Being location independent—traveling or living as a digital nomad—increases your risk for data loss.
Your laptop could be stolen from your AirBnB rental, or snatched away with your backpack tomorrow.
The extra wear and tear on your gadgets will shorten their lifespan (I know I’ve been caught in the pouring rain more than once with my laptop on me and no shelter in sight.)
And the lack of reliable internet on that tropical island you are staying on will lead you to not even bother with Dropbox or some other cloud based backup service.
Do you have all of your photos on your laptop, and nowhere else?
If you are using an external drive; when that drive dies, will 6 months worth of your work die with it?
When the internet is sooo slow that you can’t rely on Dropbox, Google Docs, or some other cloud backup service to work for several days in a row… are your most recent computer files still being protected?
Because if you don’t have a good answer for those questions above—well then—continue reading.
As I will help you to sort out a bulletproof solution for keeping your data protected while traveling or living anywhere in the world.
The Rule of 3
In the world of rock climbing, there exist what is called a climbing anchor. It is what prevents you from plummeting to the ground if you were to take a fall during an attempt to ascend a towering rock face.
Since it’s the difference between being alive or dead if your anchor fails, it isn’t composed of just a single point of protection. There are at least 3 solid protection points within a proper climbing anchor.
This changes the risk of a complete anchor failure into something very improbable. Even if a piece of gear were to snap or if part of the anchor were to dislodge with a loose rock—you’ll be alive.
A similar principle should be applied to how you protect your data. This is the Backup Rule of 3, also known as the “Backup 3-2-1 rule”.
- 3 copies of your data. Because two copies isn’t enough if your data is important to you.
- 2 different media formats for your backup. Such as an external hard drive + SD card.
- 1 off-site backup. If your bamboo bungalow goes down in flames along with all of your possessions within it, how will you get your photos back?
Why is this necessary?
As with climbing, things can and will go wrong.
A rogue wave at the beach could knock you over into the water along with your laptop and external drive.
That budget airline you flew with could lose all of your luggage.
And an online backup of your data can become corrupted and useless.
A real-life solution
Adhering to the 3-2-1 Backup principle with your critical and most important data isn’t as difficult or technical as it may sound.
Pickup an external hard drive if you don’t have one already. Choose a drive with at least double the capacity of what you’re currently using. So if 400 gigs of your laptop storage is being used, buy a 1 terabyte drive.
I use the Western Digital My Passport Ultra myself. It is small, fast, reliable, and relatively inexpensive. It also includes easy-to-use backup software for Windows.
After plugging in your drive you’ll want to start backing up your laptop right away.
You can do this on a Mac in less than a minute by enabling Time Machine.
If you have a PC, use the backup software included with your external drive. If your drive doesn’t have any backup software that comes with it, then I recommend giving Genie Timeline a try.
Now you will want to start pushing your most important files into the cloud.
For a simple all-in-one cloud backup solution, I recommend Dropbox. If you prefer Google Drive or some other service, stick with them, as my advice can easily be adapted to those alternatives.
For $8.25 a month ($99 yearly fee), you can get 1 terabyte of space with Dropbox.
Place all of your most important files in your Dropbox folder. If you are using a mac, here is an article that explains how to brilliantly do so with an app called MacDropAny. But don’t worry, you can do the same with a PC.
Be selective with your data
Remember that these are you most important computer files that we are talking about. If you have a large amount of data on your laptop or you are limited by a slow internet connection, be selective.
Do you really need to place those pirated movies in your Dropbox folder? Along with ALL of those mp3s of yours?
At this point you will have 3 copies of your most important files. They are on your laptop, external drive, and within Dropbox. You are using two different types of media for backing up—your external drive and your “cloud drive”, which is Dropbox or a similar service. And you are using an off-site backup—this again being Dropbox.
But we still have a Step 3…
As a digital nomad, you will need to go one step further to fully follow our Rule of 3. This is because the internet is often times unreliable as we change between countries, locations, or when we go off traveling.
And I have a simple remedy for this.
Grab a high-capacity USB thumb drive. I recommend the 128gb SanDisk Cruzer, which can be found on Amazon for under $30 dollars at the time of this writing.
Stash it separately from where you keep your laptop and external drive whenever possible.
When the internet is too slow for syncing with Dropbox for a day or longer, you’ll want to copy your most recent file changes to your USB stick at the end of the day.
It’s a simple tactic, yet it will give you the peace of mind of knowing that your photos and most important computer files are being safely protected.
Do you have a massive data collection that is traveling along with you? Perhaps you are working with video, audio production, or raw image files?
Well then, you should also read this: