Those of you who depend on Quicken, MS Money, and/or Excel to keep your finances on course probably know what I'm talking about. As Gina so succinctly wrote in the Lifehacker article above:
Hard drives fail. It's a fact of computing life. It's not a matter of whether or not your computer's disk will fry; it's a matter of when. The question is how much it will disrupt your life.
I know how much it disrupts your life: a lot. A whole lot. Hard drive failure sucks, sucks, sucks. I've been there, done that, and lost two months of data (and digicam shots of my daughter) to prove it.
It was a lesson I needed to learn, though. And it could've been much worse.
My household has two Dell computers — a Dimension PC and an Inspiron laptop. Before I had the laptop, all I had to worry about was the PC and its data. After its hard drive collapsed (and I'd lost the data mentioned above), I immediately replaced the offending component — and installed a second drive for backups only.
This form of backup (internal hard drive) is fine to protect against hard-drive crashes. But it's worthless against things like burglary or home fire or tornado or other instances where the computer itself could be pilfered or destroyed. The way to shield against that is "remote backup." This is the ideal setup, where backed-up data is kept somewhere separate from your computer(s) ... somewhere very separate, if possible. Like in another state.
Anyhow, where backing-up to CD-Rs and CD-RWs had been a big pain before, and thus done not nearly as much as I should have, the second internal drive made backups quick 'n' easy. Problem partially solved. Until the laptop appeared, of course.
Now my laptop, thanks to its go-anywhere convenience, bears nearly all of our Critical Data burden. It's where my latest version of Quicken resides, as well as all of my financial spreadsheets and self-employment and website stuff. Right now, all this data totals out to about 310 megs.
The laptop has wireless capability, so initially I figured that I could just network it to our PC and use the PC's second hard drive to backup the laptop also.
The problem? Our laptop-to-router-to-PC network (whether wireless or via crossover cable) is S - L - O - W when it comes to moving hundreds of megs of data. Painfully slow. Like "Get ready for 45 minutes of dropped connections and partial uploads" slow.
The way I see it, at the least, I should be backing up my data every other day. And that's not gonna happen when it takes almost an hour to get it done. (It's entirely possible that I'm a Windows XP networking idiot, by the way. Your thoughts and opinions on this, as always, are welcome.)
So yesterday, Lifehacker's article prompted me to look into alternatives. The options, as I saw them:
- Flash drive/thumb drive: I have a small thumb drive now. It's a cheapie version, and pretty slow, too. Also it's not big enough to hold my critical data. A suitable 1-gig flash drive would likely run me just under $90 or so.
- Online storage: I've heard of sites (like Mozy) that act as off-site storage for your data files. I've never tried it this way. I really should, as their offer of 2 gigs of backup space for free* seems pretty nice. How fast is the upload, though? Anyone know?
- External hard drive: Not as convenient as a flash drive, but fast. And it provides hundreds of times more freshly-scented, low-calorie storage. The more I considered it, the more I liked this option. In fact, it's what I chose. Best Buy had recently given me a 12% discount coupon for computer accessories, so I elected to use it to purchase an on-sale, $119 250-gig LaCie external hard drive. Now I just have to decide where I'm going to keep the thing . . ..
So ... since I know all my readers have been much more prudent and industrious about backing up their personal data than I've been with mine, how do you guys keep your financial data protected?
* "Free" as in whatever email you use to sign up for the service will be subjected to a weekly advertising newsletter.