"Make sure you do regular backups," I told our client after we had delivered their new computer. "These little beasts, for all their blinkenlights, aren't as smart as they look, and will occasionally crash."
I say this to every client. Few of them ever listen. As a result, we at BunnyWare Computers get a lot of callback service for people whose hard drives have gone bad, and they hadn=92t saved their important stuff to backup.
I don't mind charging clients salvage fees to spend hours attempting to rescue lost data from drives. And if they complain, I remind them that they could have saved all this money, had they done regular backups like I'd told them.
I tell them all the same thing. It's easy, makes sense, and saves everyone a whole lot of headache. I often show them exactly how to do it, so they can't claim ignorance. (Doesn't stop 'em from trying.)
Make regular backups. Back up to reliable media (usually burn to a CD-RW). Make two copies and store one off-site.
This advice sometimes alters, depending on situation, but for the most part, remains the same.
So, what do we find?
Most don't bother backing up. "I couldn't be bothered." "I didn't know how to make a burn." "I forgot." "I ran out of floppies." And various other excuses.
The more frequent you make a backup, that's all the less you lose. How often to make backups? How much lost stuff are you willing to lose? For the average joe, once a week is fine. For someone like a writer or programmer, you may want to crank out something every few days or so. Businesses make backups every night.
Back up to reliable media. You'd be surprised at how many people back up stuff to floppies, then store them next to their speakers. Speakers have magnets. Floppies are notorious for going bad. Combine the two, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what can happen.
If floppies are all you've got, take care of them. A few of the older computers we've restored have had tape drives. Tape drives are fine, as long as you take care of the tapes. We prefer, use and recommend CDs, especially rewritables. Most of the new computers we build we include burners just for this purpose. They're not just for bootlegging the latest Britney album or Warcraft III.
The one bit of advice that surprises everyone is that I recommend making two copies of the same backup and storing one off-site. So you've been a good little squirrel and make regular backups of your precious stories, angst poetry and precious downloaded pictures of Britney. You burn to CD, and keep it in your filing cabinet, just in case your hard drive goes bye-bye.
But what happens if your house burns down? It's not something anyone wants to think about, but it does happen from time to time. After you've lost your computer, your computer desk and chair, and the floor on which they sat, the last thing you want to lose is years of intellectual property. At least with a backup stored somewhere other than the charred remains of your home, you can comfort yourself from your losses by gazing at your still-intact collection of Britney.
And yet, despite all this, people still forget to back up their stuff.
So, go ahead and neglect your computer backup. Just don't come whining to me when your computer crashes, unless that whine comes written on the back of a rather hefty salvage fee check.