Nerds tend to have more data than non-nerds. Well, perhaps not entirely true. Nerds tend to have more irreplaceable data than non-nerds. There are at least three reasons for this:
- The things that nerds do in both professional and spare time tend to be things that produce data.
- We tend to place the "irreplaceable" goalposts just a little further apart than our non-nerd counterparts.
- Nerds never, ever, ever lose their data!
"What," I hear you shout, "never?! Witchcraft, surely!"
No friends, not witchcraft. A mere injection of careful planning has resulted in every email I have received since 2001, and every personal programming project since 1999, being safely stashed.
Redundancy is a good thing. It's also the key to protecting your data. In short, the question you need to ask yourself is "how many things need to go wrong before I will have lost something?" If the answer is "zero" then you have my commiserations on your recent data loss. If the answer is "one" then I'll hold on to my commiserations for the few months you have before you'll need them.
Some examples of things that might go wrong:
- a hard drive unexpectedly tests out its self-dismantling feature
- a lightning strike causes everything plugged into your computer to release its magic smoke and become non-functional
- your house burns down
- your city becomes infested with velociraptors requiring you to flee for your life
In the first case you're going to be saved by that USB drive that has a copy of everything. In the second case, said USB drive is a molten pile of slag. As the situation gets more dire, you need copies of everything, and you need them to be far enough from harm's way. At least one copy needs to live outside of your home - if you're lucky, you'll have time to grab the family photo albums on the way out the door when the martians attack. How likely are you to remember to grab your PC?
Ideally we'll have two spares of everything though. One will be on hand, available immediately if things go wrong, and kept right up to date. The other will be as far away as possible. In another city is good. On another continent is better!
Ok, so you've assented to making a copy of everything. Maybe I've even convinced you to store that copy at a friend's house, just in case. Are you going to remember to switch out a fresh copy next week when you've transferred your cousin's wedding photos off your camera? How about next month, or next year?
For all of the complaints people may make about the reliability of computers, things which are automated tend to actually happen. Ok, you might mess up the settings by accident down the track, but your computer isn't going to just get bored of this whole "backup" thing and watch Big Bang Theory instead.
Ok we're convinced, how?
You'll be shocked to find out that the Next Studio office is backed up by a slightly overengineered miracle. A few backup services have sprung into existence in recent years though which will let you have almost the same level of protection for your home PC as long as you're hooked up to a decent internet connection.
The options below share a lot in common. In general terms you install their software, and it will first copy all of your files to that company's servers, and then regularly check what's not up to date and copy it up.
Carbonite have a local presence, including a local phone number of you need some help. For around $70 per year they will back up as much data as you can squeeze on to a single PC.
Backblaze is another very similar option. Taking a "copy everything just to be on the safe side" approach means that their software really needs no configuration, and at $US50 per year they're cheap.
The option I've gone for myself is CrashPlan. They're a touch cheaper than Backblaze (about $US40 per year, or double that for up to 10 machines in the same household). Their software handles keeping a local backup copy (either on your own computer, another computer in the home, or over the internet to a friend's computer) at the same time as keeping a peace-of-mind copy stashed safely in the US. Getting set up was about as disappointingly non-nerdy as I can fathom, and after 3 or 4 days of all my stuff being automatically backed up during downtime I'm all backed up and ready to go.