When something goes wrong with your computer or storage device and you can no longer access your data, a feeling of dread and panic can ensue and lead you to ask yourself the question "why didn't I back up my data?"
We store data – documents, photos, videos, music, emails, contacts, etc – on hard drives and USB memory sticks. Technology is not infallible and hard drives (and flash drives) can fail. Standard hard drives have physical moving parts which over time can degrade and cause faults which either manifest as a spectrum of symptoms, from freeze-ups, random errors, slow-downs, etc., through to complete failure where you are no longer able to access any data. An older hard drive is potentially more at risk, though failures can happen at any time and any age of computer.
Do It Now
As a rule of thumb it is best to keep a copy of your data in at least two separate places. External hard drives are a cheap and easy to use and are great for backing up software. A 1TB USB hard drive costs less than £50 from Amazon. Increasingly Cloud or Online storage solutions are easy to use, affordable and safe.
The Risk of Losing Data
It is worth doing a quick assessment of how valuable your data is to you and what it would mean practically, emotionally and financially if you no longer had access to it. Data can often be recovered from a "dead" hard drive, but this is a specialist service and will cost hundreds of pounds. So prevention is definitely better than cure!
Your Backup Options
Buying an external USB hard drive is a cheap and easy way to backup a lot of data. A 1TB hard drive should cost around £50. Copying the entire contents of your libraries and documents will be quick and you will have a second copy of your data. You would need to regularly copy your data to make sure your backup is up-to-date.
It is possible to compliment manual local backups with keeping a copy of your data in a remote location - in the cloud! This option covers you for the "what if my house burns down" scenario. There are various services available which vary in storage capacity, cost and ease of use.
It is possible to have your data synced automatically, so any data that is created or changed is automatically copied to the cloud - so is always up to date.
Cloud Backup and Sync Options
SugarSync – 100GB $74.99 (£50) per year or $9.99 (£6.50) per month https://www.sugarsync.com/
Google Drive – 15GB free; 100GB $1.99/month - https://support.google.com/drive/answer/2375123?hl=en-GB
Livedrive – unlimited storage from £3/month - http://www.livedrive.com/forhome