.
Backing up your data also gives you a potential defense against ransomware, which encrypts your data and demands you pay to get access back. Instead of paying up you can wipe your computer and restore your stuff from your backups.
One possible way to prepare for this is to develop a device agnostic policy that allows for ubiquitous access to your data. This is the way that I approach my work, and the tools that I use. This is because I’m always using different devices at different places. I want to make sure I can access anything…anywhere.
Regardless of the tools, devices, and platforms you choose to use, make sure you set up a plan to back everything up.
The rule of three
A good rule of thumb is to have three copies of all files…especially the files you cannot live without. This means that you have the original file on your computer, a local backup, and a backup in another location. This alternate location might be a family members house, file cabinet at work, etc.
The first thing that I do, is buy an external hard drive. You can plug this into your desktop or laptop computer and back everything up using the software that is usually preinstalled on Macs and PCs. Time Machine on a Mac, and Windows Backup on a PC will take care of everything for you.
You can get a 2 terabyte (TB) external drive for around $60 on NewEgg, Amazon, WalMart, Staples, BestBuy, etc. I have three Seagate portable, external hard drives and use them for a variety of purposes. I can back up my MacBook, drop it in my bag, and bring it to work, bring it to a conference, etc.
If you purchase an external hard drive, and back up your files to this hard drive, that means that you now have two copies of your files. You have the original file on your computer, and a copy of that file on the external hard drive. Now, you need to create a third copy and save it somewhere else. You want it to be away from your house or office. If you have some sort of catastrophic event (fire, flood, burglary) you want to make sure you don’t lose everything if/when the computer and external hard drive are lost.
One option is to regularly save your files to another external hard drive, and leave it at the house of a friend or family member. This requires that you regularly make sure you update the hard drive…and you trust this person. 🙂
I choose to back up my materials to the cloud. I do this by backing up all of my files to Google Drive, and/or Dropbox. You can also pay for an online service to backup your materials and make sure you don’t lose anything. Backblaze has received high marks from Wirecutter as their top backup service.
If you have your original file saved to your computer, and a second copy on an external drive, and a third copy saved online…you should be safe and have followed the rule of three.
Photos and videos
Up to this point, we’ve discussed backing up files and for most people they automatically think about documents such as Word docs, PDFs, and other files they usually save on their desktops or laptops. But, if/when you lose data, the first (and only) pain point typically is your treasured photos and videos.
I had this happen to me while traveling between conferences over one summer. My laptop started to die while in Boston for a weeklong conference. Flights, taxis, hotel rooms, and messenger bags will kill even the most robust computer.
I didn’t care about the files, even the presentation materials for my talks. My main concern was the photos and videos that I could never replace. IMHO, everything else is not as important.
Keep in mind that most of our habits regarding taking photos and videos has changed and we’re predominantly using mobile devices. For this, I recommend using Google Photos to backup an unlimited number of photos from your Android or iOS devices. The setup is super simple. You can upload photos to the website and they’ll get backed up to Google’s servers. You can also add the app to your devices and new photos will sync to the cloud while you’re on wifi.
You can use Google Photos to back up video…but it’ll eat into your Google Drive storage. I’d recommend taking some time to review all of the killer features in Google Photos and make sure you aren’t stuck wondering if you’ve lost these treasures.
Keep yourself safe by backing up your information
It’s not a situation of if…but when…will you lose your digital information and content. This could be for a variety of reasons, but at some point, your devices will fail. You need to make sure you have systems in place to protect you.
These systems will give you some solace in those instances where you lose your stuff when your devices are lost, fail, or crash. Backing up your information is a relatively simple process…but you’d be surprised how many people don’t follow through. Be safe. Take 15 minutes and go back up your devices and content.
Make sure you stay informed. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter to be the expert in technology, education, and literacy.