If you ever doubt the value of backing up your files, learn from my example: When I was cleaning up my computer's desktop, I grabbed a file thinking it was an older version of a document, tossed it in the recycle bin and clicked "empty." Poof, eight hours of work went up in digital smoke. Fortunately, I had backup. My external hard drive--set to make hourly, daily and weekly copies of my system--recovered the file instantly. If, like mine, your entire business runs off of one computer, consider connecting one of these hard disks. It's an investment in peace of mind.
Cache and Carry
Western Digital My Passport Edge
(500 GB for $100)
Slim, small and fast, this USB 3.0 drive is about the size of a cigarette case and comes preloaded with software that allows you to protect files with a password and perform backups automatically. Since it draws power from the computer's USB port, it's supremely portable--no power cord or bulky adapter needed.
Fire and Water
ioSafe Solo G3
(1 TB for $300; 2 TB for $350; 3 TB for $450)
This 15-pound USB 3.0 drive, the size of a cinder block, is built to withstand 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit and three days of submersion in 10 feet of water. We didn't have a flame hot enough or the time to test these capabilities, but the fact that the Solo G3 comes with $2,500 in forensic data recovery services gives us confidence it will deliver on its promise.
LaCie Little Big Disk
(512 GB for $699; 1 TB for $999)
Pairing the two fastest technologies in external storage--Thunderbolt connectivity and solid-state drives--this top-of-the line portable unit moves files at speeds of up to 635 MB per second. (Or put it this way: It can transfer a two-hour movie file in two seconds.) Bonus: The Little Big has two Thunderbolt ports, so you can daisy-chain multiple units together for a massive stockpile of storage.
Seagate GoFlex Satellite
(500 GB for $200)
When connected via cable, the USB 3.0 drive works perfectly fine with Mac and Windows machines. But at the push of a button, the iOS- and Android-compatible external drive launches its own Wi-Fi network, which can be accessed by portables. Unplugged, the drive has up to 10 hours of battery life, and as many as eight Wi-Fi-equipped devices can connect to it at once.