Be a Master of Disaster Preparation – 4 Tips for Readying Your Home Office

Written by on June 12, 2012 in Lifestyle - 1 Comment | Print this page

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Disaster can strike your home at any time. Whether it’s a kitchen fire or a tornado, preparing for tragedy before it strikes is the best way for you to overcome the negative effects of a disaster. Keeping humans and pets safe is the top priority in a disaster situation, followed by important documents – much like the ones found in your home office.

Although it will cost you time and money now, those amounts are nominal compared to what you’d spend recouping a loss if unprepared. And sadly, some unprepared individuals who become victims of disaster are never able to fully recover their lost property. In addition to computer equipment, office furniture, and important paperwork, if damage to digital media is severe enough then not even the most savvy repair experts can recover the lost data.

The loss of important data is minuscule compared to the loss of a life, but the security of knowing your equipment and information is protected will make it that much easier to concentrate on following your emergency plan. Your chances of recovering after a disaster are directly proportional to how prepared you are to handle a disaster in the first place. Something to remember while planning for disasters is that protecting yourself, your family, and your pets always comes first when disaster strikes.

SAFE-ty First for Paper Data

Disaster situations don’t always give a lot of time to prepare. Prioritize what paper data is most important in your home office and keep it in a watertight, fireproof box, like a safe. If you don’t have a safe, put it the information in a large plastic bag that zips closed and stick it in your family’s freezer. Documents like tax records, birth and marriage records, and social security information would all need to be kept safe in the event of an emergency.

If you don’t have access to a safe and are worried about items getting wet in the event of a natural disaster, look into dry bags. Used by water sports enthusiasts to keep their personal equipment – like lunch, cellphone, and extra clothes – dry when kayaking, rafting, or just out for a day of fishing, dry bags float and are water resistant, even if the bag goes underwater for a short time. While dry bags can keep your electronics safe, anything more than a quick dip beneath the water’s surface may cause water to leak into the bag and cause damage to your equipment.

Back Up Your Digital Data

Whether you live in an area that experiences natural disasters like hurricanes or tornados on a regular basis or not, it’s just common sense to back up your digital information. Even the most intuitive home office professional cannot predict every instance of fire or flood. While external hard drives do the job, if your original content gets deleted or your backup drive dies, then you could just be out of luck. In addition to a local backup to an external drive or a secondary computer, you should also consider some kind of online backup company. Here are some of the more popular ones.

  • Carbonite – With a US-based server, Carbonite is a paid service that works for both Windows and Mac, offering features such as public internet file hosting, the ability to restore via physical media, and external hard drive support.
  • Mozy – This service has servers in both the US and Europe. It is very similar to Carbonite, working for both Windows and Mac, and providing external hard drive support. The primary difference between the two paid services is that while Mozy offers 2GB of free online storage, Carbonite does not.
  • Dropbox – This is a free service that I’ve used since 2009, and was very pleased in 2011 when they announced “Dropbox for Teams” which allowed me to share and collaborate on files with clients, even if they lived halfway across the world.
  • SugarSync – A free service that works for both Windows and Mac users, it offers free public internet file sharing (with a user account) as well as 5GB of free online storage.

American computer engineer Steve Wozniak once said, “All the best people in life seem to like LINUX.” If you’re one of the 110 million plus Linux users in the world, then you might have a little more trouble finding an online backup service. SpiderOak, which works with Windows, Mac, and Linux, is a paid service that offers many of the above features as well as 2GB of free storage space.

Digital Priorities

Most people who backup their computers for personal reasons go straight for the media-related files, backing up photos and music. However, professionals working out of a home office should select their documents folder as the first set of files to backup, followed by Outlook or Windows Live Mail. Then after backing up media, if space remains, choose things like application settings and browser bookmarks. Backing up windows and program files is wasted space, because if your computer dies or crashes in the event of an emergency, then you’re going to have to reinstall everything if not start over with a brand new computer altogether.

Protecting Your Identity

In addition to protecting your data, you should also protect your identity in case of a disaster situation. Use passwords that have a combination of numbers mixed in with both Capital and lowercase letters. A website like RoboForm.com provides the service of managing passwords. You can access the site from any computer, tablet, or smart phone with Internet capabilities. Since most people use a wallet or purse for identification, keep it where you can easily grab it in case of an emergency. If you learn of an impending disaster, like flooding from heavy storms, slip your wallet into a plastic storage bag that zips closed and keep it with your emergency kit.

Preparing your home office for an emergency situation means that when officials order an evacuation, you can get up and go more quickly than if you had to wait around to do things like back up important files. Unplugging your electronics, not only in your home office but also in the other rooms throughout your home, will help protect them in the event of power surges. Once you’ve grabbed supplies such as emergency car kits and other pre-assembled provisions, like a blanket, cash, and nonperishable foods, don’t forget to take the most basic precaution against data loss – lock all the doors and windows so that scavengers don’t trespass into your home before you return.

This is a guest post.  Canadian resident Duncan Morrison understands the importance of being prepared for a disaster due to the extreme variations of weather surrounding his Edmonton home. After the city of Edmonton was hit by a category 4 tornado in 1987, he created a disaster preparedness kit for his home and another for his vehicle from itpaystobeprepared.com. When he’s not researching ways for people to better prepare themselves for an emergency, Duncan enjoys playing golf with his friends, going to the cinema with his wife of 7 years, or hanging out with Sammy, the most spoiled dog in the city of Edmonton.

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