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First and foremost, make sure you have everything important backed up. A backup is just a copy, stored in at least one other location for safekeeping. Your backup can be on a nearby hard drive. Or, it can be stored online with a commercial backup company. Two copies in two locations will mean your data is much more likely to survive a single failure.
DriveSavers recommends the 3–2–1 backup strategy:
- 3 copies of your data at all times—one working copy and two backups
- 2 copies on local devices
- 1 copy kept off-site or in the cloud
This means storing one copy of your data on your own computer’s hard drive as your working data, keeping a copy of that same data on another local storage device, like an external drive, and a third copy on another drive kept off-site or saved to a cloud storage solution.
CHECK YOUR BACKUP
It’s vital to check your backup before you leave town. Confirming you have all your important files protected just makes the most sense.
There are several problems that may occur with a backup of your data that you would not notice without actively checking:
- The backup process may have been interrupted
- Your backup drive may have become full before the backup completed
- The backed up files may be corrupt
- Your backup drive may have failed
Do not assume that just because you began a backup process that the backup copy is perfect. Check it. Access your backup and open several different types of files to make sure they were copied correctly and completely.
USE PASSWORDS FOR PROTECTION
Take stock of all the portable devices you own that store data—everything from laptops and smartphones to tablets and music players—and make sure you have strong passwords installed. For help coming up with great passwords, here are 11 Tips for a Stronger Password.
If keeping track of all your different passwords is difficult for you, keep a password manager such as 1Password. Store all of your different passwords in this one encrypted location, which incidentally can be set up for remote access so you can make necessary changes while you’re away.
For additional security, be sure that every device is updated with the latest anti-virus, anti-spam and anti-malware software. Software encryption is also highly recommended to protect any device that holds valuable information, including smartphones, tablets, desktop and laptop computers.
SHUT DOWN YOUR ELECTRONICS
Power surges, power outages and other changes in electricity are real dangers to your computers and your data. Turn off any equipment that does not need to be working while you’re away. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safely turning off all computers and any accessories, like external hard drives. To be extra safe, consider unplugging storage devices from electrical outlets to protect them from any sudden changes in the flow of power in your absence. When you return from holiday, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for restarting your system.
PROGRAM YOUR UPS TO SHUT DOWN YOUR COMPUTER
If a device absolutely must remain on while you are away on vacation over the holidays, be sure you have it plugged into a combination battery backup and surge protector.
Any electrical event—a blackout, brownout or even a power surge—can kill data on an unattended computer system. Investing in an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) device to protect your data from downtime or data loss itself is always good to do whether you are going on a trip or just to protect your data on a daily basis.
Most UPS devices have accompanying software that will enable your UPS to shut down your computer smoothly so there isn’t any data loss.