Prompted by this post, I have just revisited my backup strategy. You should, too. Here’s what I do. Listen to me. Seriously.
Because I’m on a Mac, I can use Time Machine. Whenever I’m at my desk, my laptop is plugged into a 1TB USB drive and is backed up incrementally every hour. With TM, not only can I immediately recover from “oh shit!” moments, I can also “scroll back” and pick up prior versions of files. (Cost: Free with OSX.)
Because that’s not enough, I also create a complete clone of my internal drive about every two weeks using SuperDuper. I’m sure there are Windows versions of this tool, but the Mac makes it pretty easy. (This utility is also super-handy for hard drive upgrades; $27.95 for the full version.)
Because I work on multiple computers, I also keep nearly all my current files in my Dropbox folder. Dropbox costs money every month, but the peace of mind is worth it. When I make changes to a document on one computer, they’re almost instantly sync’d up to the Dropbox server, and then sync’d down to any other computers I choose to associate with my Dropbox account. This is immensely powerful stuff. Bonus: I can also grab any file from my Dropbox account from any Internet-connected computer simply by logging into the web site. Oh, and there’s even a friggiin’ iPhone client. Booyah. (Free for 2GB; $9.99/mo for 50GB; $19.99/mo for 100GB.)
Finally, I’ve just signed up for Crashplan after basically giving up on Mozy. Mozy was kind of early in this market, but they’ve suffered from software maturity issues on the Mac side pretty much the whole time, and I’m actively trying to find an online backup tool that works not just for me, but also for my company’s mobile professionals. Crashplan looks much better. Like several other tools, Crashplan backs your designated folders up to the server, which is how you get protection from catastrophic issues like fire or (more likely where I live) hurricanes. It also provides file versioning, which is a great boon and hedge against creeping data corruption. The downside (to all such services) is initial backup speed: I’m about two days into a 39-day initial upload. :( (You can pay them to send you a drive to seed your initial backup, but I made the command decision not to bother with the cost.) (Crashplan’s online option for individuals is $54/year for unlimited storage; other options exist for local and even enterprise backup.)
There are two kinds of people: Those who have had catastrophic data loss, and those who will. Protect yourself. If you can’t tell someone clearly how you back up your pictures, your documents, your financial data, etc., then you’re not backing up well enough. Give it some thought. Sign up for a cloud service, and get a big-ass backup drive at the very minimum. The data you save may be your own.