Ten or fifteen years ago, you could have gotten away with not backing up your computer. Digital photos and great smartphone cameras we're quite common yet, we still used paper for things, and with the exception of a few things, our lives weren't yet totally on our computers. Fast-forward 15 years, and here we are with portable computers in our pockets. We have thousands upon thousands of digital photos and videos. We communicate through email and messaging. We live on social networks.
And very few of us back all that data up.
One out of every two computer users (which is pretty much everyone) will have a negative computer event in their lives every year. That could mean a computer crashing, a hard drive failing, or some natural disaster like flood or fire taking out your digital devices.
The cardinal rule with backups is three backups on every machine - two on-site and one off. That means you need to have a backup, a backup for your backup, and an off-site backup (either on another HD at another physical location or through a service online like Crashplan).
But most of us won't do it, because we're too busy to do it and too lazy to figure it out. And one day, it will cost you.
Don't let 2014 be the year that you lost everything.
With the cheapness of hard drives these days (even ultra-fast Solid State Drives are coming way down in price) you can get a lot of storage for not a lot of money.
First, identify your needs. If you're a grandparent and have a bunch of documents to keep up with, but not a lot of photos or videos, then you probably don't need a Drobo storage array with 10 terabytes of storage. If, on the other hand, you're like me and you have small children and a wife that documents their every move, then you may need a 2 terabyte drive to backup all those photos and videos. Those are things you can't get back.
Determine the size of your computer and devices. If you have a 500 gigabyte HD on your main laptop or desktop at home, using an external hard drive to store your photos isn't considered a backup. You need those files somewhere else. Make copies of all your important stuff (documents, photos, videos) and have them on a separate HD that you update on a regular basis, like every week. Keep that HD in a waterproof and fireproof safe for extra security.
Utilize off-site services. All of my documents are stored in Dropbox because I have referred enough people to the service that I have ample storage space for project files, Photoshop documents, Word and Excel files, and other things. I know that my computer could be absolutely destroyed and I could fire up Dropbox on another computer and my files would be there. But I don't ever trust services fully either - I make a copy of my Dropbox folder to an external HD every month on top of my weekly backups. As far as photos and videos, you need a copy of those on an external HD, but you can also utilize services like Flickr and Shutterfly as an off-site backup for your photos and YouTube and Vimeo for videos. One bit of advice on that: don't use new services. Only use services that have been established. You don't want to put all your eggs into one basket and have that service go bankrupt or fail. Just ask users of Everpix what I'm talking about.
Make it happen. Write it on the calendar, put a note on the fridge - do whatever you have to do to make a regular backup of your computers and devices. Most devices will back up to your computer and then you can, in turn, restore them from that backup. Most HDs offer plug-and-play features to where you can just plug the HD in and it does its thing to make a full backup. And if you can't figure it out, find someone who can or watch a YouTube video about it.
Again, don't let 2014 be "that year we lost all our family photos."
Back up. Today.