Prepare for Disaster

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Prepare for Disaster

Hard drive failure is fact of life. And I mean that. It’s a fact. No hard drive will last forever. But if you’re like a lot of folks, you just hope that failure is destined to come far after you upgrade and can copy files over to your new machine. But unfortunately, that’s not always possible.

Almost all modern creative professionals quite literally live and die by their computers. We design, illustrate, edit photos and do research on them. And where does all this information end up? On a hard drive. A piece of equipment that’s eventually going to die and render all that hard work useless. That is, unless you have a backup plan.

While it’s incredibly easy for a lifetime of work to be lost to a failed spinning metallic platter, it’s also equally easy to infinitely copy that same body of work.The first part of your backup plan needs to be a local backup. This comes in the form of an external hard drive. Unlike internal drives, there’s no configuration or installation. Just plug in the USB cable and you’re got a new hard drive. (my go-to for all things electronic) has a range of drives with most 1TB drives under $100 and 2TB drives nearing closer to $150.

Along with this new drive, you’re going to need some software to do the backups for you. Both Mac and Windows users have utilities built into their OS that will do the dirty work for them  on a regular, scheduled basis. Macs have Time Machine and that’s pretty much the beginning and end of your needs. It’s a robust, but simple to use application that runs stealthily so you’ll never know it’s working until you need it. Windows machines also have a built in back-up utility that you’ll find in your control panel. One of my favorite third party apps is CrashPlan. Aside from cloud backup (which we’ll get to), it allows you to back-up to local drives as well as a friend’s remote drive. All for free.

At this point you’ve got two copies for your stuff: one on the main hard drive and one on the backup. Should be good right? Not quite. These two hard drives are still sitting right next to each other. This means floods, leaks, hurricanes, power surges, and thieves can wreak havoc on ALL your data. Francis Ford Coppola learned this the hard way. For this reason, you need to keep a remote back-up.

The old school way of doing this was burning everything to CDs or DVDs or copying to a removable drive and putting them in a safe deposit box or at a friend or relative’s house. Kind of a pain and you’ll always have a gap between what’s backed up and what you’re currently working on.

This is where cloud back-up comes in. There are a number of services that do just this. Many have limits on upload or are pay-as-you-go. I like the unlimited options. For around $5 a month or around $50 a year you can get unlimited storage from companies such as Carbonite or BackBlaze. But my money is on CrashPlan.

This is the same company I mentioned above. Not only do they have great backup software, they have equally awesome service for as little as $3 a month if you buy a few years’ worth (which I did when they had a sale a year or so ago.) But no matter which you choose, you’ll have a small client that runs on your computer and constantly checks for changes and new files and just updates those files. One thing to know is that your first backup could take weeks. Yes, weeks. Depending on how much data you have to upload and how fast your connection is it could be a while until you know you’re truly secure.

There’s really no reason not to backup. You’ve got too much on the line to trust your files to products with a failure rate that sometimes tickles the double digits. Go get backed up!

Photo by Jon A. Ross – CC BY

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