Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself from a data disaster. Start by repeating this mantra: backup, backup, backup. So many companies don't back up their computer files on a regular basis because they lack the time, aren't familiar with the latest storage mediums or simply subscribe to the notion "It won't happen to me."
Experts say the easiest way to protect yourself from data loss is to have a backup copy of all your work. Find a way to perform regular backups that works for you, says Nikki Stange, a data crisis counselor with DriveSavers. Establish a regular time to perform backups. Be sure to put one copy of the data in a secure place off-site, such as a safety deposit box, so it's protected from natural disasters. Backing up the information to floppy disks may work fine for you, or you may need the added flexibility and security of removable media.
Tape backup drives are an extremely affordable option as well. Although they aren't as fast or as flexible as other storage devices, they're great for backing up large amounts of data, particularly across a network. Hewlett-Packard's HP Colorado 8GB tape drive ($285), for example, provides up to 8GB of capacity on a single cartridge. It also has one-button and automated backup features, a backup scheduler, and disaster recovery software for Windows 95 that enables you to retrieve data without having to reinstall and reconfigure your system.
Iomega's new Jaz 2GB removable storage drive ($499) is another option to consider. Because each disk holds up to 2GB of data, you've got lots of room for backing up files.
CD-rewriteable (CD-RW) drives are a slightly more expensive option. They make it possible to record, erase and rewrite large amounts of data onto CDs at very fast speeds. Hewlett-Packard has a product for small companies called the HP SureStore CD-Writer Plus 7200 drive. It provides users with up to 650MB of removable data storage and comes bundled with leading antivirus and document management software. Both internal ($499) and external ($610) drives are available.
A number of companies offer remote backup via the Internet. Although they can be slow and relatively expensive (about $20 a month) compared to other backup solutions, they offer automatic backups and the additional security of off-site storage. Two Internet backup services to check out include Connected Online Backup (http://www.connected.com) and Atrieva (http://www.atrieva.com).