One of the worst things that can happen to the Global Mobile traveler is to lose one or more pieces of gear. Computers, PDAs, cell phones, iPods, and other gear are not cheap. And if your data is more valuable than the device itself, you begin to realize how crazy it is to travel without an adequate backup of at least your most critical files. Following are a few ways to hedge your bets against catastrophic equipment losswhether by theft or simple hardware or software failure.
The time to think about safeguarding your files is before you hit the road. "Woulda-shoulda-coulda" won't help you salvage that presentation you worked on all night. Making a copy of your critical data will not only give you peace of mind, but will also ensure that the show goes on. Unfortunately, most people don't realize how critical backing up their data is until after a system failure.
Before you leave your home on a business trip, back up your entire computer. This is easier said than done, but backing up will save you time, prevent headaches, and defend against other issues in the long run. Although it is beyond the scope of this book to detail all of your backup options, I will point out a few options you should already have available to you.
Backing up Windows XP
Stashed away on your original Windows XP discs are a bunch of utility programs that can assist you in diagnosing problems with your system. The Backup Utility is one of them, and you should become familiar with it. It is your friend, and in the case of a catastrophic equipment failure, it will be your very best friend. The Windows XP Backup Utility isn't already installed on your new computer, and you can't install it using Add/Remove Windows Components either. You have to install it manually by inserting the Windows XP disc in the drive and browsing to the following location:
D:\VALUEADD\MSFT\NTBACK UP (where D is the letter of your CD drive)
Double-click on the file NTBACKUP.MSI to begin the installation.
There are several backup options within the application; check the documentation that shipped with your copy of Windows XP for instructions and tutorials on how to back up your data.
Backup devices and options
Consider using one or more of the following ways to store your most critical data. Utilizing these relatively cheap storage options can safeguard that important and potentially irreplaceable document.
PORTABLE HARD DRIVES
I recommend you purchase an external USB 2.0 or FireWire hard drive. With hard drive prices at an all-time low, using portable hard drives for backing up and carrying your critical data between systems has never been easier or more cost effective. Use this option when you need fast transfer speed and high capacities.
USB KEY DRIVES
Smaller than your thumb, portable USB key drives are currently available in capacities up to 1 GB. These little drives have all but replaced the venerable floppy disk as the method of choice for transferring small (and not so small) files quickly and easily.
CD AND DVD
Don't forget the CD or DVD option when making your decision about which media to use. Recordable CDs or DVDs have become an amazingly cheap option. For smaller files, such as Microsoft Office documents or PDF files, consider using an inexpensive (sometimes as low as 10¢ each when bought in bulk) recordable CD, which can hold up to 700 MB of data. For larger or more numerous files, use multiple CDs or move up to DVDs, which are more expensive (usually about $1 per disc) but can hold up to 4.7 GB of uncompressed data.
With more and more people owning iPods, consider using yours to store data in addition to music. At the heart of every iPod is a high-capacity hard drive. Of course the iPod was designed to store and play back music, but you can also store data on the space that's not occupied by your tunes. Turn on the option to use your iPod as a disk drive from within the iPod preferences screen in iTunes.
ONLINE DATA STORAGE
Another alternative is to consider periodically uploading your most critical files to an online data storage account, or emailing files as attachments to yourself. That way you'll always have a backup copy you can retrieve from the remote server.