Over the last couple of months I’d been working on some video tutorials, a few books, and a couple web projects. I was making a lot of headway, too. Then something unimaginable happened: three young men broke into my home and stole my laptops (among other things).
Software programs, saved emails, pictures, music, the files I’d been working on, all gone.
If you’ve read this blog for some length of time, you know how much emphasis I place on always backing up your website and files regularly, but I never actually stressed backing up your computer…until now.
Personally, I have a 500GB external hard drive that I use for backing up my computer files and projects (which, thank goodness, the thieves did not take), but there was one small problem with my system. I wasn’t diligent with my backups. Even with the backups I did have, I hadn’t saved my installed software (to include my password manager) or my emails. To say I was distraught would be understatement of the year.
When my laptops were recovered, I was elated. Unfortunately, the thieves had already reformatted my hard drives (and set up shop—one was even making himself business cards and flyers). I ran file recovery software, however, some of the files were too far gone to be repaired and that meant I would need to start some things over from scratch.
As I went through each of my computers re-installing software, setting up folders, and getting myself back on track in general, a few lessons from the situation jumped out at me.
- Have an organizational system
- Keep your computer uncluttered
- Back up all important files/software regularly
Have an Organizational System
While I was creating my folders all over again, I realized how unorganized my laptops were previous to the theft. Although I had some semblance of structure, there were still files floating around everywhere and I had quite a few duplicate files, too.
This time around, I decided to take the approach with all my files that I take with organizing my WordPress files.
Basically, I asked myself what I generally did from my laptops. From that, I created multiple folders: Business, Personal, and Web Dev. Under each of the primary folders, I created sub-folders.
For instance, under Business, I have Affiliate Marketing, Downloads, and Products.
In the affiliate marketing folder I’ll store all information related to my affiliate marketing business, downloads are the files and products that I download that relate to my business, and products are the products I’m specifically creating.
Under Personal, I have Pictures, Music, Writing, and Miscellaneous. Everything of a personal nature that doesn’t specifically related to my business or web development will go in these folders.
Finally, under Web Dev, I have Tools, for my web development tools (i.e. WordPress), Clients and Websites where I have sub-folders for each of the websites I’m working on.
For the most part, this system is working quite well for me. I know exactly where everything is and it forces me to stay organized. This system may also work well for you, but it’s important to have and maintain some sort of organization to increase productivity.
Keep Your Computer Uncluttered
One thing I was notorious for doing was downloading a file directly to my desktop and just leaving it there. Eventually when my desktop became so cluttered that I couldn’t see my background, I’d scoop up all the files and stick them in a Temp folder. It was a band-aid method and not a very good one.
When downloading files to your computer, make sure to download it to the appropriate folder straight away and if it’s only a file you’ll need for a few moments (i.e. a browser plugin or add-on), then download it to the Temp folder, immediately take action and then delete it. If you can’t take action right away, at least make sure to go through your Temp folder once every few days and clean it out.
Not only will your productivity increase, you’ll have more space on your computer and it will make backing up much quicker when you don’t have to worry about unnecessary files.
Back Up All Important Data Regularly
When I say all, I mean all. If it’s important to you or your livelihood, then it needs to be backed up in a safe location (preferably two) and it needs to be done regularly. How regularly? Ask yourself, how much information would you be willing to lose if your computer was stolen or your hard drive crashed tomorrow?
Initially, you should back up the files that don’t change at least once, the files that rarely change about once a month, and the files that you continuously work on once a day. Of course, this is simply a rough guideline, but it’s one I now wish I’d followed.
Some of the files you should absolutely, without a doubt, have backed up include any installed software programs and their license keys. You should also make certain to back up your password manager file, important emails, and files that related directly to your business.
Most external hard drives come with an automatic backup program that will handle the details for you, only backing up files which have changed since the last back up rather than you having to figure it out yourself.
Or, if you’d rather not use the software that came with the hard drive for whatever reason, there are some alternatives. Off the top of my head, Mozy provides online data back up and storage (free up to 2GB) and you can find a list of software options, with reviews, at Download.com.
So, to review, please avoid the same classes in the school of hard knocks because I’ve just taken them and while valuable lessons were learned, the process wasn’t entirely enjoyable. (In fact, I’m still recovering from it.)