How to upgrade anything, part 2 of 6: Laying the foundation

Chances are, there’s something you’re settling for right now. Something that annoys you periodically but you haven’t gotten around to dealing with it yet. We’ll tackle that problem in bite-sized steps in this 6-part series on upgrading:

So when I say “upgrading,” you can think of software, hardware, services, or pretty much anything. I’ll be using my experience updgrading this very blog as an example, but you can substitute your specific technological annoyance.

In the first post in this series, I talked about meeting your fears of changing/upgrading/etc. In this post we’ll talk about the single most important step to take before making any kind of technological change or upgrade:

Back up your stuff!

If you are already doing this on a regular, scheduled basis, and your last completed backup was less than a week ago, congratulations, you are doing a great job, you are way ahead of the curve, and you can skip this post.

For the 99% of you who are still reading, I know you’ve heard it before (maybe even from me, or maybe from Johnny’s post last week called you’re totally going to lose everything). You’ve probably heard the joke about there being two kinds of computer users: Those who have lost data, and those who will.

Trust me, you do not want to move from the second category into the first.

Case in point: Me! As I write this, I’m looking across my desk at my old laptop, which contains all the family photos and assorted documents that I didn’t move over when I got my new laptop more than a year ago. I was using my old laptop as a repository for this stuff…until it refused to boot up last week. And when I applied my arsenal of disk-rescue tools, I got confirmation that the hard drive is basically hosed and can’t be resuscitated.

I did rescue the important stuff off the old laptop on its last gasp, and I count myself extremely lucky that I even had a last gasp to work with. I might have never seen my family photos again.

And for my current laptop, the one I use to type up these posts, I do have a backup system in place: A web-based online service called Backblaze.

I love Backblaze because it makes backing up so easy I can forget about it. I signed up, and a few minutes later my data (all my data — everything on my computer) was being backed up to a server that will remain safe even if my house burns down. Every day (actually in the wee hours of the morning while I’m sleeping but the Internet isn’t), Backblaze automatically connects to my computer and backs up only the files that have been added or changed since the last backup.

So the day after I rescued my family photos and moved them to my current computer, they were safely backed up by Backblaze. And now, the most I’ll lose, if my computer dies on me or anything else, is one day’s worth of work.

A few more Backblaze details: It works on both Macs and PCs, the basic plan costs $6 per month for unlimited data from one computer ($60 for one year, $110 for two years), and they offer a 15-day free trial. Give it a try if you need a backup solution. Full disclosure: These are affiliate links, so I will get a small commission if you click one and end up signing up.

Now, why is this applicable to an upgrade situation? Because upgrading can sometimes have unforeseen consequences. Maybe the software driver is incompatible with an existing setting on your computer. Maybe the new hardware won’t be recognized. Any number of weird things could happen.

So it’s always a good idea to have a complete backup of your system pre-upgrade…so if the worst does happen, you can go back in time and restore the working system you had immediately before the upgrade started.

Take it from me. I have lost data in the past, and I narrowly escaped losing data just this week. Don’t let it happen to you!

Previously in this series: Taking Stock (or: Meeting your fears where they are)

Next in this series: Preparation (or: Getting out your ingredients)