World Backup Day is upon us

Today is World Backup Day 2011 - and if you haven't checked your backups yet today, now is a great time to do so. If you don't have backups already, then today is the day to implement them.

Here at thinq_ we're always writing about lost laptops, system crashes, and disasters that can result in precious data disappearing for good. For businesses the loss of customer records, intellectual property, or e-mail archives can be crippling - and home users are likely to be just as upset at the disappearance of their photos and music collection.

Traditionally, backups have been time consuming and complex arrangements that relied on tape drives and often expensive software. While businesses with large data storage systems might still need these, it's never been easier to back up your critical files in a pain-free way.

Most modern computers come with DVD writers capable of chucking up to 4.7GB onto cheap discs - more than enough for a collection of holiday photos. If you need more storage, USB flash drives or external hard drives are inexpensive and hold up to 2TB each - easily enough for the average user's entire media collection.

Although backups can be achieved by simply dragging and dropping your files to your chosen storage device, software is available to make life easier. Microsoft's Backup tool ships in most versions of Windows, while Apple users can opt to buy one of the company's Time Machine systems for set-it-and-forget-it backup convenience.

Having a backup is just one part of the puzzle, however: checking that it works is just as important. Old media can degrade, and external hard drives can fail. If you've already got a backup strategy in place, dig out one of your backups and try restoring a selection of files now. If it doesn't work, it's better to know before you suddenly find yourself in desperate need of a file you've just deleted.

While the point of World Backup Day is to highlight the need for businesses and home users to take backups, it's important to keep on top of the process throughout the year. A backup at the start of a project is great, but if you reach the end and lose everything you'll wish you'd done more frequent backups.

If you're not sure where to start with a backup process, the official World Backup Day website has some great tips. Just remember: a backup is for life, not just for World Backup Day.