Survival isn’t just about avoiding death and maiming due to disasters and crisis events. It’s also about having the ability to restart your life after such an event, with as little loss as possible.
That’s where a good backup plan comes in, and for important electronic documents, that means using flash drives, cloud storage and other electronic forms of reproduction and storage.
Few people think about backing up their important documents until it’s too late. They assume that their computer’s hard drive will last forever, or that their home won’t be destroyed by a fire or other disaster.
But the sad truth is that anything can happen at any time, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
The best way to back up your documents is to use a combination of flash drives and cloud storage.
Flash drives are great for storing large amounts of data offline, and they’re small enough to keep with you or in a BOB in case you need to evacuate in a hurry.
Cloud storage is perfect for keeping backups of your most important files online, where they can be accessed from anywhere.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about the topic of electronic storage and I’ll also share with you my personal experience doing the same.
The Advantage of Digital Backups
The main advantage of storing your documents electronically is that they can be made more difficult to destroy by fire, water or other physical disasters through the power of redundancy.
This is especially true of cloud storage systems and other “distributed” forms electronic file management.
A flash drive that is squirreled away in a cash or some other storage location will likely survive a disaster at your house. Multiple copies on multiple flash drives increases the likelihood that at least one will survive an event that wipes out your home town!
But flash drives and external or backup hard drives, as useful as they are, still represent physical storage. The files may be electronic, but if every bit of hardware holding them is crunched then your files are gone. This isn’t the case with cloud storage.
If you utilize cloud storage, even if your house burns down with all your computers and drives inside, totally incinerated, your files will be safe if they’re stored in the cloud.
This is because they are turned into data made redundant by being stored in multiple places throughout cyberspace.
Another advantage of all electronic backups is that they’re almost always more space-efficient than paper copies.
For example, you can store an entire library on a compact portable hard drive, whereas you would need literal tons of printed paper to hold the data otherwise! Hopefully you don’t require that much storage, but you get my drift.
Remember, too, that electronic backups are often more convenient than paper copies.
For example, if you need to access a document while you’re away from home, you can just pull it up on your phone or laptop instead of having to lug around a folder, briefcase or stack of papers.
Finally, electronic storage has some unique security advantages compared to paper copies.
For example, it’s much harder for someone to destroy or steal all your backups if they’re spread out among different devices and locations.
And if you encrypt your files or protect your drive, no one will be able to view them without the proper password!
Of course, electronic backups have their own disadvantages as well. They can be lost or stolen when stored on a physical drive, just like paper copies.
There are also some troubling implications to handing over your most precious data and credentials to unknown and basically unaccountable third parties who “promise” to keep your data safe and private.
But these concerns can be mitigated with proper procedure and by doing your homework.
There is much to recommend digital storage solutions for your document backup needs!
What Documents Should I Backup?
The first step in backing up your documents is to actually choose which ones you want to save. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to be selective and intentional about which files you include in your backup.
For example, do you really need to keep every single document you’ve ever created? Probably not. You can likely get by with just backing up your most recent work, or maybe even just the work that’s most important to you.
The same goes for other types of files like photos and videos. Do you need to keep every single photo you’ve ever taken? Again, probably not. Just pick out the ones that are most important to you and back those up.
You should also consider the format of the files you’re backing up. For example, if you have a document in Microsoft Word format, you may want to save it in PDF format as well so that you can open it on any device.
The same goes for photos and videos. JPG is a widely-used format for photos, while MP4 is a popular format for videos. By saving your files in these formats, you’ll be able to open them on just about any device or computer.
The most important docs you want to backup as part of your survival plan include:
- Driver’s License
- Insurance Info and Policies
- Diplomas/Professional Certs
- Medical Records/Prescriptions
- Pet/Veterinary Info
- Banking Info
- Vital Passwords
- Family/Friend/Emergency Contact Info
All of these and more will likely be needed in the aftermath of a major event, sooner or later.
Of course, the good news is you can store so much more on a flash drive or other electronic backup than you could ever hope to on paper!
Anything and everything you think you might need, go ahead and make that backup!
Physical Safety and Security Concerns
Now that you know what to backup, it’s time to consider how to physically protect your flash drive or other electronic storage device.
The first step is to make sure your devices are stored in a safe and secure location.
For example, if you have a physical drive, you probably want to keep it in a locked drawer or safe. If you’re using cloud storage, you definitely want to password-protect your account with a strong password.
You should also consider encrypting your data directly. This will ensure that even if someone does get their hands on your devices or otherwise breaches your storage, they won’t be able to access your files without the proper password.
