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How Often Do You Back Up Your Computer Files?

(c) 2004 by Cheryl Williams Levey,

Computer won't boot. It acts like it's starting Windows, and then it reboots itself. Over and over and over. It won't finish booting up. Something on the hard drive is corrupted, which could mean a total loss of all data.

How would you feel if that happened to you? Really think about it for a minute. Feel sick? Nauseated? Ready to pass out or throw up? Yeah, so did I at first.

Make a backup! NOW!

When my hard drive failed, I had a backup. It was a week old, but at least I only stood to lose a week's worth of work instead of everything I had ever done in my life. Making a backup was such a pain. I had to have about 20 zip disks ready and spend a couple hours copying to them, and that was just to get my actual files - not applications or anything. So, I only made a backup about once a week (sometimes less often).

But I still panicked when my computer wouldn't boot up properly. It was, after all, a whole week's worth of work! What would my clients think if I had to tell them what I was doing for them was gone?!

Then, I got lucky. The tech guys at my local computer store, who were so nice (and were actually impressed that I even had a week old backup), were able to save my working files to an external hard drive before they took my computer apart to replace the hard drive. It took hours, literally (the entire day, really), but they persevered and gave me my 30 gigs or so of data so I could come home and get back to work even while waiting a week for my computer to be fixed.

Needless to say, I became, by default, the proud owner of an external hard drive. It was a very well-spent (but badly timed) $200 investment. Bad timing or not, I would have paid a lot more for the peace of mind I have now.

Not to sound like a nag or anything, but what's your data worth to you? When was your last backup?

Like I said, I had one, but it was a week old. My excuse? Who has time to do backups? Well, I had to make time to spend the entire day at the computer store - and that was time I would not have had to spend if I had a daily backup.

So think about it. If you don't have time to backup now, what kind of time will you have if you lose everything on your computer? Will you lose your job? I might have, seriously. I have anywhere from one to five freelance gigs going at any given time and that doesn't even count my online business. If I had to tell them I lost everything and didn't have a backup, goodbye clients, goodbye contracts, goodbye business reputation...

See what I mean? I got lucky, seriously. Do you want to take the chance on being lucky? Not everyone is - the tech guys I dealt with said they deal with extremely upset people every day who do not have backups, and more often than not, the data can't be saved.

They said they wished more of their customers would do backups regularly. The importance really can't be emphasized enough if you care about what's on your computer.

For the easiest backups ever, invest in an external hard drive and just copy your hard drive to it as often as you want. Mine has a button on the front that when pushed, will automatically backup anything that has changed since the last time I backed up. I am now in the habit of pressing that button when I stop work for dinner each evening. If yours doesn't have an automatic feature (I would be surprised if it didn't!), you can still start a backup and it would be done in a few hours.

Other backup options include writing to CDs, zip disks, floppies, or other removable storage. Because this is so time-consuming, if this is the route you need to take, you can designate a "working" folder on your machine and put the files you are actively working on and making changes to in it and then (after making a full backup), only backup that one folder each evening. You won't have a backup of emails and such, but at least you'll have your actual work.

The point is, however you need to do it, make a backup - at the very least of just your important stuff - RIGHT NOW!


Cheryl Williams Levey owns, a site
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