We have plenty to worry about in the office, so it would be nice if we could wash our hands of what our users do at home. But more and more work is being done offsite. And VPNs and Web applications increase the chances that business data has ended up on your users’ home computers. Although backing up their data at home may not be your direct responsibility, you can provide a better degree of support by reminding them how they can protect their files.

Note: These tips are based on the article Home backups: a primer for your users.

1: Just start already!

The current versions of both Apple’s MacOS and Microsoft’s Windows have decent backup software built right in. Pair the software you already have with an external USB hard drive and you have a basic backup system. Remember: Buy an external drive bigger than your computer’s internal disk (room to grow on, you know).

2: Don’t forget: Single disks can fail

There are external USB devices on the market now that can contain more than one hard disk. These storage systems can spread your data across all the drives in the device, protecting you in case a single drive should fail. These systems can be more expensive than single-drive solutions, but they offer more comprehensive protection. Consider saving up for one of these more robust systems or simply buy a second single-disk backup device and trade off every so often.

3: Add another basket for your eggs

Backups at home are a good start, but what if you have a fire or a natural disaster and all your drives are trashed? The next level in backup safety is storing a copy of your files in another location. If you are using two external drives for backup, you can accomplish this by keeping one of the drives elsewhere — at the office, with a friend, or in a safe deposit box. Be sure to bring it home frequently so you can update the data.

4: Use an online backup service

If your Internet connection is robust enough, you may want to consider commercial backup services that copy your files to a safe location over the Internet. Carbonite and Mozy are two companies that offer this capability.

5: Look beyond your PC for data backups

Now that your PC is safe, think about all the other places you might be storing data. Game consoles, camera memory cards, and digital video tapes all contain information that can be lost when a piece of hardware fails. If it’s anything you would miss if it were gone, make a copy!

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