You've heard it a lot, but it bears repeating: you need to back up your computer, because your hard drive will fail one day. Beyond those file backups, though, are many other things we need to have a backup for -- ranging from work and finances to personal needs.
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Having a Plan B is a darn good idea in many areas of life. With a backup in place, you can stay on your toes in case the unexpected throws a wrench in your plans (as it inevitably will). Here are ten things you should have a backup for.
10. Computer Backups
Alright, let's get this one out of the way. Setting up a set-and-forget backup system is so easy and inexpensive, there's no reason not to. Ideally, you'll want an offsite backup using something like CrashPlan or Backblaze (both about $US5 a month for unlimited online backup) and a local backup to an external drive. Use the 3-2-1 rule to thoroughly protect your important data (like irreplaceable photos and videos).
9. An Emergency Fund
You might not think of an emergency fund as a "backup", but that's really what it is. Just as hard drives crash unexpectedly, financial emergencies -- your car dies, your boss fires you, your partner files for divorce, etc. -- can hit you when you least expect it. While financial experts don't agree on the amount you should keep in savings for your financial backup or how to save up for it, they're all pretty clear that you need some sort of cushion to help you get by in tough times.
8. Second Credit Card
Some of us use one main credit card (or debit card) to manage our expenses; some of us use more than a few. Whichever camp you're in, and even if you don't want to have to juggle multiple cards, having at least two can help. The one you don't use serves as a backup in the worst case scenario of your emergency fund running out. You could also designate one card solely for travel, so if it's lost, your recurring payments on the other one aren't affected.
7. Work Assignment Backups
Likewise, getting ahead on your work projects might not fit into everyone's definition of "backups", but doing so helps you deal with emergencies, which is what backups are for. If there are a number of reports you're supposed to file each month, for example, having a few extra already done and at the ready will really help you out when you're sick or some other issue pops up. (I know I'm not the only blogger with extra posts and post ideas in an "emergency backlog" just in case I don't find better ideas by their due dates.) At the very least, have a contingency plan if something goes awry with your work assignment or you might miss a deadline. These project backups offer some peace of mind, another reason we need backups.
6. Internet Access
If you work from home or just rely on the internet to get things done in your spare time, a secondary way to get online besides your home ISP will come in handy in case of internet outages. This can be your smartphone, used as a WiFi hotspot for your laptop and other devices, or a dedicated mobile hotspot. It can also be just knowing where the nearest WiFi hotspot is (Starbucks or other coffee shop, for example). It only takes one internet outage to remember that you should have some sort of setup for emergency use.
5. Another Computer or Tablet
Most Lifehacker readers already>carry around multiple devices. It's convenient, but having an additional laptop or tablet (carried or not) also is a form of backup. If one device catches a bug and you need to download an anti-malware fix for it or troubleshoot the issue, the other one is there to assist. If the power goes out and your desktop PC is unavailable, your laptop will give you a few more hours of computing time. Again, this might matter most to people who use their home computers for work or other critical project, but even having a portable version of Linux on a thumb drive could save your bacon one day.
4. Your Official Records
Your passport, driver's licence, birth certificate, and even your immunisation records could be important far into the future. Many of us have these in paper format, but you should make a digital backup just in case the originals magically disappear. The Wall Street Journal's list of the 25 most important documents to gather before you die is a good start for your important files backup.
3. Emergency Contacts
Hopefully you have an ICE (In Case of Emergency) contact already in your wallet or on your phone's lock screen. This person is like a backup for you -- in case you're unconscious or otherwise can't speak for yourself. You might want to have multiple ICE contacts (backups of your backups!) for different possible emergencies. In short, the more people you can rely on in case of emergency, the better.
2. Supplies for an Emergency
You don't want to be stranded on the side of the road without petrol, stuck in your house with no food during a flood, or even just scrambling for a torch during a power outage. Make a 72-hour emergency kit, keep some emergency supplies in your car and survive most kinds of emergencies with a basic survivalist kit. If there's any kind of backup everyone needs, it's the stuff that will help us stay alive in emergency situations.
1. Plans for the Future
What's your Plan B? If you're starting a business partnership, if you need to change jobs, or if your hobby doesn't succeed as a business? Heck, it helps to have a Plan B if your partner won't help you decide what to order for dinner.