The following article is from Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter and is copyright by Richard W. Eastman. It is re-published here with the permission of the author. Information about the newsletter is available at http://www.eogn.com.
“It is the first day of the month. It’s time to back up your genealogy files. Then test your backups!
Actually, you can make backups at any time. However, it is easier and safer if you have a specific schedule. The first day of the month is easy to remember, so I would suggest you back up your genealogy files at least on the first of every month, if not more often.
Of course, you might want to back up more than your genealogy files. Family photographs, your checkbook register, all sorts of word processing documents, email messages, and much more need to be backed up regularly. Why not do that on the first of each month?
Next, TEST YOUR BACKUPS. More than once I have heard sad stories of, “I thought I was making regular backups to the external hard drive but, when I went to restore some files, I found the hard drive was dead. I lost everything.” The exact details will vary from one out-of-luck person to another, but many have similar stories. Yet it is so easy to test your backups to make sure they are being made in the manner you think.
On the first day of the month, restore one or two small files from your backups. You don’t have restore everything, just pick a few typical files. Restore them to a temporary directory (mine is called WORK) and see if you can use them.
To avoid the “dead when you need them” problem, always make at least TWO backups to two differnet types of media in two different locations. Three would be better and four would be even better.
My computer automatically makes backups every hour to an external USB hard drive plugged intto the back of the computer plus it also automatically makes backups in the middle of the night to an online backup service on the Internet while I am sleeping. Having redundant backups increases the odds of having at least one good backup at the time of critical need.
How much information and how many pictures will you lose if your hard drive crashes this evening?
By the way, all hard drives WILL crash someday. The only question is “when?” Make your backups today.“