I hereby declare today to be Back Up Your Data Day.
Today, I recommend doing a backup that you don't normally do. For example:
- If you don't normally back up anything at all, then back up your most important files. Burn them onto a CD, or email them to your Gmail account, or copy them to an external hard drive or to a backup folder on another computer in your house. You could copy them to a thumb drive, but note that thumb drives are easily lost, so be careful. With any of these options, if the files are highly confidential, then you might want to encrypt them first, in any of various ways. One backup method to avoid: best not to just make a copy on the same computer as the original; not only does that not protect you from a hard drive crash, but it may cause problems if you accidentally edit the backups instead of the originals.
- If you're confident that your most important files are safe, then take some time today to back up the rest of your data. Anything you'd be unhappy to lose, make a copy of it. What about your website? Do you edit files directly on the server? If you make a mistake while editing and destroy a file, will you be able to restore it from backup?
- Say you already back up all your files. Do you back them up offsite? Imagine something terrible happens (heaven forfend): your house burns down, or an earthquake or tornado or hurricane or flood or fire or mudslide destroys your office building. Will you lose all your data, both backups and originals? There are online backup services you can use; alternatively, you could papermail a CD to an out-of-state friend; you could get a portable hard drive, copy all your files onto it, and put that in a safe deposit box; there are various other options.
- You already do all of that stuff? Great! Do you have an automated system (or as automated as possible) to run backups regularly? If not, consider implementing one. If that's not feasible, then do one of your non-automated backups today.
My uncle mentioned yesterday that he'd lost a lot of data in a computer failure recently, which reminded me that most of us don't have good backup systems in place.
I use Apple's Time Machine, which is by far the best automated system I've encountered (though it only works on Macs), but that's not an offsite backup; if my house were destroyed while my laptop was at home, that would wipe out most of my data. So today I'm gonna try to finally get around to implementing an automated network-backup system that I started setting up a couple years ago but got sidetracked on.
If you have useful or interesting approaches to backing stuff up, feel free to post them here. But don't let discussing backups distract you from actually backing stuff up.
(As I was waking up this morning, I had a moment of thinking that I really ought to back up my brain, 'cause in the event of a crash or something, I would be really upset to lose all that data. I thought something like "This is ridiculous! Why don't I have a good backup system in place for my brain?" But then I woke up a little more.)