Back up your stuff

Recently, a friend posted a status update on Facebook that her external hard drive (EHD) had failed. She’d had the EHD for about three years and it was almost full. She was devastated–three years of pictures, documents, scrapbook layouts, and kits were gone. She contacted a computer repair company who gave her a quote of $1000-$1200 to try to recover and restore the EHD contents–with no guarantees that they’d be able to retrieve all of it.

Her story, as awful as it sounds, is all too common. I’ve heard many stories over the years from people who’ve lost all of their photos, documents, digiscrap supplies, videos, music libraries, and so on. And I admit, I’m not always the best at remembering to back things up. But I’ve gotten better at it.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to protect yourself: Back up your stuff. There are numerous ways to do so. I’ve outlined a few of them below; some are free, some are paid services. If you’ve got others, please share them in the comments.

Photo-sharing sites. Sites such as Shutterfly, Snapfish, Flickr, and Picasa allow you to upload photos and create albums. You can also share your photos and albums with others. Some the sites allow you to print your photos and have them delivered to you or, in the case of Shutterfly, you can place the order and pick up the photos at Target. Drugstores, like Walgreens and CVS, also have the same options and can mail your photos to you as well.

Printing centers. What about full-size layouts? Many of the sites above can be used for storing your layouts. My advice though is to upload them where you’ll be getting them printed. (I get all of my layouts printed at Persnickety Prints. Their customer service and quality are excellent.) Warehouse stores, like Costco and Sam’s Club, have in-store photo centers where you can get your layouts printed.

Online file hosting service. There are many out there (like 4shared, MediaFire, Box) and which one you choose to use really is a matter of personal preference. I recommend Dropbox. It’s easy to use, has a great interface, and allows you to have both public and private files. You can get a 2GB account here free and have the option to purchase more storage space if you need it.

Online backup services. These services, such as Mozy and Carbonite, run at a scheduled time, usually when the computer isn’t in use (e.g., the middle of the night). There is a fee associated with this type of service (starting at a few dollars a month). Some internet service providers include this as part of your monthly service; check with them to see if it’s included as part of your service.

CD and/or DVD. This option can bring you some peace of mind. It’s easy to burn a CD or DVD of your stuff and relatively inexpensive. However, CDs and DVDs can fail, too and there is the issue of physically having to store them somewhere.

EHD. Like CDs and DVDs, EHDs can fail. Their cost is pretty inexpensive in comparison to how much storage you get though.

Whatever method you choose to use to back up your stuff, make sure you use it regularly. Pick a date each month (mine’s the 15th) on which you’ll back up your stuff. Over time, it will become a habit–a good habit.