Now that the end of the semester is approaching for high school students, it’s a perfect time to backup your computer and protect it from the winter weather to make sure you don’t lose final projects and reports.
If you’ve ever lived in an area with stormy weather, you know it’s common to lose power– and in some cases, hours, days, or weeks of work due to a failed or destroyed computer.
Personally, I’ve had several electronics, including a TV, taken out by lightning. The actual lightning bolt struck our neighbor’s back yard, but it also shook the entire neighborhood and literally knocked photos off our walls. Fortunately, I was prepared for this scenario and had my computer on a surge protector (and several other electronics on a UPS). Had I not bought the surge protector, my computer likely would have been fried and I would have lost the big essay I was working on.
First of all, everyone should backup their computer, no matter where you live or what you do. Computers and hard drives can randomly fail, even if you have a $3000 top of the line gaming PC or a budget laptop. If you have a Mac, you can use Time Machine to perform automatic backups on your computer. However, this requires you to have an external hard drive or networked drive.
If you don’t want to spend the money on having an external or network drive, you can use cloud backup services. Even if you do use Time Machine, it’s a good idea to backup your computer to the cloud– what if your house floods or burns down? The hard drive you were using as a backup is lost, and now you’re not only dealing with recovering from a disaster, but you also could lose years of photos and memories.
Carbonite costs about $59 a year per computer, but they allow you to store unlimited data on their cloud servers. The Carbonite software automatically performs backups on your computer at a regular interval. If your computer ever fails or is destroyed, you can restore all of your important documents.
For $99 a month, Carbonite also offers additional features, including a full system mirror image backup and the ability to backup your external hard drives.
You can also get a completely free trial of Carbonite and try out their services.
Mozy, like Carbonite, offers online backup space and software that automatically performs the backups. It costs $5.99 a month for 50 GB of storage space or $9.99 a month for 125 GB. Mozy also has mobile apps to let you access your files, or you can easily restore them from a web based interface.
Now that you’re backing up your computer, you should also be protecting the PC or Mac itself. If you live in an area with heavy rain or wind and the potential to lose power, you may want to consider a UPS or surge protector.
Essentially, a surge protector is designed to handle a sudden surge of electricity due to a branch falling on a power line or some other event. It is designed to fail and sacrifice itself instead of your computer if the electricity spike goes over the rated amount for your particular surge protector.
You can buy surge protectors for around $20 or less on Amazon, like this Belkin Home/Office Surge Protector with 12 outlets.
However, while surge protectors work to prevent electricity spikes from damaging your computer, if a power outage follows, your computer will still shut off due to the lack of electricity, causing you to lose any unsaved work.
A UPS, or Uninterruptible Power Supply, is a like a combination of a battery and surge protector. Unlike a simple surge protector, a UPS is a large box that often is a little larger than a cereal box.
Because a UPS has a battery, it can keep your computer running during brownouts or during a power outage, allowing you to save and close your work and shut off your computer properly. If you have a desktop PC or Mac, it is recommended you immediately save and close any open work as soon as the UPS kicks in, because the battery will not last that long– it isn’t like a laptop where the battery will last for five ours.
UPSs are more expensive, running at $50 or more. This APC 8-outlet UPS is relatively cheap but still has various features like self testing and dataline protectors (it prevents electricity surges through phone lines).
You can also get a fancier UPS with a screen, like the highly rated CyberPower Intelligent Tower UPS, which lets you know how full the battery is and the estimated remaining runtime.
When it comes to backups and protecting your computer, you don’t want to look back and say “I wish I had done more.” Make sure, if you don’t do regular backups already, start today. It’s never too late until your computer fails, and companies like Carbonite make it easy to set-it-and-forget-it. The cost of any backup service, whether it’s your external hard drive or a cloud service, will definitely be worth it when you need to restore the years of memories and photos that were lost on your failed computer.