Just occasionally, I think I might have been writing this blog for too long. Only very occasionally, because it won’t be “too long” until everyone backs up, the technology to do so is completely mature, and no one needs to hear about the subject any more.
But the end of one year, and the beginning of another, is one of those times. How many ways are there to say “Okay, make a copy of all your project-related and financial data from the past year, copy it onto a couple of CDs or DVDs, and store it with your tax information”?
Well, let’s see.
I first addressed this subject in December 2004: “Year-End Backups.”
Why do you need a year-end backup? Primarily for tax purposes. Just in case you’re faced with the dreaded audit, you want all your financial information readily available. (The more organized you are, the faster the IRS will go away.)
In December 2005, the post was “Don’t Use CD-RWs for Year-End Backups.”
Strictly speaking, year-end backups aren’t really backups; they’re archives. You make copies of all your important computer files from the year in question to store with your paper files. You need to keep anything relevant to your taxes (like your Quicken or QuickBooks data, bank statements, invoices from vendors, invoices to clients, and so on) for seven years.
And in December 2006: “Is It Time for Year-End Backups Again?”
Most of what you need to archive at the end of the year is confidential or at least private. That makes it a good idea to password-protect any files or folders you are backing up. Outlook, Quicken, and QuickBooks have this function built-in. For other files and folders, you might want to use a compression tool like WinRAR which allows you to put a password on the archive file. You’ll also be able to fit more data on one disk this way.
Instead of a December 2007 article, I wrote the next post on this subject in January 2008: “It’s Time for the Annual Archive.” (I’d finally given up calling it a backup, since it isn’t, really.)
I’ve just made 4 DVDs to add to the tax box. […] The most time-consuming thing about making them was isolating 2007 data. In some cases I had already done this, but I haven’t been completely consistent. Once it was done, I removed all finished projects from 2007 from my C drive to make room for 2008 projects. I’m not that pressed for storage space on my machine, but it’s annoying to have to look through folders for clients I’m finished with, or previous versions of documents I’m working on, when I want to get to my current work. So I use making the annual archive as an opportunity to tidy up my hard drive.
Last year I appear to have skipped the annual archive article, though I dutifully went through and created my annual archives. They got as far as my Buffalo Quattro drive, and somehow never made it onto CD.
So here we are at the beginning of 2010, and it’s time to clear 2009 out of our computers. (Please!)
If you’ve been making annual archives all along, and only keeping your current projects on your C drive, then creating your 2009 archive should be a comparatively easy process. Just copy all your data onto appropriate storage media. What kind of media depends on the type of work you do. If you work mostly with text-based documents and spreadsheets, it shouldn’t be too difficult to fit your project files onto a few CDs or DVDs.
On the other hand, if you’re a photographer, create a lot of video, develop software, record uncompressed audio, or otherwise generate data in simply stupendous quantities, then you’ll probably need an external hard drive or some Blu-ray discs. (The hard drive might be cheaper, honestly, but keep it in an airtight plastic box.)
And what if you haven’t been making annual archives all along, and your computer is full of years’ worth of undifferentiated data?
Well, don’t you have some fun in store for you?
Fortunately, it’s not as bad as all that, because you can use your computer’s search feature to find you all the files that were last changed in 2009. And then in 2008. And in 2007. And so on. Then you copy those files onto your storage media for archiving. Once you’re sure that the archive copies work (insert the CD or connect the XHD and try opening a few files), you can delete the old files from your computer’s hard drive.
Wow! Look at all that space you have for your 2010 files.
Do the same thing for your e-mail, making sure to create a new archive folder for Outlook. (You need to re-name the existing archive.pst folder to something like archive 2009.pst.)
Of course, if there are projects from 2009 that you’re still working on, you should continue to keep them on your computer. But if you’ve closed off the job and aren’t working for the client anymore, the files can go to a separate location.
Though you still might want to keep more than one copy. The annual archive is just something to keep with your tax documentation in case you (or the IRS) need to refer to it later. It’s not really a backup. So having a second copy of those 2009 files could be a good idea. You never know when a client from four years ago will call and say “Do you still have that…?”