Stop whatever you’re doing. Backup everything. Do it now. No, NOW.
If there is one thing I can say with absolute certainty about using your computer it’s this: IT WILL FAIL.
Duplicate all of your files and put them somewhere safe. Off-site backup is an ideal solution. Homes and offices get burgled, damaged or burned to the ground. Your insurance company will not be helpful in this regard. Get all of your music files, all of your business documents and all of your photos and make sure that if the worst happened to your computer(s)… you would at least be able to cope.
Your USB key doesn’t count. The story of the guy whose laptop was stolen with the USB key still sticking out the side has been told too many times. I’ve had 10,000 word dissertations go that way, only to necessitate a complete 24-hour rewrite from memory.
There are lots of satisfactory ways to back up your important data (and when your business is digital music - what data isn’t?). Personally, I have two external 1TB hard drives. I use Apple’s Time Machine on my Mac to back up to one of them, and every other week I swap it out with the other one. The one that’s ‘resting’ is stored in my office way over the other side of town.
But for smaller files - particularly individual documents and media files you want to be able to find easily again in case of emergency, I recommend webmail. Specifically, Gmail. I’m on a weekly backup regime for this - and I’m tempted to go daily.
After all, Google have spent millions on the best and most reliable servers and hard drive storage money can buy with full redundancy RAID arrays should anything ever go awry. They’re far more secure than your average home, and you can retrieve your data from anywhere. You get about 2 and a half gig of storage with them, and actually - you can have multiple accounts.
I have a Gmail account for my email (I like the interface) and a separate one for backups. I email all my important files there - and the search function makes it really easy to find stuff. Just throw a few keywords into the email before you send it to yourself, and everything’s findable.
I have all this in my calendar, but if you’d like to receive a reminder to back up every so often, then you might want to send your future self an email using the very helpful FutureMe.org website.
Try something like:
Dear Future Me — Stop what you’re doing and back up all the data. No - do it now. This is important. Remember what happened last time. Lots of love, Me.
A version of this post first appeared on New Music Strategies on November 7th, 2006. It’s still relevant - and some people are still experiencing catastrophic losses. Don’t let that be you.