If you are anything like me, you have most of your preparedness material on your computer. I have spreadsheets, records, plans, journals, e-books, scanned records, and just about everything I need on my computer. Don’t get me wrong, I have a big bookshelf as well, but I have a ton of information available to me on my computer. Great blog posts and reference materials are bookmarked, you name it.
This is all great until the computer isn’t available anymore. If your food storage records are all on the now useless hunk of metal after the EMP hits, you can forget about it. Go do a new inventory by hand. Those plans for building a chicken coop? Whoops, better wing it! Obviously having everything or even most things on the computer is a bad plan.
So how do you protect yourself and ensure availability of your important records and information? Redundancy! You may have heard the meme around the survival community that ‘Two is One and One is None’ when it comes to redundancy of any given item. The theory here is that you can count on having one of something available if you have two copies of it. The nice thing about electronic storage is that it’s really easy to make copies!
There are three main scenarios to consider when backing up digital information: Data Loss, Computer is Temporarily Inaccessible, and Computer is Permanently Inaccessible.
Generic Data Loss – You accidentally reformat your hard drive. You have a virus that wipes out your files. You manage to accidentally delete all of your files. You get the idea.
Computer is Temporarily Inaccessible – For whatever reason you can’t use your computer. Maybe the power is out, or your motherboard is fried. Perhaps the cat chewed through the power cable and short circuited the computer’s power supply.
Computer is Permanently Inaccessible – Think EMP, major disaster, that sort of thing. This is the scenario where you won’t be seeing a computer any time soon, if ever.
Now that you have these scenarios in mind, take a look at these steps to secure your important information!
1 – Triage Your Data
The first step is the most important. You need to look at what you have stored online and assess whether you’ll need it under the scenarios we laid out. You’ll probably want to have access to most important records, but that e-book you scanned from an 1890 book on steam engines is probably only useful if society is imploding and taking the power grid with it.
Rudy’s Tip: Don’t forget scanned copies of birth and marriage certificates, resumes, deeds, insurance cards, etc. Super important to have that stuff available!
2 – Backup your Data
You need to back up all important data to multiple locations. You should have on site backups and offsite backups. I personally use an online backup solution as well as local backup to hard drives. I also leverage USB drives for important data. These backups will protect you against the first scenario, generic data loss. It doesn’t do a ton for the other ones.
Rudy’s Tip: An important takeaway here is to have a USB thumb drive (or three) that have copies of critical documentation on them. They’re easy to transport and hold lots of data. Keep copies of these drives in your Go Bags (Break Out Bags) and at work.
3 – Print Out Good Stuff
In the first step you decided when you’d need to access different kinds of data. Print outs are important for making sure you have that information available when you need it regardless of whether your computer is available. These are important files, e-books, how-tos, etc. This is the step that can really save your life in a serious disaster. Invest in a good laser printer or spend a bunch of time at Kinkos.
Rudy’s Tip: I store all of this stuff in three ring binders. You can get them cheap (or free if you have a FreeCycle group in your area) and they fit great into a bookshelf. I have all sorts of information that will be useful in different disaster scenarios printed out and ready to go. Some of this stuff I even have other copies offsite just in case!
4 – The Bonus Step
Ok, so I lied. There’s four ways, not three! I keep an old laptop lying around with a portable hard drive just in case of emergency. It has copies of the important stuff on it and I can also use the USB drives from my Go Bag for the critical stuff. If I wanted to I could even store this in a faraday cage with a solar charger for the battery and have an EMP Proof data storage. Worth considering!
No system is fool proof. Make sure you have adequate redundancy for information as well as your general preparation supplies. It would really ruin your day to be in a disaster and not have all that important information at hand. I don’t even want to think about re-creating my resume if my house burned down and took my computer with it. Yuck.