Author’s Note: This was originally posted last year, but nothing ever changes:
Did I say backup yet?
Backing up home computers used to be little more than a convenience to keep you from losing some old college papers. These days our entire family histories find life on our unreliable home computers. From digital photos of junior, to financial records in Quicken, to love letters in email, our computers store items in ephemeral 0s and 1s that used to be on paper in a box. Sure, paper isn’t perfect, but I suspect more of us have experienced hard drive crashes than house fires.
Backup is really a pain, so I suggest prioritizing your efforts to focus on the most important stuff and to make it easy and seamless for your non-geek friends and family.
In many cases your best bet is to get an external hard drive and some basic backup software (I use SuperDuper on my Mac, not sure what’s good these days on PCs, so recommendations in the comments appreciated). A bunch of the external drives now include basic software for free, and you can plug in the drive, install the software, and just check up on it every now and then.
For digital photos I’ve started recommending the archive features of Photoshop Elements, Microsoft Digital Image Suite, and the like. The advantage here is they get a photo tool they can use for other purposes, while getting basic photo backup features. I just grabbed Photoshop Elements for my Father-in-Law and a bunch of blank CDs. My plan is, every few months, to burn an archive of his photos on CD and store them over at my place (we live 20 minutes away).
No- backup isn’t fun or sexy, but today it’s very very necessary. I hear all too many stories of people losing valuable family photos due to a basic hard drive crash, virus, or whatever. Imagine losing ALL your baby pics, wedding pics, or Grandpa’s 80th birthday pics where he flashed back and called Grandma by the name of his long-forgotten French mistress from WWII inciting immediate, if lethargic, violence.
Ah, Family. Good times.
You really don’t want to let your family lose their memories, do you?
It’s also a good idea to print really valuable photos. The rumors of paper’s demise are greatly exaggerated.