While it is true that the savviest criminals or bad actors might have the skills and wherewithal to crack a good password or even defeat encryption, you’ll dramatically thin the herd by taking this simple step.
Even if you do everything right, there’s always a chance that something could happen to your devices. You are preparing for a really bad day, after all! They could be lost or stolen, or they could simply stop working one day.
That’s why it’s important to either store your drives, flash- or other, in weatherproof, shockproof containers.
A wet hard drive likely means total loss, and thought the latest and greatest drives are quite durable these are still sensitive pieces of equipment.
Also consider multiple drives and redundant files as mentioned above. You might store one backup on a physical drive at home, one on a physical drive at work or in storage, and one in the cloud.
That way, even if something happens to any one of your backups, you’ll still have others to fall back on.
Of course, this also means that you need to be diligent about keeping your backups up-to-date. Every time you create or edit a file, make sure to update your backups accordingly.
This way, you’ll always have the most recent versions of your files and you won’t have to worry about losing anything important.
My Personal “Backup” Revelation
Have you really thought of everything that is important?
One night a couple of years back, my wife observed me going over our bug out bags. I asked her to join me and give me her opinion as to what I may have forgotten, or she may think we needed to add. So she sat there with me.
After I completed going through our bug out bags I asked my wife, if she could think of anything that I have forgotten or anything that may be important to her to take with us.
Maria thought about it for a second and said, if we had to evacuate for a major disaster or a major emergency and the possibility existed that our house may be destroyed or we might not be able to return home, the one thing that I would want is all of our pictures; our high school pictures, wedding pictures, pictures of our children as they grew up, vacation pictures, pictures of our relatives, etc.
She said, if the house and all of our pictures were destroyed, we would never be able to replace them. They are all of our memories of years gone by.
Maria was right. I told Maria that I would work on it and see what I could come up with.
We have a lot of pictures both hanging on the walls of our home, in photo albums and in boxes in the attic.
It would be impossible to pack all of the photographs and still have room for any need equipment and food if we had to Bug Out. The time to gather all of them would be prohibitive should we have to leave in a hurry.
Then I started to think about how to organize all of our photographs and then I thought about all of our important documents. Documents like our wills, house title, house and vehicle insurance policies, life insurance policies, deeds to our other properties we own, bills of sales, firearms records and the list seemed to be endless.
I then looked around our home and thought, how would I prove to our insurance agent what we owned if it was all destroyed.
As fate would have it, one day my eldest grandson, Mathew who is 13 years old, happened to be at our house and asked what I was doing? I explained my dilemma to him.
Mathew said why don’t you digitize everything and put it on a memory stick (thumb drive). Memory sticks take up almost no room; they are light weight and can hold a lot of information.
That was the answer I was looking for. I went with my grandson to Wally World, and purchased a computer printer/copier/scanner. Along with the printer, I purchased one (1), 64 Gigabyte thumb drive.
I returned home and installed the computer printer/copier/scanner. I took one of our photographs from the wall where it was hanging, placed it on the copier/printer/scanner, plugged in the thumb drive and copied the photo to the thumb drive.
I took the thumb drive from the printer/copier/scanner and checked the image that I had just stored on it. The image appeared to be perfect.
I took the thumb drive over to Wally World and had a photograph printed off of the stored image. Fifteen minutes later I had an exact copy of the photograph hanging on the wall of our home.
I went back home and showed Maria the photo I just had reproduced and explained the process. Maria was satisfied with the results.
Now the work started, I digitized every photograph that we had that would fit onto the printer/copier/scanner. Then I digitized all of the fore mentioned documents.
I then took my digital camera and took photographs of every wall and closet in our home to document our belongings.
Then I composed a Word document that listed all of the items in our home, of value, TVs, etc. their full descriptions and serial numbers.
Everything fit on the thumb drive.
I keep the thumb drive in a small zip lock bag, in my wife’s bug out bag.
Now if we evacuate/bug out, when my wife grabs her Bug Out bag the thumb drive is in it and she has all of the pictures and important documents that we need and want.
It is a simple process to update the thumb drives when we take new photographs, purchase new items or receive renewed insurance policies.
Yes, it takes a little time to accomplish the above task but the benefits outweigh the time. This makes a great project for the winter months when you are getting cabin fever.
Don’t Ignore Digital Readiness…
Backing up your data is an essential part of any survival plan. By keeping your important files safe, you’ll be able to weather any storm, no matter how bad it might be.
Just remember to always keep your backups up-to-date and take care to physically protect your devices!