If you have a crash and do not have a backup, data recovery services can take weeks and cost upwards of $3,000. With a little bit of planning, and not too much money, you can save yourself a whole lot of grief down the road.

Previously, I discussed the importance of backing up your files. Now you just need a strategy to go with it!

First, you’re going to need somewhere to store your files. Forget about keeping a copy on the same computer. That’s not a backup, that’s wishful thinking.

External hard drives are cheap, so buy two. You can pick up a 1 TB external desktop hard drive for around $90. Remember, you’re only going to use it for backups.

The second drive is going to be another external hard drive, but a portable one this time. Look for something that’s at least 500 GB in size. It may be worth your while to spend some extra money and get a rugged drive that can take some abuse, such as drives made by AData or LaCie. These drives typically cost around $130.

You’re also going to need some backup software. Windows Vista and 7 have pretty decent backup software already built-in, although I prefer a program called Ace Backup. It’s free, works great, and it’s pretty user friendly.

You will want to create two backup jobs: one that will store files on your external desktop drive, and one that will store files on your external portable drive. Schedule the jobs to run during the night when you’re asleep.

Every morning, before you leave for school or work, unplug the portable drive from your computer and take it with you. Put it in your backpack, or your car, or wherever. Just make sure that it leaves and returns with you. In the evening, plug the drive back into your computer.

As this drive will contain all your personal data, you should also think about encrypting the drive with software such as Truecrypt, so that only you can access your data. Just make sure that you read the instructions carefully before doing so.

You might also consider investing in some online storage. Mozy Backup will provide you with 50 GB of storage for $5.99 per month, or 125 GB for $9.99 per month. While that may not seem like much, remember that you just want to back up your most precious files. Since your files will be “out there” on the internet, again you should look at encrypting your files before uploading them.

So for around $340 total, you can have automatic local and offsite storage with your hard drives, as well as automatic offsite cloud backup. That will be $340 well spent.

This article first appeared in Memorial University’s student newspaper: The Muse http://themuse.ca/2012/10/31/the-strategy-of-backing-up/

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