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Protecting your most important files is a simple necessity 

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I hate being the bearer of bad news, but it's unlikely that you've taken the necessary steps to recover your most important files — your photos, personal documents, business files, etc. — in case of emergency.

Over 60% of companies that lose their customer data or even the software/data they use to run their business, go out of business within 6 months. Think of your files/data/photos as a business and how wrecked you'd be if that happened to you. If you run a home based business, I really hope you've already starting digging into protecting your livelihood.

For the sake of brevity, I'm referring to your documents, photos, receipts, and other essential files as "data." Your data is important, and you need to develop a plan to protect your data whether your hard drives fails, or something else unexpected occurs and your computer isn't working.

First, organize your data. Place everything in properly named folders, and clean out duplicates and other unnecessary files. Then determine a budget to secure your data — whether you're going with a data service, or securing your data by yourself. You can't put a value on all your important data, but you can budget to protect it. How much can you afford to be sure you never lose it? If you can, consider even spending what you would on a new computer.

You'll also want to decide how much time can you afford to be without your data and computer system when deciding what types of backup options fit your needs. Different backup solutions need varying amounts of time to have you back up and running. All these factors will help you determine the best fit for a data solutions.

Take a moment to consider all of the data that you'll want to save, though, some of it may not seem important to you now. Obviously, your personal files, music, photos and videos are a must, but don't forget your email. You may have a lot of information saved in your email, and you'd have to start from scratch  if something were to happen. Another oft overlooked bit of data to consider are your Internet favorites/bookmarks, and your social networking sites — yup, even Facebook can be backed up. You may even have some proprietary software (programs) you use that have settings and such that are worth saving.

There are a few different ways to backup your data, or some software can do for you! This will come in handy later when you're deciding on the best data backup strategies for you.

A total backup: To perhaps a DVD or an external data storage device like a hard drive, USB drive, etc. Simple, a save/backup of all your data on your computer. Be aware, a total backup isn't necessarily what you need if your computer crashes.

A drive image backup:
Backing up the minutia of your hard drive and system to what is called an image. You normally need a piece of software that handles images, but some services do this also. If you ever have to replace the hard drive on your computer, you "re-image" using the backup — meaning your new hard drive thinks it's the old one along with all your settings/software, etc.

Incremental and differential backups:
Incremental typically means the software (or you) backs up all the data that has changed since the last time a backup happened. Differential continues to do new backups of all data that has changed since the first complete backup.

You now know the basics of backup terms and some of the stuff of pro's believe it or not. These are the first terms you learn when you get into this area of technology. There's much more of course but be proud you can talk the walk now.

Recently, a friend of a friend had been working on a data project without thinking of protecting his files. That is, until his hard drive moved to IT heaven and the loss cost him a lot of money. Be warned and please plan ahead! Saving your data correctly is easier than getting someone like me (or a recovery expert) to get it back for you — if it's not lost forever.

Brian Koch is an avid techie who's worked in the tech field for dozens of years with Compaq/HP, his own pc business Techpertise, outdoor photography, and more. He has lived with his wife Stacy in Colorado for over 16 years. E-mail questions, comments, suggestions to Brian: info@techpertise.com and follow him on Twitter @Techpertise.

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