As I was preparing to write this blog post, I kept reminding myself that the content that I present not only has to be relevant but like all good lessons – should provide some type of “now you know” element. I refer to the latter because I’m a firm believer in the notion of when you know better, you do better. So, here it goes…
I’ve worked in the software industry for a few years and as such the terms back up, data security, encryption and the cloud are ingrained in my vocabulary. Having said that, I do realize that not everyone has a frame of reference to these terms. However, regardless of where on the “tech savvy” spectrum you fall, it would be devastating to permanently lose family pictures or business critical files. I think that most of us function on the notion that bad things happen to other people.
How do you re-build your life when you have lost everything? Admittedly, I have no reference to Katrina or Sandy-level devastation but I have been forced to evacuate my home, a couple of times.
The first time was as a child growing up in Ethiopia, Africa – a continent where civil unrest and military coupes are all too commonplace. When the rebel militia overtook the capital city, all foreign citizens were forced to flee so we would not get caught up in the fighting, looting and pillaging. I remember so vividly, watching a barrage of planes from other countries landing on the airstrip, loading their citizens, re-fueling and taking off. I remember holding my baby doll under one arm while my other arm was locked in my mother’s grip and we ran through the airport and out to the airstrip to make sure we got to our plane in time. It was definitely a character-defining moment knowing that bad things don’t happen to only “them” but can happen to everyone – especially when you least expect it. Thinking about it events now, as a parent, I can only imagine the terror that my parent felt about not only our lives but also having to leave everything except what we could fit into one suitcase. We had to leave all our pictures and other files. We did end going back once the government had stabilized and our home had not been touched and we were able to keep all our pictures – but what if we hadn’t?
The second evacuation took place this past summer during the height of fire season. The fire by our house had been started by some reckless kids while they were target practicing. Dry scrubs, temps in the upper 90s and thoughtless actions started a fire that quickly got out of hand and spread faster than could be contained. By the time I left work and got to the police barricades, I was told that I had 15 minutes to get what I needed before the police would come looking for me. So I sped home, grabbed my dogs, cat, a box of important documents (passports, birth certificates, etc), clean clothes for one day, our external drive and headed to the designated Command Center. As an adult and a parent – this evacuation forced me to re-evaluate my preparedness level.
While in panic mode, you are faced with having to choose which items are your most prized possessions. Do you grab family pictures off the walls or a box of picture albums? How about all your “life” documents – social security cards, passports, insurance documents, etc.? If you store those critical documents in a safe – is the safe portable?
Speaking from experience, here is my advice on how to safeguard critical documents and files:
Scan, scan…and scan again
Scan documents or pictures to the hard drive of your computer. Scan your social security card, passports, birth certificates, marriage licenses, and insurance certificates…I would even scan a copy of your dog’s rabies certificate! If you think you’ll need to re-build your life, then scan it. So if you ever needed to grab just one thing, you could grab your laptop or computer.
Plan B to your Plan B
Although incorporating an external drive into your overall back up plan is a good start – things can happen to your external drive. Your external drive could melt in a fire or have severe water damage or you could lose it …. then what? So my suggestion is storing all those critical files to a back up solution provider. For a very reasonable price, you can back up files directly from your computer or from your external drive – either way, you will have secured a long-term viable option to backing up family pictures, critical life documents and business-critical documents.
Shash Cates is the Creative Project Manager on the Mozy Marketing team.