I am returning from a break for not only my medical reasons, but the health of my computer also failed. It started when the computer’s memory went bad and the system crashed in the middle of session, including backing up my files. As a result, not only did the internal hard drive fail, but the backup drive also failed. New memory and a drive repair program later, both the computer and I feel better.

Which brings me to today’s topic: BACKUPS! As a proponent of diving further into electronic publishing and electronic access for numismatics, one of the things we have to remember is to back up our data! Not only should you backup your data, but you must have a plan and execute that plan regularly and in a way that will ensure your data is safe.

Thinking about backups, you might want to consider using the “3-2-1 plan” to do your backups. The “3-2-1 plan” is three copies of your files on two different storage mediums and one backup off site. In my case, I have one copy on my computer that I use daily, one copy on an external hard disk, and the off site copy is using an online backup service where I consider “the cloud” as a different medium. Yes, you do want to back up a copy of your files away from your computer. If there is an unfortunate catastrophic event including theft, fire, or natural disasters (see what is going on in Japan), then the off-site backup becomes critical in saving your important data.

One of the tools I use to ensure I have critical information backed up is to use a service called Dropbox. Dropbox runs on just about any computer and will automatically backs up selected files. To use Dropbox, you create a free account that gives you 2 gigabytes of storage (you can buy more storage, but I use Dropbox for a few selected files), download the software, install it, and copy the files you want to save into your Dropbox folder. When the software detects new files or that the files have changed, the Dropbox software will securely transfer your files to their servers. I found this beneficial when the backup I made before my computer died did not back up the inventory of my collection. When I reinstalled Dropbox on my computer, the software automatically recovered the files from the server.

I do not know what I would do if I lost my inventory files. I could attempt to recreate those records, but I saved myself a lot of time and heartburn by storing it in my Dropbox. Also, by storing the files in my Dropbox, I can access these files using my iPhone. Dropbox also has apps for the iPad, Android phones, and Blackberry devices. Since I have access to these files using my iPhone, I can check my want list at any time without having to carry around paper.

During this crash, I did not lose any of the images I had taken of some of my coins and currency, some that has appeared on this blog. But had something happened, I use an online service called CrashPlan to backup my system. CrashPlan is good for people with more than one computer and can automatically backup your data to CrashPlan’s servers via the Internet. You can also have CrashPlan backup your files to someone else’s computer (with their permission, of course) or to another disk on your home network. It is a great service even for one computer but fantastic for multiple systems. With the unlimited data plan, all of my pictures are backed up off-site. So if something happened, I have an off-site backup with all of my files.

There are other services that work similarly to CrashPlan. For example, a friend uses Mozy on the laptop he uses for business. When he connects to a hotel’s network, his Mozy software will back up the day’s work. Another Mac friend uses Carbonite and gives it rave reviews. You can read a Comparison of Online Backup Services to determine which service may be right for you based on the features and almost all of them offer free trials.

I do recommend keeping your inventory on your computer—I will discuss software for this another time. But if you do have important data on your computer, including the inventory of your collection, then you should backup your data. You should have three copies of your inventory on two different types of backup media and one should be off-site or away from your computer. Do it now because you never know when something will happen.

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