This story starts out, as so many do, with three little words:
Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda.
When our apartment was broken into almost a year ago my husband started panicking over getting fired. Why? Not because his laptop, which belonged to his job, was stolen, but because he hadn’t taken the time that Friday evening to back up his files from his computer and several weeks worth of work disappeared. The work from my thesis was gone, as was the previous year’s worth of school papers and other work. My consulting records- my accounts and billing!- all gone. The worst of all were the photos of our kids, which we were afraid we were never going to be able to get back.
Luckily, happily, we were able to rebuild most of what we had lost. My husband was able to retrace his steps thanks to client logs and emails, much of my school work had been group work and thus emailed back and forth. My PayPal records served as a way to rebuild my accounts and we were able to recover many of our pictures from services like Shutterfly.
As things got back to normal, however, I decided never to lose information again, not if I could help. And so I set out looking for the most secure, cost-effective way to do that I could find.
My first choice was my trusty Google account. When I was in the final throes of writing my thesis, I became well and truly paranoid about all my hard work disappearing. So I backed it up in three separate locations: my laptop, my home desktop computer and my computer at work. I would finish working on it at night, note the number of words, and send an email to myself (using the same email thread) with the latest version and the number of words. Then, the next day, I would save it to each of the other two locations. This solution works great for documents where you want to keep the formatting intact- as long as you have the same version of Word on all three computers, for example, the formatting won’t be lost. And of course this is not dependent on having a gmail address- any email address will do. My husband’s and my emails from when we are courting (10 years ago!) are still safe and sound in my Yahoo account (and have been transfered to my gmail account as a precaution).
If you just want to save the information, than find that a solution like Google Docs works wonders. I either save the information in a document, or if it’s a link that I want to hang onto, I just copy it to a spreadsheet I have made for specific topics. Other people like to use Delicious, and I do as well, for links that I want to share with clients, for example.
I was able to recover many of my photos thanks to Shutterfly– or rather, they were never lost in the first place. I originally started using Shutterfly as a way to share pictures of the grandkids with my mom and dad. I create albums for each month and year and can easily upload pictures to them. I have never paid for the service, but I know that my dad faithfully orders prints each time I send them. The one thing I really enjoy about Shutterfly is the ability to make gifts from my photos- don’t tell, but there are going to be some photo themed presents under the Christmas tree and around the menorah this year!
I am also a recent convert to using Dropbox, and boy, do I love it! I took the opportunity to reorganize my digital photos on my computer into month and year based folders like on Shutterfly (as well as deleting all the awful ones, à la Small Notebook) and then I saved the folder to Dropbox. Now I save all my photos to Dropbox, then back up that folder to my laptop and home computer. I figure that the nice people at Dropbox (and Google) will spend more money than I can ever imagine on backing up and protecting their servers, so I feel pretty safe storing my photos there. Another of my favorite features on Dropbox is the ability to share a file or folder with someone. I’m working on a fund-raising project for my sons’ school and before it would have involved a lot of emailing documents back and forth as everybody added her $.02 of edits. This way we know that all the edits are contained to one document and things will (I hope) stay less confused.
Finally, I have one offline trick for keeping my information safe: a USB key. I keep it with me and it has important information like our family photos, a family contact sheet and basic account information. Nothing sensitive, mind you, but the bank address and phone number, how to contact our insurance agent, how to access the Swiss bank account and so on. Again, I hope we’ll never have to use it, but if we do- well better safe than sorry!
How do you keep your important information safe?