Back in the earlier days of personal computing, the software industry association started a campaign to get people to stop copying commercial software to give to friends.  The slogan was “Don’t copy that floppy!”  While I agree that the copying of commercial software and giving it to others is wrong, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make backups of all our software and everything else for that matter!

The problem is simple to understand.  The issue is not IF your hard drive will crash, only WHEN it will crash.  I guarantee that it will crash at the most inopportune times.

Back in the day when hard drives were pretty small ( less than one gigabyte), a disk crash was upsetting, but rarely the end of the world as we know it.  Now that computers are being shipped with drives ranging from 300 gigabytes on up, the loss of data can be tragic.  I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I lost all the pictures of my Granddaughter – and we won’t speculate on how many gigs those files take!  Then there is my work – books I’ve written or am writing, articles, presentations, etc.  My livelihood comes from materials that are on my computer.

So what do I do?  The answer is to back up all my files on a regular basis – which to me means weekly – more frequently if I’ve done a lot of new work.  And I don’t just back up to one external drive, I back up to two drives that are kept in different physical locations (to prevent loss in the case of one of the backup drives crashing, and/or having my house burn down.

This is an easy and cheap way to sleep well at night.  Terabyte drives are less than $100 these days, and they fit in your pocket.  By alternating between two drives I’m able to keep my data safe.  Because my computer has tons of stuff on it, the backup process takes overnight, but it is easy to set everything up before going to bed, and nice to awaken to a complete backup of my computer.

But I don’t stop there.  My music collection is on my computer and backup drive, but is also stored in Google Music – a cloud-based application that lets me access my music from any computer or tablet in the world.  My pictures are also copied on a regular basis to DVD’s, just in case.  And, as for my tablets, they are backed up automatically to the cloud – something Android does very well that Apple now supports as well with iOS5.

Is this overkill?  I don’t think so.  The reason I’m posting this blog entry is because one of my graduate students just wrote to tell me that her computer drive crashed and she lost all her work on her PhD projects.  Yikes!

So, tonight, I hope you all take my advice to heart and make a backup of every file you value on your computer.  Disk space is virtually free today – surely far less expensive than the cost of attempting to replace your lost work by any other means.