She called me crying, freaking out more like it. It took a while, but I soon realized what the problem was. She had dropped her phone overboard from the cruise ship. It is inconvenient to lose the phone but what devastated her was the loss of pictures. She was imploring me for a way to restore her precious memories.

The problem with technology is that it is adopted by most without considering the worst-case scenario. As a pilot, we always plan for the worst-case scenario. Back in the day when film cameras recorded family histories backing up “data” was simply a matter of making copies of pictures and trying to keep from losing the film negatives. The same was true for BETA and VHS video recordings. Make a copy and keep it someplace safe.

But smartphones and DSLR cameras changed all that. Family memories are easily recorded on the fly. But in the haste of adopting new technology, little attention has been paid to how to save family memories in digital formats.

Apple, Dropbox and other services offer cloud vaults where the digital memories can be backed up to. Many of these offer hands-free services, making copies whenever the device is connected to the Internet. Also, our connected lives have us sharing our memories with friends and family simply by clicking send. Social media allows us to share our lives as well, creating an archive of family memories.

But what about the worst-case scenario, the loss of the device where the originals are stored?

Cloud service archives have limits as to the amount of storage space they offer. After a certain amount of space there are costs involved that many choose not to subscribe to. What then?

As I thought about her predicament, I thought about my own worst-case data loss scenario.

I keep three external drives which are synced at least every week.

I store my daily work on a primary device in a digital folder named, appropriately, “work-in-progress.” At the end of the day’s work, I make a copy to a USB stick. My job is to create digital content so there is always labor work that would hurt me if it was lost. Creativity is hard to replicate.

Each week I sync the three external drives. Why three drives?

In a worst-case scenario I look for ways to have access to my data should the Internet go down, or I have no Internet access and my primary computer were to also die. I also consider my data as part of the “get-out-of-dodge” strategy in an emergency. Therefore, my data must be compact and portable.

The three drives are strategically kept in two separate places.

One is at my office and the other is at the house. The reason for this is that – God forbid – one of the locations were to be destroyed, the other archive drive is presumably safe at the other location. That brings us to the third external drive.

The third drive is always on my person. It is small enough that it isn’t noticeable.

This third drive is the backup-to-my-backup plan. It is the drive that first gets updated and the one that let’s me “get-out-of-dodge” in a hurry with most of my data intact. The USB daily backup is just a way to avoid losing the day’s work.

Under a worst-case scenario my data loss should be, at most, a week’s worth of data.

With external drives, I can work on borrowed computers, if need be, or on a new computer.

As I create content it is impossible for me to use USB sticks. But most readers shouldn’t have a problem with this.

It is a good idea to get into the habit of backing up your smart devices (phones/tablets/cameras) to your local computer. From there, at least two USB sticks should be used to archive your precious memories. Most smart devices today are recognized as external drives when connected to a computer. You can simply copy the files to the computer, and then on to the USB stick.

Then separate the USB sticks. Keep them in two different places.

How often should you backup your devices?

That is up to you. How many days, weeks, months or years of memories are you willing to lose? The answer lies therein.

The question I usually get asked is whether I believe the worst-case-scenario should be the way to live one’s life. My answer is “plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

I’ve had to rely on my backup strategy to recover from a catastrophe. I’ve had clients face the worst-case scenario because their buildings caught fire or a rouge employee maliciously damaged computers.

The backups allowed them to recover.

You may never need to recover from a catastrophe but having access to your precious memories is better than losing them.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...