Last week, I spoke with an Illinois farmer whose home was zapped by lightning.
He lost some farm data as a result, but the bulk of his records were in the file cabinet, not the computer's hard drive. With space at a premium, I imagine a lot of folks strive to keep only electronic records, myself included.
Once I got off the phone, I ran through a mental checklist as to whether I could recover if my hard drive was gone for good. I quickly realized all of our family photos, including our son's birth, are saved in only one location.
For $120, I left Best Buy with a 500 GB external hard drive. I've subsequently backed up all the family photos and pertinent Prairie Farmer data.
While I'm comfortable with keeping an external hard drive onsite, Scott Fisher, Farm Progress' IT director, points out this may not be the best option if you live in tornado alley. Floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters could render an onsite backup useless.
To protect against such events, he recommends an online backup tool, which allows you to store your data on an off-site server. Willie Vogt, Farm Progress' corporate editorial director, recommends two such online backup tools, www.mozy.com and www.carbonite.com. For an annual fee of approximately $50, your computer's contents are backed up whenever you connect to the web. Oh, and the $50 gets you unlimited storage. Still not sure? According to Vogt, many online backup tools offer a free 2 GB trial.
In addition to backing things up regularly, Fisher says it's a good idea to unplug computers in severe weather and when you leave for more than a couple of days.
Regardless of your backup choice, remember to always keep important data in more than one place. If you're a traditional file cabinet type, consider scanning and backing up important documents. The external hard drive I purchased is a little bigger than a deck of cards.
If you have irreplaceable data at risk, back it up. I'm willing to bet $120 will be money well spent. At the very least, you'll sleep better.
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