If I’ve learned anything at all about life, it’s that disasters really do happen. I’ve always been amazed at how most people live their lives on the assumption that worst-case scenarios haven’t yet been invented. Students of human behavior refer to this mind-set as “normalcy bias.”
The recent rash of tornadoes are perfect examples of what I’m talking about. Not to mention the California forest infernos that wiped out thousands of homes and billions of dollars worth of property. And, of course, in the not-too-distant past, Hurricane Katrina and 9/11.
But Murphy’s Law did not come into existence just on the basis of an occasional natural disaster. Houses burn down every day, people die without their loved ones knowing where important documents are located, and viruses regularly wipe out computers. We live in a complex world where the loss of valuable documents and other items can change a person’s life — overnight and forever — for the worst.
Many documents, both hard copy and digital, are like a gun: You may not need them often, but when you do, you need them badly and you need them fast.
One of the few good things that can come out of the seemingly nonstop disasters sensationalized on television is that perhaps more people will begin to think seriously about protecting their important hard-copy documents and digital files. For example, surveys show that less than 25 percent of computer users back up their computers on a weekly basis.
I have tens of thousands of documents, folders, graphics, e-mails, e-mail addresses, macros, AutoTexts, AutoCorrects, templates, spreadsheets, and other files stored in digital form. And every night, I back all of them up automatically onto an external hard drive. The backup hard drive has allowed me to continue working on another computer for as much as two weeks in an emergency.
Note that I said external hard drive. If you try to back up to a second hard drive that is internal, it’s like sawing the branch off a tree while you’re sitting on the end of it. In other words, if your computer is stolen or wiped out in a fire, flood, or by a killer virus, you still lose everything that’s on the internal backup hard drive.
I have fourteen separate backup folders on my external hard drive, and each night a new date is assigned to a master folder for that day. That way, I always have a complete backup for each of the last fourteen days.
If you’re chuckling and thinking “anal retention,” you either don’t know much about computers, don’t use a computer to any serious extent, or have never experienced a computer disaster. If it’s the latter, congratulations on your good fortune. But, trust me, it won’t last. No one makes it through Cyber Age without experiencing a computer disaster. Whether you like it or not, your cyber disaster is coming. It’s only a question of whether you’ll be ready for it.
In addition to the external-hard-drive solution I’ve mentioned, serious computer users would be smart to look into offsite backup as well. I emphasize that this is not in lieu of backing up to an external hard drive, but in addition to it. Pro Softnet Corp.’s IBackup, America Online’s Xdrive, and Carbonite are three good sources for this service. Carbonite charges only $49.95 per year for unlimited backup.
To put this in proper perspective, think about how many people in recent disasters could have saved all the data on their computers (including important hard-copy documents stored in digital format) for a fraction of what they probably spend on entertainment in a year’s time. If nothing else, then, what these catastrophes should teach people is how important it is to get serious about backing up their computers.
When I say serious, I mean adopting an extreme philosophy toward backing up. No matter how overboard you go to protect your files, the costs involved are relatively small, especially when compared to the high cost of regret. And, as a bonus, you won’t have to take a sleeping pill before turning in for the night.