Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Natural disasters remind us that are computers, among other things, are at risk. I'll look at protecting your computer and more importantly, your data.
With the passing of Hurricane Irene where I live (my home was spared any damage), what do you suggest is a good plan to protect your data and your hardware from these storms?
That's actually a scenario that many people overlook until it's much too late. I'm not talking about hurricanes specifically, but any disaster that could take out all of your computer equipment at home.
There are a few things that we can do to protect the hardware, but in all honesty, that's not the most important thing.
It's not the most important by far.
Let's face it: hardware can be replaced.
I'm not sure that there's anything specifically that you can do that's reasonable to protect your hardware from an extreme natural disaster. Be it a hurricane (as you've described), an earthquake (as the area that I live in is at risk of), or something as simple yet disastrous as a house fire. Unless you keep your hardware in a waterproof bomb shelter, there is going to be something that could potentially destroy it all.
That being said, surge protectors are inexpensive and easy and should probably be used by just about everyone. Lightning arrestors and related equipment should definitely be used by those in lightning-prone areas. Uninterruptible power supplies (UPSes) are definitely worth considering for those whose homes are prone to power issues or those who need to keep their machines running after the power goes out.
But as I said, it's difficult to protect all of your hardware from all possible disaster scenarios.
And to put it bluntly, that's okay. Hardware can be replaced.
What's not okay is losing your data. That can't.
I talk a lot about backups here on Ask Leo!, mostly because I hear so often about people that have lost extremely important things due to common mistakes and failures.
Very common mistakes and failures.
So I would hope that at a minimum that you already have some kind of backup regimen in place. My preference, of course, is an automatic full and incremental backup of your entire computer.
The problem with those backups, however, is that they tend to be very large and typically require an external hard drive or even another computer for storage. As a result, they remain on site. That means if something happens to the site - meaning your home - both your computer and your backups are at risk.
That's where off-site backups play an important role.
Typically, an off-site backup is a backup of only your data and not the system, installed programs, configurations, or personalizations. A backup that would contain all of that, essentially a backup of your entire computer, is typically much too large to transfer over a typical internet connection in any reasonable amount of time. As a result, off-site backups tend to focus only on your data.
The criteria for an off-site backup is very simple: you should backup all your data that could not otherwise be reconstructed should your computer and at home backups be destroyed. That means your important files, financial records, photographs, videos, and so on. As I said, anything that would be permanently lost if all of the computer equipment, backups, CDs, DVDs or whatever at home were suddenly lost.
There are several alternatives:
I think that it's important for any backup to be automated and that includes off-site backup. With that in mind, that makes a very strong case for online backup services as a solution for this problem. True backup services, such as Carbonite, Mozy, Jungle Disk, and others, are specifically designed to backup the data, and only the data, from your computer to their servers at some remote location. As a convenience, many then also offer the ability to then access your data via a secure Web connection from any computer on the Internet.
Another alternative are services like Dropbox and several of its competitors. Dropbox is billed as a data-sharing service that allows you to share files across multiple computers and with other Dropbox users. As a side effect, those files are also stored on the Dropbox servers, effectively becoming off-site backup. Depending on how much data that you have, their free plan might even suffice.
Often overlooked is that if you have your own website through an ISP, hosting service, or other website provider, it's very possible that you have the ability to store a significant amount of data online. The trick here is to come up with a solution that is both secure and allows you to automate backing up your important data. Unfortunately, for this kind of scenario, you pretty much have to roll your own solution.
Other non-automated solutions include periodically copying important files to some sort of media that can then be taken somewhere else. In the past, when my wife had a retail business, data would be stored on a pair of external drives, one at that business and one at home. We would simply swap the drives periodically.
What most people think of is simply writing important data to CDs flash drives and the like and taking or sending it to a friend or family member periodically, or storing it in a safety deposit box at the bank. These are all viable solutions as long as they happen religiously on a regular schedule.
The bottom line is that computers can be replaced but your precious data cannot.
If something happens to wipe out all of your computer equipment at home including all of the backups that you have so carefully created, you truly have lost everything if your data is also not stored somewhere else. Depending on your needs, there are several solutions for implementing an off-site backup and I strongly recommend that you do so.
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