Traveling with a computer isn’t always easy. In addition to finding open outlets, converting power sources when traveling overseas, and connecting to the Internet… there’s always the fear that your computer could get damaged or destroyed all together. And that’s what I want to talk about today! – The complete and utter destruction of your computer when traveling.
If you are anything like me, you know that you are supposed to back up your computer on a regular basis. But when was the last time you actually did it?
I’ve been an on-again, off-again back up artist for some time now. But a few weeks ago I experienced an event that has since turned me into The King Of Computer Backups.
You see, I was working on my computer in the apartment I rented in Luzern, Switzerland and decided to run out for a bit to get some food from the local supermarket before they closed for the day. I left the computer running and came back just a few minutes later. But when I returned to my computer, the screen was black and the machine had completely turned off.
“Hmm…” I though. “That’s strange”.
I tried to turn the computer back on, but was unsuccessful. I kept getting the dreaded blue screen that would flash for just a second, before restarting the computer and sending the machine into an endless loop of blue screens and restarts.
To make a long story short, MY COMPUTER’S HARD DRIVE HAD COMPLETELY DIED!
This is my friend Rich, trying to help me recover my computer’s busted hard drive.
As you can imagine, I started to panic. I began to think about all the files I had on my computer and what it would mean if I were to lose all that data. Years of hard work were on that drive, and if I were to lose it all, I don’t know what I’d do!
I called a few hard drive recovery companies and asked about the cost of recovering the data from my drive. As expected, I was quoted anywhere from $1,200 – $3,400 for the recovery of my disc. Not a cheap option!
But then I had a thought! I had backed up my data! Not recently of course, but about two months ago, before I left on my trip.
I immediately ran to my bag and pulled out the 500 GB Western Digital My Passport External Hard Drive I had purchased just in case this were to happen. I had backed up almost my entire computer on the drive… and even though it had been almost two months since I had last backed up, I knew that my external hard drive was going to save me from this disasterous computer crash. My backup was literally going to save my life!
But this isn’t really about me. No! In fact, it’s all about you… and making sure that you don’t lose your valuable computer data when traveling.
In an attempt to help you keep your data safe when traveling, I’ve put together the following four tips for protecting up your data while out on the road:
1) BACK UP REGULARLY
The key to ensuring you don’t lose any data when traveling with your computer is backing up regularly. Most people I’ve spoken with since my computer crashed recommend backing up at least once a month. But if the data on your computer is especially important (or you are a traveling businessman/businesswoman), you may want to back up your data at the end of each week. (I am backing up to my external hard drive every two weeks and I’ve schedule my backup days on my calendar far in advance.)
Whatever schedule you decide upon for your backups, the trick is to do it regularly and never procrastinate. Put your backups on your calendar and stick with them.
2) BACK UP TO AN EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE
People working from desktop computers often times back up to additional drives on their local machine, but most travelers don’t have multiple drives in their laptops, so you need to back up to an external hard drive.
I am currently using a 500 GB Western Digital My Passport Hard Drive for my backup files because the drive is small, well-insulted inside its protective case, and designed for travelers like you and me. It simply connects to your computer via a USB port and the transfer of files back and forth between your computer’s main drive is fast and easy.
When my computer’s hard drive crashed recently, it was my external hard drive that literally saved my butt. Without it, I’d still be crying!
(If you purchase an external hard drive for your travels, be sure to get one that does not require an extra power source, but instead, gets its power through the USB connection. If you use a drive that needs its own power source, that means you have to bring two power converters with you when you travel over seas (one for your computer and one for your backup drive.))
3) BACK UP AUTOMATICALLY
Automated backup services work over the Internet to back up your computer’s files to servers located in far off-places.
This has two advantages. The first is that services such as these work automatically to back up your data, making it easier than ever to ensure your data is backed up and secure. The second advantage is that in the event of a computer crash, your files can be recovered with just a few clicks by logging into your account and going through the “Recovery Mode” options.
There are a number of different companies that perform these sorts of back up services. I chose Carbonite simply because it was highly recommended by some of my computer and business friends/associates. But Mozy is another excellent choice… and they offer 2GB worth of free backup if you want to test it out and see how the service works.
4) KEEP YOUR BACKUPS IN DIFFERENT LOCATIONS
Finally, when traveling with your computer, you want to make sure that you keep your data in different locations. If you’ve read this entire article, you will note that we are currently storing data in three different places. We have one copy of our files on our laptop’s hard drive. We are storing another copy of those same files on an external hard drive. And we have a third backup disc stored on a server with a company like Carbonite or Mozy.
The trick now is to keep these hard drives separate. The reason for this is that if there is a fire or a car accident that destroys your computer or any other disaster in one such location, the other drives remain intact.
The automated backup service is already in a different location, so we’ve already got that covered. But what do you do to separate your laptop and your external drive?
Well, for me, I typically just put my laptop and my external hard drive in separate bags. My laptop goes in one bag and my external hard drive goes in another. When traveling by bike, I put the laptop in one of my rear panniers and store the external drive in one of my front panniers. When traveling by foot, I keep my laptop in my apartment or hotel, but I bring my external hard drive with me in case my computer gets stolen while I’m away.
The trick is to always keep your discs in different locations!
So that’s it! Those are my four big tips for ensuring you do not lose your valuable computer data when traveling. But I’d like to hear from you. Have I missed anything? What other tips do you have? And what have your experiences been like when traveling with your computer?
If you are serious about backing up your computer data, whether you are traveling or at home, you should really look into an automated backup service like Carbonite or Mozy. Having a service like this is allowing me to sleep a whole lot better since my recent hard drive failure.