Consider Digital Photos, Music On Your Home Computer for Hurricane Preparedness

As the hurricane season in the Atlantic brews, it is a good time to check your stash of batteries, non-perishable food, and medications. Also decide how you are going to keep safe your personal digital photos, music, and scanned family heirlooms such as children's pre-school art or letters from your grandfather to your grandmother during WWI. These are the kinds of items that in a natural disaster, fire, flood, or a hard drive crash--the most common issue to occur on your computer--seem to be the most cherished of things lost.

If you were to lose all documents on your computer, a data recovery service could cost anywhere from $500 upwards of $2500 to recover your files--if it is even possible to recover the data. To figure out which data backup solution is best for you, first take an inventory of what files on your computer you would want or need to access if your computer crashed or was destroyed. Keep in mind that there are many services that you already use online or “in the cloud” (on the company's server) that keep your account information and documents such as online banking websites, email such as Gmail or photo services such as Shutterfly. You may not need to “backup” (or make a copy) of these files. The number one request for recovering files on home computers is usually photos, then music and finally documents. But inventory all files that are important to you.

There are several ways you can backup your digital files. While you may think that the easiest would be to copy files to CD or DVDs, this can become tedious, costly, and time consuming as your collection grows. If you have many photos that can be considered “large” (over 2 MB each), many music files, or are consistently adding to your collections, you may want to consider storage options that give you a bit more space, flexibility and allow you to set an automatic backup schedule.

  • Flash or External USB Drive. Depending on the size of your collection of files, this could range from a 4GB flash drive up to an external drive which can hold up to a few terabytes of information. For between $80-$200 you can purchase up to 2 terabytes (2 TB) of space on an external hard drive that can accommodate most casual photographers and music lover's photograph and music libraries. For reference, 1 TB can hold approximately 250,000 songs or just over 1,000,000 photos from a digital compact camera. With either the flash or external hard drive you have to remember to set a schedule to periodically copy your files over to the attached drive or install software that does it for you. And in the event of a disaster in your home, you would need to also remember to grab this drive and bring it with you. One benefit to having your files on an external hard drive is that they will be available immediately. However to ensure that the data is kept in a safe environment, the best practice is to also have them backed up off site.
  • Off site backup. If you would prefer to have your files saved automatically in an off site location (and usually backed up in several physical places), you should consider a backup service such as Mozy, Carbonite or iCloud. For a monthly or annual service fee you can choose how much space you want to have available and have your documents and files sent to their server with automatic or scheduled backups. These services have a high level of encryption and security standards for you to consider. Many even have mobile access available and can capture email accounts such as Outlook. Depending on the amount of data that you have, the restoration can take some time to perform. If you need your files quickly, the best practice is to also have them backed up on a local external hard drive.

Knowing that you will have your digital files available for you after a disaster or a hard drive crash is a great feeling. Regardless of which backup solution you choose, setting up your system now and not waiting for a catastrophic event to occur is crucial.

Martin Joseph has been an expert in the IT field for over 25 years and is the president of 360IT PARTNERS that serves Small and Medium Businesses with IT services including data backup and disaster recovery. He can be reached at martin@360itpartners.com or at 757-499-6761.