Most people only think of backing up their data after they experience a problem. Don't set yourself up for a data loss disaster.
Your data integrity action plan should consist of the following:
1) How often you will back up your data
2) What data you will back up
3) What back up procedure you will use
How often you back up your data can only be determined by how important you feel it is. Answer this question "If my hard drive crashed right now, I would be alright if I had the data from at least (time) ago".
Of course you would want everything but if you could have the data from 1 month, or 6 months ago would that be sufficient? Whatever time is sufficient mark it on your calendar both a hard copy and set up a meeting on your PC to remind you.
You change your smoke detector batteries when you turn your clock back and when you turn it ahead right? Well back up your data then too.
If you don't change your clocks then pick some holidays or special dates that happen close to the timeframe you want to back up your data so you won't forget.
What data you back up depends on how you use your PC. Some of the key directories, if you are using Windows, are the My Documents, Favorites and Desktop directories.
Remember if you are using multiple profiles on your PC then the three directories above can be different for each profile and each one would need to be backed up.
You will also want to include your email data. Don't forget to write down the email accounts you have. You should also write down any username and passwords so they are not lost. You should look at every directory to see if it has information that you would need.
Make a list of all the software programs you are using. If you have the physical CDs put them all together in a safe location.
Don't forget the CDs for your peripherals like your scanner, digital camera, PDA etc… Collecting these CDs may remind you of additional data that you need to back up.
If you are running software that you installed from downloaded files, burn them to a CD-R and add it to your collection. If you use a CD-R or DVD-R you can update it as you download and install new applications.
What procedure you use to back up your data can be determined by the amount of data you want to back up. Your data might fit onto a CD or DVD in which case you just need to burn it and you're done.
If it spans multiple DVDs then you might want to consider getting a second hard drive to copy your data onto. If you are not comfortable with adding a second internal hard drive or you are using a laptop then you can purchase an external hard drive to back up your data.
The information you have on your hard drive could disappear in a flash. If you don't want to spend up to $3,000 to have a data recovery company retrieve what information they can from your hard drive, then take a few minutes right now and create your back up action plan.