Are You Ready If Your Computer Crashes? How to Save Hundreds If It Does

Do you know how much it stinks to lose all of your digital photos? Besides that, do you know how much it can cost to get them back? Conservatively, you could spend $300 to $2,500 to recover deleted files from your hard drive. Ask me how I know.

From April 2002 to April 2003 I lived in the Peruvian Amazon. Before I left I purchased my first digital camera. Set aside the fact that my camera was nearly the size of my head (literally) and focus on how many pictures I took. Hundreds. maybe thousands. People. Rainforest. Adventures. Foods. Creatures. I captured them all on my camera, then downloaded them to my computer.

Homes built on stilts in the city where I lived. During rainy season you’d traverse by dugout canoe, not by foot.
The concrete house where I lived. It was quite nice by Peruvian standards.
Kitchen in the school where I taught

Halfway into my year-long stay my computer crashed. I lost  every single picture  I’d taken in those six months. I cried.

I did learn a lesson from my painful loss. I tried to create backup CDs for everything on my computer after that. I almost became a crazy person trying to keep up with all the backups as my collection of files and photos grew.

Lightening Strikes

Eventually, I quit backing things up. It was too much work. About that same time something in our townhouse complex was hit by lightening and our computer fried. Aside from the few photos I’d put on to CDs, we lost all our digital photos  again. We had just decided to get out of debt and didn’t want to spend several hundred dollars to have a professional try and recoup our data. We took the loss. Sad.

Finally, when I became self-employed in January 2010 I  knew  I needed a better strategy. Even after two total data losses our strategy was to pray and unplug our computer, including the phone line to the modem, whenever lightening was imminent (yes, that meant waking my husband up in the middle of the night to go downstairs and unplug everything. He is one gracious man).

Now that I’d have business-related documents that would be required in an IRS audit, God forbid I ever get audited, I needed a solution. If you don’t have some sort of data recovery plan in place, then you need a solution too. I think you have two options.

Automatic Backup Service

Services like  Jungle Disk  or  Dropbox  can be configured to keep real-time back-ups of everything (or just some things) on your hard drive. You pay a monthly fee, but your information is stored on the cloud. (Yes, I know you get a certain amount of storage free, but I’ve always exceeded that and pay $12/month). Not everyone is comfortable having your photos and files stores on computer servers somewhere else in the world, which is essentially what the cloud is.

Services like  Jungle Disk  or  Dropbox  do more than just backup your files. They keep track of historical versions of your document, provide access to your files from anywhere you can get on the internet and allow you to share files with others.

Data Recovery Software

Data recovery software is a totally different, and more cost-effective, way to protect yourself against data lass. You pay a one-time fee for a software;  Remo Software  is one I’d recommend and their prices start at $39.  You install the  software and then hope you never have to use it. Should you lose photos or files  Remo  is able to recover them for you. If you keep a lot on your phone, one of Remo’s solutions includes recovery for Android devices.

It’s also a good solution for those who are leery of the cloud. Like I said, not everyone wants their stuff stored on other people’s computers in some unknown part of the world. Data recovery software protects you from loss, but lets you keep everything locally on your computer.

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Take it from me, Miss I-have-lost-all-my-photos-and-electronic-documents-more-than-once, that an ounce of prevention, when it comes to your digital life, is worth the investment.

I’m interested to hear what you are doing to keep your online files and photos safe. Do you run a data recovery software? Do you use an automatic backup service? Do you have any concerns with your information being stored on the cloud?

Photo credit: The top two images in this blog post were taken by my friend Colleen when she came to visit me in Peru.