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The Documents You Need: Computer Backup

A computer backup isn’t a document, per se, but it’s still something you should include in your emergency preparations. Once you get in the habit of backing up, it’s a quick and easy way to make sure that your data is safe in case your house burns down or your computer blows up.

Set a Computer Backup Schedule

No matter which method you use for your computer backup, you should set a regular schedule to do it. I backup my computer on Saturdays. It takes two minutes to update the files that have changed. You may want to backup more or less frequently, depending on how often you change data. For example, if you mainly use it for monitoring your finances and sending emails, once a month might be enough. If you’re a heavy business user, you might want to backup every night.

Choose a schedule that works for you and you’ll remember. If you won’t remember, choose an automatic computer backup method to make sure you’re protected.

Computer Backup Methods and Storage

There are a few different backup methods. Choose the one that is best for your needs and then make a commitment to use it. The most common methods are:

Manual DVD Backup

Most people have CD or DVD burners in their computers. Before I got a thumb drive, I would back up onto a CD and then mail it to my parents, who live 400 miles away. I used to keep it in my emergency box, then a small plane crashed into a Los Angeles building. I realized that I was ready for an earthquake, but I would lose my data if there were a fire while I wasn’t home.

Thumb Drive Backup

Rather than a CD, you can also manually backup your computer onto a thumb drive. Mine came with backup software installed. All I have to do is click the backup button on my desktop and it adds any changed files to my thumb drive every week. I keep the drive in my emergency box, but you can also carry it with you.

External Hard Drive

If you have too many files to fit on either of those two options, then you could opt for an external hard drive. It may even come with automatic backup software. Just install it, set the backup time, and it goes. However, you’ll have to remember to grab it if your house is on fire and it’s not in your emergency box. It will be helpful in the more likely scenario that your computer’s hard drive fails.

Online Backup

If you’ve already decided to backup your photos at Carbonite, then you can also backup your files there. At only $49.95 a year, it costs just thirteen cents a day for automatic backups and the ability to access your data from anywhere. You don’t have to worry about grabbing a hard drive on your way out the door and you can store as much data as you want.

What to Backup

You don’t have to backup your entire computer. Software can be reinstalled. Instead, you should backup the following files:

  • Music not on your iPod (this may require a hard drive or online backup)
  • Videos (hard drive or online backup probably required)
  • Photos
  • Word processing documents
  • Email
  • Bookmarks
  • Financial data
  • Address Book (email and personal)
  • Calendar

You could also have two computer backup strategies – once a month for your major media and every day or week for your financial data and documents. Whatever you do, make sure you backup somehow. I’ve had two hard drives fail. We were able to recover my data, but I had two nights of panic about whether or not we could.

If you know of another computer backup method or tool, tell me in the comments. Tomorrow, the emergency preparedness series continues with your financial backups and your tax forms.

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