Backups: Free or cheap... and priceless

Dave Wright - Web ManagerWritten by: Dave WrightWeb Manager

If you're reading this, take some time right now to back up your files - or, if you don't have the time to do it today, add it as an appointment on your calendar.

I'd say "you'll thank yourself later," but hopefully you'll never be in a situation where you'll need them. Backing up computer files and other digital documents is one of those things that people don't usually think about until it's too late. The consequences can range from mildly inconvenient to totally devastating.

I had a close call once, in the mild inconvenience category. An external hard drive of mine just suddenly stopped working. Many of the files were only on that single external drive, with no copies on my computer or other external drives. Of course, at that point my hindsight came into 20/20 focus. Of course I should have had all of the files in multiple locations. I should have picked up another external drive, and copied everything to both places. Everything would have been fine.

I called around to a few data recovery places and received some estimates in the $300-$400 range to simply “take a look” (with no guarantees). This is on a hard drive that cost $100 at most. It wasn't worth the gamble for me at that point, so I shelved the drive and moved on.

At some point, it occurred to me that there are two parts to an external hard drive - the drive itself, and the external enclosure - and that maybe the drive was fine. I had already written it off as a total loss, so I figured there wouldn't be any harm in cracking open the enclosure to pull the bare drive out. So that's what I did. I spent around $15 on some cables to connect a bare drive to a USB port, and   - voila! - the drive was fine and I copied the data I wanted.

My situation could have been worse, as you can imagine. Take a few minutes to think about your data, and imagine a few worst-case scenarios. What if you dropped your phone in a river? What if you get home tonight and your computer just doesn’t turn on?   Do you have important data on a thumb drive in the top drawer that could easily fall behind the cabinet?

Next, think beyond hardware. Do you have data in the cloud that you don't have anywhere else? Are there important items in your Gmail account, Google Drive, Dropbox, Facebook, or other web-based platform, that you should back up? An online tool like IFTTT can help tremendously with backing things up using tools to sync files from one service to another — like syncing all your Facebook photos to your Google Drive account, for example.

What about your website? Does your hosting company back up your site, so in case something goes wrong, you can revert back to a previous version? If you're not sure, you need to check with them, just to be on the safe side. All that time, money you spent with your web designers, SEO company, graphic designers and advertising and marketing agency in Phoenix AZ or elsewhere, could be gone forever. Or at least it might cost quite a bit of money and aggravation to recover or rebuild that site and the associated marketing elements.

Clearly, there are many places we keep data electronically these days and the bottom line is that nothing is 100% secure. You know that accidents happen. Humans make errors. Technology crashes. Be as vigilant about backing up your information on a regular basis as you are about brushing your teeth. I guarantee that your future self you will not be sorry that you spent the extra few minutes of effort today.

Dave Wright, Web Manager at Avenue 25 Advertising & Design, assists our clients every day with technological challenges. He is a firm believer in building things the right way — whether it is as complex as a custom website design and development or as simple as setting up email accounts on multiple digital devices — to assure smooth sailing and avoid challenging issues. He also assists with search engine optimization and online advertising and marketing of websites.