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Protect Yourself

“We live in the midst of alarms; anxiety beclouds the future; we expect some new disaster with each newspaper we read.” – Abraham Lincoln

Today, I’m going to give you a Christmas present that I believe you will cherish the rest of your life. Provided, of course, you make use of it. My present comes in the form of advice – but not just any old advice.

Allow me to explain.

It’s always amazed me that most people live their lives on the assumption that worst-case scenarios haven’t yet been invented. But people in New Orleans (Katrina), Florida (nonstop hurricanes), and New York (9/11) can tell you with certainty that they have. Disasters really do occur!

Even so, Murphy’s Law did not come into existence on the basis of an occasional natural disaster. Houses burn down every day, people die without their loved ones knowing where important documents are located, and viruses regularly wipe out computers. We live in a complex world where the loss of valuable documents and other items can change a person’s life – overnight and forever – for the worst.

Many documents are like a spare tire: You may not need them often, but when you do, you need them badly and you need them fast. That being the case, my Christmas gift to you is to urge you to protect both your important hard-copy and digital files.

It’s hard for me to fathom that less than 25 percent of computer users back up their computers on a weekly basis. I have tens of thousands of documents, folders, graphics, e-mails, e-mail addresses, macros, AutoTexts, AutoCorrects, templates, spreadsheets, and other files stored in digital form. I don’t know about you, but I can ill afford to risk losing them.

That’s why I bought an insurance policy against such a loss – for only $130. And, believe it or not, it was a one-time payment. That policy goes by the name of “external hard drive.” On a couple of occasions when my computer died, all I had to do was disconnect my external drive and plug it (via its USB cord) into another computer.

Note that I said external hard drive. If you try to back up to a second hard drive that is internal – a very risky setup that many people have – it’s like sawing the branch off a tree while you’re sitting on the end of it. If your computer is stolen or wiped out in a fire or flood, you still lose everything that’s on the internal backup hard drive.

I should also point out that I’m not one of the 20+ percent of computer users who back up their hard drives once a week. No way. I back up my hard drive every day! Further, I have 14 separate backup folders on my external hard drive, and each night I assign a new date to the folder I’m using for that day. That way, I always have a complete backup for each of the last 14 days.

If you’re chuckling and thinking “anal retention,” you either don’t know much about computers, don’t use a computer to any serious extent, or have never experienced a computer disaster. If it’s the latter, congratulations on your good fortune.

But, trust me, your good fortune won’t last. No one makes it through this computerized world of ours without experiencing a computer disaster. Whether you like it or not, it’s coming. It’s only a question of time … and whether you’ll be ready for it.

Serious computer users also would be wise to look into offsite backup options. This is not in lieu of an external hard drive but in addition to it. A couple of the better known offsite backup services are Pro Softnet Corp.’s IBackup and America Online’s Xdrive. They charge only $10 per month for five gigabytes of storage and $100 per month for 25 gigabytes.

No matter how overboard you go to protect your files, the costs involved are relatively small, especially when compared to the high cost of regret.

So, here’s hoping you accept, embrace, and utilize my Christmas gift this year. The last thing in the world I would ever want to say to you is “I told you so.”