If you have spent any time at all working on a computer, you have experienced some kind of data loss, either from your computer or program crashing or a loss of power. There are so many ways to lose your work, it is sometimes surprising that we can save anything at all! The more time and effort you have invested in your computer files, the more concerned you should be about backing up your work.
There is another, less obvious problem, program obsolescence. If you have data in an old program format, it may not be able to be read by any of the newer programs. It is not unusual for people to bring me old MacWrite disks and unfortunately, there isn't much we can do anymore to get off the old files.
There are presently a number of different ways to make a backup. Obviously, the frequency of your backups puts a limit on the amount of information you might lose. Here is a list of the common backup media with some comments on each's reliability and durability:
Floppy Disks: If you still have information or files on floppy disks all of this work is at risk. None of the newer computers are being sold with floppy disk drives and it is getting harder and harder to find machines capable of reading the disks. I would recommend immediately transferring all your work to some other media. The old 5.25 inch floppys are definitely outdated and 3.5 floppys are disappearing rapidly.
CDs and DVDs: We are seeing a dramatic change again in this media also. We are now moving to Blu-Ray DVDs and it is likely that the older CDs and DVDs may become obsolete. It is imperative that you check your older files and migrate them to newer technologies periodically. We have also learned that CDs and DVDs do not last nearly as long as they originally were believed to last. Although convenient, this is not the long term storage solution it was once thought to be.
Flash Drives: Also called Thumb Drives, Memory Sticks and other names. These storage devices are currently changing rapidly. Although they all rely on USB connector technology, there is no guarantee that the USB standard will not change. The memory on these small drives in stable but the drives themselves can be lost or dropped and broken. They do fail and are should not be a primary storage option.
Spinning media: Also called Hard Drives. These are presently the most reliable method of backup and storage. The price on hard drives has been steadily decreasing and huge hard drives are readily available and very inexpensive. This is the best option for backup and storage. There is no reason to delay in purchasing an external hard drive and backing up all your files. If you think the cost of the drive is too much, how much is your time worth to recreate all of your files?
Online storage: You can get a certain amount of storage online for free. If you want more space you can rent additional storage at a nominal price. But, you are relying on access to the Internet to get to your backup. Think about it, if your Internet service is down, you cannot get to your backup. There is some convenience factors but this should be a secondary way of backing up your data.
There are other methods of backup, such as tape drives and other options. But they are relatively expensive and also subject to technology changes.
Do your homework, look around and talk to people with more experience. You will soon get an idea of how to back up your work and have a little more peace of mind.