I do not know if Benjamin Franklin actually said this, but it is true. In our current age, I would like to add one more thing, PC Failure. Eventually your shiny new computer (Windows, Mac, Smartphone, tablet, and now even watches), will fail and the data on it may or may not accessable once it meets its technology maker (recycling plant). Because we all know this to be true, we should have some means of protecting that data, but often, this is ignored. Because I work with technology every day, I am aware of the many ways computers can and will fail. I make sure to protect all of my systems, but for the average person, they either do not think of it or there is this belief that the data is not that important.

So what am I talking about? I am talking about backups. A vast majority of people either have no backup plan for their home systems or is so manual that eventually the external hard drive or thumb drive bought is sitting in the drawer of their desk. A solid backup plan takes only a few hours to implement, is completely automatic and, if done correctly, is completely virus-proof, hardware failure-proof, storm-proof, snowmageddon-proof and even toddler-proof. It doesn’t have to be complicated. The plan below is the same philosophy that we use for our business client, just in a smaller form.

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Benjamin Franklin

Components of a Death-Proof Backup System

Any Backup that is not automatic will be ignored. Our lives are too busy to have to remember to backup our computer regularly. Also, if it is automatic, it can run when you are away! The good news is most software is able to be setup to be automatic.
People ignore this option often, but you need to be notified by email when backups are failing. Any software can fail and thus leave your systems vulnerable, but if you are notified, you can attempt to resolve this quickly. For client of ours, not only are you notified, but we are notified so we can contact you and assist if necessary in resolving.
Your backups cannot just be on a hard drive at home. Not only are you vulnerable to home disasters, but often if hit by a power surge, other peripherals, like your drive can be compromised. We also do not like just offsite backups, but if given a choice of only one, these would be the preferred. It is much quicker to recover from failure if the files are on a hard drive plugged into your computer. Also, moving files is much quicker if you have a physical hard drive plugged in.
This is optional, but can be helpful if you need to recover quickly. It is like taking a picture of your computer at one time. Having an image backup will allow you to recover the computer back to the way you saw it when it failed. This option is available on many software plans and does make recovery much easier.
For businesses, we recommend this, but for most home users, it is not as necessary. This allows you to recover a file that may have been changed and those changes need to be reversed.

So what do I use for my home network? I have a WD Mybook (link) plugged into my desktop at home or any other external hard drive will do. Just make sure it has a large enough capacity to hold multiple copies of your hard drive (3-4X your Hard drive space should suffice). I use Acronis to make an image of my computer and save it to the drive. For most though, you do not need an image. The software that comes with your drive or even the Windows Backup can work here. I also subscribe to Carbonite home for $60 a year. This provides a continuous backup offsite. This, I believe is a minimum for any home system. It is not a lot, but I am not worried about losing the years of pictures and work done on that computer. Because it is not practical to have a external hard drive plugged into my laptop, I simply have Carbonite backing it up.

For Mac, I use the built in Time Machine to backup the Mac to a hard drive which provides a continuous image backup and Carbonite for the offsite backups.

There is other offsite backup software other than Carbonite, but we have found this to be the best overall software for price and quality of service.

Regardless, do something. Weekly we are having to recover data off a failed hard drive. Most of the time we are successful, but they all take time and cost more money than having a backup plan would have cost. Then there are times when we have to unfortunately tell a client that the data is either unrecoverable or the drive must be sent to a specialist to recover data for potentially thousands of dollars.