Every couple of months, I get an e-mail from a friend who lost a bunch of files because he/she hadn’t been backing up regularly. I started backing up after the Sex in the City episode in which Carrie gets the sad Mac face and loses all her files. On the show, she bought a Zip Drive. My sister-in-law was working at Iomega at the time and said sales skyrocketed after that episode. I bought one, too, but didn’t back up often enough. My computer did die eventually (as all computers do), and I had to pay to recover the data. Fortunately, it only cost me a couple hundred dollars.
Since then, my husband bought me this massive external hard drive that I had wanted for a while, and I started using Time Machine with that. But then I got it in my head that Time Machine was slowing my computer down (which it apparently wasn’t), so I shut it off. I had this other application running on my computer, File Vault, which I thought spend up my computer (which it apparently didn’t). It turned out that the use of File Vault made it impossible to recover any of the data on my drive. Well, I shouldn’t say impossible. I never took it to Drive Savers, who can recover ALMOST anything, but they’re very expensive ($1500+ from what I’ve heard, and one friend of mine took is laptop there, and they couldn’t recover anything). I took a look at my external hard drive and—doh!—I hadn’t backed up some data (like my Quicken files) for three years! Fortunately, I’d been manually backing up most of it, and I’d been e-mailing the book I was working on to my Gmail account at the end of every day. Because I had 90% of my data, I didn’t bother to try to recover the rest.
But I did start using DropBox after that. You can backup up to 2GB for free, and it’s extremely easy to use. You can access your files from any computer, and if you want to store more than 2GB, you can pay an annual fee. However, if you plan to pay the annual fee, there are other services and some of them are a lot cheaper: Mozy, SpiderOak and LiveDrive are but a few. I haven’t done it yet, but because I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and am paranoid that The Big One is going to knock my house down one of these days, along with much of the rest of the Bay Area, I want all my files backed up onto a service that is not only outside of my home, but outside of California as well. I use SmugMug to store all my photos, but I’ll probably sign up for Spider Oak soon.
All this to say, BACK UP. Take a few minutes to open a DropBox account, e-mail your most important docs (or upload them if they’re not huge) to your G-mail account, run Time Machine, do whatever you need to do, but do it TODAY because there is no warning before the sad Mac attacks your computer and everything is lost.