As you may have heard, the D.C. area (or the whole East Coast) is bracing for a bit of a storm this weekend, and in addition to taking steps to protect yourselves and your families, you should also take some time to think about your electronics.
Most specifically, your data. Whether it’s pictures, financial information, e-mail or other important documents, now’s a good time to kick an info backup to the top of your to-do list.
What you should do definitely do before the hurricane hits is prioritize your data. Some people would rather risk those last vacation photos than their latest financial statements, while others may have a killer music collection they can’t bear the thought of losing.
You don’t have to use a comprehensive paid backup systems such as Mozy, Norton or Carbonite, though services such as those do offer features such as mobile access to your data. But there are other ways to back up that are free, quick and good in a pinch.
With clouds on the horizon, it’s time to consider the cloud for your data. For non-sensitive but important documents, Google Docs, Dropbox and other free cloud services are perfect for making sure that your documents aren’t fried or swept away in case your computer doesn’t survive a storm. A few pictures can be uploaded quickly to places such as Picasa or Flickr, which give you the option to keep your photos private or to share them.
For more sensitive data, or for larger files, it’s best to stick with portable physical media that you can slip into your emergency kit, protected by a plastic bag or two. Even a big external hard drive (say, 1 or 2 TB?) should fit easily into a duffel bag. For documents that you don’t have a digitial copy of, fire up your scanner and get those files backed up. Even if you’re not comfortable having your birth certificate or other documents on your computer, it’s not a bad idea to back it to a drive you keep with you just in case. You can always delete the digital copies later.
Another thing to consider? Back up your cell phone. All four major carriers offer some version of a contacts backup service to store your mobile numbers on a secure server. You may also want to consider setting up call forwarding from your home landline to your mobile, or setting up a Google Voice number that will ring all your phones at once. In case you need to evacuate (or if your cell phone is damaged), it’s an easy workaround to keep in touch.
Backing up your data is a good idea all the time, but with the very real threat of a hurricane looming over the East Coast, there’s no time like the present.