Redundant backups are your friend. I do two backups of my data. One is daily/nightly and the other is monthly. Last night, my daily back drive bit the dust. My computer was fine but I couldn’t back up to the drive. So, I had to grab ye ol’ secondary backup, get that going, make sure the backup worked, and now I’ve reformatted my daily and it’s backing up as well.
I’ve lost data before and nothing sucks worse for me in the technological part of my life than having a dead computer and no backups.
Some might say I’m paranoid, but I remember a moment (some might say eternity) in my sophomore year of college where I pulled three all-nighters in a row trying to finish two separate poli sci papers. The third all-nighter night when I was pretty much hallucinating, the University of Michigan Union’s computer lab had a power surge. I hadn’t saved or backed up my 20-page paper for a hours (how could I when the gremlins and fairies I was seeing were so diverting?) and so lost eight pages of it. I had been almost finished and lost the entire last section and conclusion of the paper and then I realized I was just done. After shedding more than a few tears all over the keyboard, I picked up my tattered psyche and left the building. I turned in a 12-page paper, somehow pulled an A- out of the professor, and vowed I would never, *never* be without a good backup again.
That’s my lesson here, kids. Back up. Everything. Make sure it’s all on good drives that are restorable. There are lots of software packages out there that will do it for you. Or, if you have a Mac, use Time Machine. It’s worth it. Drives go bad. They become petulant and refuse to boot. They get sluggish and lazy. They steal your lunch money. They do all manner of things that will kick your butt into next Tuesday.
Back up and you will never regret it. Don’t back up and I can pretty much guarantee you will someday pull out hunks of your hair as you stare at a drive and try to will it to boot. It won’t work. They’ll just mock you in their lack of boot-sound whirs and lights. Don’t let ’em get away with it.