Securing your information digitally is not something one would usually think of as emergency preparedness, but many of us put some of our most important information on our computers and in an emergency this information can be lost. Imagine a house fire, hurricane, flood or other natural disaster. If you were to lose your computer completely, what would happen to everything stored in its files?
With our current technology, many pieces of our lives are already digital, or can be easily converted to a digital format. This information should always have a backup and should be updated if the files change or additions are made. There are four basic types of back up for your data: USB Flash Drive, CD/DVD, External Hard Drive, and online backup service.
USB Flash Drives are small, quick, and convenient. They are easy to transport and have a data retention span of up to ten years. But, due to their small size, their storage space is often quite limited. And, if your home is like mine, they are often misplaced! They are usually kept in the same space as the computer, so unless you’ve placed yours in a remote location, it may also be damaged in a disaster. Also, flash drives need to be manually backed up.
CD’s and DVD’s are small, stackable discs that allow you to have hard copies of your data stored. Depending on the manufacturer and where your discs are stored, your CD or DVD can have a shelf life of 20 to 100 years. Just like flash drives, they require manual backup and can become damaged. I like to make copies of our family videos on DVD and give them to other family members. This makes a great gift, and is a wonderful way to have extra copies should your information become damaged.
External hard drives are simply another hard drive that is kept outside your computer. They usually connect to your computer through a USB port and often have a large capacity for storage. Again, they need manual backup to keep your information current. I use an external hard drive to hold my pictures and videos so they don’t slow down my computer. When I need to retrieve my pictures, I simply connect my external drive and voila!
The last form of data backup is online backup. This is a relatively new technique and has grown in popularity quite a bit in the last few years. Basically, you download the provider’s backup software on your computer, set up the configuration and the software takes care of everything else! Your data will be encrypted so it cannot be seen by others. Many of these services automatically backup the information on your computer and the servers where your information is stored are typically kept in temperature-regulated, tamper-free rooms where it is highly unlikely that your information can become corrupted or stolen. Should your computer go down, all your information would be available by simply recovering the information from the company. Typically, there is a monthly fee involved in this backup system, but in my opinion, it is well worth the cost to know that my information is constantly being saved and in a remote location. I often hook my external hard drive up to my computer so it can also be backed up online. This method will not work without an internet connection and will not be as effective if your connection is often compromised.
Take the time this new year to make sure you have a backup plan for your data. A combination of several of these backup methods will keep your information both close at hand, and safe from harm!