Have you ever accidentally erased an important genealogy file? Has your hard drive ever “crashed” taking all your important files with it? If it hasn’t happened yet, consider yourself fortunate and start planning on avoiding a crisis.
There are several ways to back up your important data, including your genealogy files. All work with either the Windows operating system or with a Mac. In this discussion, I’m only concerned with data. We do not need to back up programs, the operating system, or large media files (movies).
First, you can use the time-honored tradition of backing up your data to rewritable CD’s (or more current DVD’s). My “important” data is currently about eight gigabytes large. That would take ten CD’s or two DVD’s, plus an hour or so for each backup, plus storage. I don’t recommend this option.
Second, you can use a USB flash drive. A 16gb Kingston or SanDisk flash drive will cost about $10-$16, can be used repeatedly, is easy to store (and lose), and will take about an hour (unattended) for the backup.
A third option is to install another hard drive, either internal or external. A 500gb internal hard drive can be purchased from BestBuy for about $65, and they will install it for an additional fee. You can also buy the drive at numerous local and online outlets and install it yourself. A 500gb external hard drive will cost about $80, but plugs into a USB port. Stick with well known manufacturers such as Seagate or Western Digital. This is a good link to installing a drive:
Finally, there is the option of “cloud” storage. With a good Internet connection (dsl or cable), your data is encrypted and stored in large data-servers. Here are my favorites:
     - Dropbox gives you 2gb of free storage, keeps deleted files for 30 days, synchronizes your data between other computers or mobile devices, and works over your LAN. https://www.dropbox.com/
     - Windows Skydrive offers 7gb of free storage, also syncs your data, and allows you access to free Office web apps. http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/skydrive/download
     - Google Drive has 5gb of storage, syncs your data, and allows you to use Google Docs. It has the best search feature. https://www.google.com/intl/en_US/drive/start/index.html
     - Apple iCloud gives you 5gb of storage and is best for heavy iTunes users. http://www.apple.com/icloud/
Each of these companies has a paid option for more storage and other features. Each also lets you access your files through a web-site. There are also many other companies providing cloud storage, such as Carbonite, Mozy, Backblaze, and SugarSync. This link compares several options: http://www.zdnet.com/the-top-10-personal-cloud-storage-services-7000011729/
Of course, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. For example, I have an external drive plugged into my router in another room, an annual flash drive to the safe deposit box, and important files on a cloud storage site.
Here’s a good free software for backups: http://www.2brightsparks.com/syncback/
What to do if I didn’t back up my data?