Friday, January 18, 2008

Serenity Tool: Back It Up

Serenity Tool is a new feature in which I highlight office equipment and tools that can increase your serenity by clearing your mental clutter, freeing you of anxiety and preparing your for those times when things don't go the way you'd like. If you have a suggestion for a tool or a question of what can increase your productivity while keeping you serene, email me at heather at

If you're like me, you can feel like you are your thoughts and words. It's a professional hazard. But there's a way to put that feeling where it belongs. Instead of feeling attached to every word you send out and like you are your job, create a container for your work--literally.

Get yourself some backup for your computer and all its precious files. Aside from sparing you the gruesome fate of losing everything to the Blue Screen of Death, it's also an act of being a good steward of your work.

Here are the choices you have to make:

1. How much memory do you need? The easy way to figure this out is to look at how much memory your computer holds total and get at least half of that. For every professional, the amount of memory you'll need will depend on your profession. If you're only looking to back up Word files, which are small, you won't need as much as if you'd also like to back up photos, music or graphics.

2. External hard drive or online backup? Basically, you can either back up with a super souped-up version of those little keychain flash drives or you can subscribe to a monthly service that allows you to back everything up over the Internet. Each have advantages and I've used both. The joy of online is that you can access your work from anywhere, on any computer, quickly and easily by logging onto your account like you'd log on to email. The advantage of external backup is that you generally get more bang for your buck.

3. PC or Mac? In my experience, backup systems are generally one or the other--though I chose my Maxtor because it can be written for either. Be sure to check your backup compatibility before you buy.

Now that you know the basics, may I recommend:

The Maxtor One Touch Plus External Hard Drive

I purchased one of these last year and love it. First of all, it's massive: it came with a full 750 GB of memory for $250. That could hold my whole computer hard drive more than seven times over.

Second, I found it easy to install and simple to use. That's a big deal for me, because despite growing up in a family computer professors, I'm not terrible tech-savvy. New hardware, computer breakdowns--they all make my fingers tingle with adrenaline and wash me with waves of nausea.

But with One Touch, you simply plug the hard drive into an outlet, attach the USB or FireWire cable to your computer, and after software installation (which was automatic with my Mac but comes with an easy-to-use CD for PC) and voila! The external drive shows up on your computer. Simply double click on the Maxtor Manager icon and set the backup schedule. Then you're done. You don't have to think about it again until you need to retrieve something.

Recently, I made a change to an article and wanted to see what it had been previously. So I double clicked on the OneTouch 4 icon and found the document. Easy. And what a relieve.

If you're more interested in online backup, I've used two that I can comment on:


If you have a PC, this is the one for you. Your mileage may vary and there are other options out there (Carbonite, eVault and others come up with just a quick Google search.) But I used iBackup at the suggestion of some colleagues and loved it. It starts at $9.95 a month for 10 GB of memory and goes up from there. I found that 10 was plenty for me when I started and then I needed more.

I found their customer service friendly and simple to use. If I hadn't switched from PC to Apple, I would have kept them for years to come.


When I first got my Apple, this is the service I went with. At the time, there were few options for an Apple user who wanted to back their work up online. Now .Mac, Apple's service program that includes online backup, offers 10 GB of memory for $100 a year and another 10 GB for $100 more, I believe. But at the time, I think they only offered 2 GB. So I went with BackJack. The best thing about the service is that it's quick and easy and when you call for support, you get a very friendly Canadian woman who just couldn't be more happy to help you. However, at the time I subscribed, the cost was high: $53.50 a month for the 10 GB I needed. Recently, they upgraded the service to work with Apple's new operating system, Leopard and reduced their prices. Now you get 5 GB for $15 a month, and each additional Gb for $2 more. Still, that can run pretty high.

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