It’s the beginning of the school year and hopefully everyone’s off to a good start. As classes heat up, don’t forget to establish an easy and reliable backup plan for all of your digital life.
Here are some basic must haves:
1. A continuous offsite backup like Blackblaze, Carbonite, Crashplan, or another reliable hard drive backup service. For those of you who are thinking about the cost of these services (like most students), you can fake continuous backup using free services like Dropbox, Copy, Google Drive, Media Fire, and many more. Just make sure you put all of the files you want to be continuously backed up in the sync folder that is installed on your computer. These backup systems are continuous because they automatically back up anything in your synced folders. They are offsite because your data is stored on the servers of the company you choose to set up the service with.
Personally, I think that the money spent on dedicated services is well worth it (especially if you’re working on a dissertation), but you have to know your budget and what works for you. I actually use multiple continuous services but choose which files sync to which service. (My dissertation research is backed up in about 4 different places.)
Most of these services have mobile apps so you can access you files from your computer or mobile device.
2. An external hard drive that is at least as big as your computer hard drive (preferably bigger if your tend to fill your computer HD). Buy one and backup to it regularly. The key to external HD backups is to make it as easy on yourself as possible. If not, you’ll find yourself a month late on your backup and if something would happen you’d lose a month’s worth of work. I recommend backing up at least once a week and more often if you do a lot of work on your laptop. I also recommend mirroring your drive so you can do a system restore, which is faster that manually reinstalling everything and transferring files. One thing most people don’t think about is the need to store this drive somewhere that you don’t typically have your computer. For instance, if your computer is typically in your apartment or dorm when you’re not using it, store your external hard drive in your office or a friend’s apartment that way if something happens (i.e., flood or fire) you don’t loose both hard drives.
3. A Flickr account. Flickr gives you 1 terabyte of free storage for free which is good because photos and videos tend to take up a lot of space. (For those who don’t know 1 terabyte is 1000 gigs which is twice the size of a typical laptop hard drive.) You can easily store photos and videos on Flickr. Unfortunately, your photos and videos aren’t currently the easiest to export from Flickr, but at least your data is backed up. Another great thing about Flickr is you can automatically upload the pics and vids taken on your phone so you don’t even have to think about this. If you sign up for an account, make sure you’re comfortable with your sharing settings as you have options regarding whether your photos are added as public or private.
That should get you started. There are more things you can do to be safe, but if you do the three things above you should be off to a decent start.