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Though many of us might try to resist it, we increasingly live in a world where everything important is on our phone and computer. Our spouse’s number, pictures of our children, work documents, schedules, and the essential details of our everyday lives are all on one computing device or another. And, those devices are quite fragile. I’m not talking about the collapse of the internet, online security, or government control of the internet (we’ve covered all of that). I’m talking about the more practical concerns of viruses, broken parts, and corrupted files.
Let’s say you bug out because of a hurricane or flood. Chances are, you don’t bring your desktop computer with you. When you return, if your computer is waterlogged, the memory may be damaged. Or, let’s say you’re in a car accident, your phone goes flying and is destroyed beyond all repair. There go the local files. Or, of course, you could get a serious virus that forces you to do a fresh reinstall of your OS. How do you prepare your computer, your phone, and all of your digital information for this fairly likely problem? And, for those of you who already use back-ups, how do you keep them updated?
How to Prep Your Computer and Phone
Many of the social media accounts that we rely on can be accessed from anywhere, so long as you have the password for the account. There are a few unusual ways preppers can use these (free!) accounts to their advantage. For example, Google stores contact information, but it isn’t always complete, with only email addresses and not phone numbers or other information.
You can simply update Google’s record of your contacts with the information from your Android or other phones. It’s annoying, but you only do it once. This way, even if the SIM card and local storage in the phone are broken beyond repair, you have everyone’s number in your Google account. You can also keep track of important colleagues, customers, and clients in your Google account, even if you never use your personal Gmail account to contact them.
Other accounts can solve other problems. For example, images present a special challenge for data storage. They are huge chunks of data, you generate a lot of them, and they have sentimental value. The pictures of your growing children are priceless, you don’t get the opportunity to take them again.
A good solution to this problem is Instagram. Simply upload your best-loved photos on a regular basis and you’ll always have them, even though the quality will be reduced. The best part about this is that unlike backing up your images to a USB or even cloud storage, sharing to Instagram (or another image sharing platform) is fun—which means you’ll actually do it. If you’re worried about privacy, you can always set your account to private.
There’s another odd problem, for researchers, academics, writers, and anyone else who might do online research. Those endless files with links to interesting and important articles could all get lost one day. Bookmarks? For many of us, there’s too much research for bookmarks to make sense.
One academic option is RefWorks, in which you can store your sources and even generate references. But a much more fun solution is Minds—a Twitter alternative. Though you can send out short messages on Minds much like you can on Twitter, many also use the platform to share and log their research.
Of course, you may want to back-up the data on your social media account. In that case, look into SocialSafe or Backupify. While these services are meant to back-up social media data for companies who use social media to promote themselves, they can be very useful for individual preppers too.
Of course, social media accounts are public, and even when set to private, there’s always a chance your account could be accessed, your privacy violated, or the service may simply shut down. Cloud Storage is considerably more private, although still somewhat vulnerable. A few titans of cloud storage have been around for some time, and though they are rarely free for long and aren’t as much fun as the social media networks, they can store full-quality photos and long documents.
Most services integrate with your phone—Google Drive integrates with Mac and iOS, even though you might expect it not to.
Other options include:
- Box, with the largest amount of free storage.
- Dropbox, which is known for being simple, but bare bones.
- OneDrive is the last major option. According to Cnet, Microsoft plans to have the service figure out which images are most important to you and which you might be ready to delete. Perhaps that’s convenient, but I know the privacy-concerned among us will not be happy with it.
Other Back-Up Systems
Many of our devices allow you to back-up your data on a set schedule, saving you the hassle of manually performing it or remembering it.
Windows allows regularly scheduled back-ups to a location of your choice (I suggest a Solid State Drive or SSD, they are quick and reliable). Just check out the “Back-up and Restore Center” on the Control Panel. Fortunately, the options have become more specific since Windows 7. Windows 10 allows you to choose specific file folders to backup.
Android has backup options under the “Back-Up” option in the system settings.
Apple’s backup system, iCloud, can collect from your Mac, phone, or even iTunes (although, it may be more space friendly to just re-download your music after a loss). In fact, iCloud can back-up your device every day, which is pretty convenient for those who store work files on their Macs.
You can even backup your Facebook data from your account settings (although I would be surprised if you needed a backup, it’s notoriously difficult to delete Facebook).
The last digital back-up you should have is a USB drive with critical data, placed in your Bug-Out Bag of course.
Things you should put on your Bug-Out USB drive:
- Passwords to your accounts
- Recent photos of your children and family members (to help with search and rescue operations)
- Phone numbers of key people/emergency organizations
- Passport/Visa scans
- Driver’s license scan
- Birth and marriage certificate scans
- Health and other insurance policy scans
- Will and other legal document scans
- Key work documents, like contracts, hiring documents, etc.
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This USB drive isn’t a replacement for physical copies of your most critical documents, as a more serious SHTF event may cut you off from technology altogether. But it’s an important item to have for short-term, relatively minor SHTF events where you might have to temporarily relocate.
Memorize Key Information
There are non-digital solutions to some digital problems. To anyone who isn’t a millennial, this may sound silly, but bear with me for the sake of our youngest preppers. Do you have your spouse’s number memorized? Your parent’s new address? We so rarely dial numbers anymore, or even use addresses except to punch them into a GPS, that even the most critical information might slip your mind in a time of stress. And if you are old enough to remember the days where numbers were written down or memorized, have you updated your memory banks?
I didn’t consider this problem until my boyfriend’s phone broke at work (to the point it wouldn’t turn on) and he needed to call me. He was borrowing a co-worker’s phone (there were no payphones around, of course), and that co-worker didn’t have my number programmed in. To his surprise, he couldn’t remember the last two digits of my number. Maybe it was the stress of the situation.
The only number he could remember was his home phone number from when he was a child, which his mother wisely kept as her cell phone number. He called her to get my number, but it could have been an even worse day for us both if she had changed her number in the decade since she got rid of her home phone.
My advice to the older and wiser of us is to ensure your children (or spouse!) know your number. Plus, try to keep the same number for as long as possible. And to us younger preppers, take a few minutes to ensure you have the most important information on your phone completely memorized.
Prepping isn’t always as satisfying as surveying a stocked pantry, or as exciting as comparing EDC knives. Dragging files from one spot to another is boring. But prepping doesn’t get much more practical than preparing for our technology to fail, especially when we need it most. Just remember Schofield’ Second Law of Computing, that you don’t have your data unless you have two copies of it. You might want to use more than one of the solutions we’ve outlined here.
How do you prep for technology failure?
Author Bio: Ellysa Chenery can be found writing all over the web. She loves adapting traditional skills for new situations, whether in the wilderness, garden, or homestead. Her favorite smell is carrots fresh from the dirt.
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