The internet continues to fill up with evidence that we rely on our computers more than any tool in todays world, yet it’s suggested over and over that %50 of the people reading this don’t backup on any sort of regular bases…talk about a risky financial move. I know the tools I use to track my money are almost exclusive to my computer and the internet (Quicken, Mint, and Excel being the most common) as well as most of my media and important information. What if we tried to put a cost on not just our computers, but what we put into them?

I work with computers all day as I give tech support and advice to friends, family and users. The trend I continue to see sneaking up on people is that they’re investing more and more of their time and by extension, their money, into their computers without being aware of it. People today are also flat out buying more digital content in the form of songs, movies and other media than ever before. Here’s the thing, the proportion of content and money we’re pouring into our digital devices is not equal with the awareness we have for backing it up. We might value our computers at $1000, but 2 years later it might have $10,000 worth of content on it. Scary if you don’t have a copy somewhere. Scary if you don’t have two copies of it somewhere!

One reason the proportion is so out of whack is because of awareness. We gradually add data to our computer and most of the time we don’t even think about it. Sure when we download new software it feels shiny and new, but next week it’s just another icon buried in a folder. How do we wake up to how important our megabytes and gigabytes are? Look at the cost, money and time are great motivators.

Real Costs

Let’s try to put value to a typical computer users data.

Operating System

Apple’s current operating system is $29 dollars, Microsoft’s varies wildly but if you were to go into the store and get a fresh new copy it would cost around $199 for Windows 7 Home Premium. Most of the time you get this when you buy the computer, but not always, and not when you upgrade.

Software

Depending on vocation, you most likely own Microsoft Office ($149.99+), Quicken ($59.99), Quickbooks ($99.95), Adobe Photoshop ($699), Adobe Dreamweaver ($399) or about 1000 other applications. While applications can usually be re-installed from a disc, this is becoming less common as it becomes easier to download large files from the web. We can often recover lost software, but it costs in our time and the technical hassle to do so.

Smartphone Applications that are also synced to your computer count and according to a recent survey iPhone users have nearly $80 of apps on their phones! And did you know previous iTunes purchases may be unavailable if they have been refunded or are no longer on the iTunes Store.

Songs, Movies, and Media

Here’s where it gets interesting. You may have never bought a song on iTunes, but at $1 or more a pop, those of you audiophiles might rack up $1000 dollars in digital songs over a year or two and not even realize it. The digital content we buy today costs real money and isn’t always easily replaced. While Apple and other providers are usually pretty good about replacing content if you can prove purchase, it’s not as easy as a click of a button.

In recent years Getting Rich Slowly has often shared great tips on how to spend less on DVD’s and cut the cable bill, and do you know where those solutions lead? Right to your computer’s hard drive. J.D. has even shared that he spends about $20 on iTunes a month. It adds up quick.

Pictures

Oh the pictures. I can’t remember the last time I saw a camera that uses film. Our memories become digital almost instantly today and they are passed around through computers, phones, etc. All capable of failing at a moments notice. Our pictures are amongst the biggest shared sentimental keepsakes we have, enough said, how does it go…priceless? I really don’t have to continue on about the potential value of our pictures, these things scream important to us.

Business

My wife is a lawyer. (I thought I spent a lot of time on the computer!) I mentioned I was making a backup guide to her one day and to my surprise, she immediately had 2 stories to tell me of lawyers in the field losing data because they have zero measures in place to back up. Wow! The work we do on our computers, whether it’s for our business, or it is our business is priced beyond worth because it holds value to our future.

Take AVSIM for example. AVSIM, a leading website dedicated to the flight simulation community focusing mainly on Microsoft’s Flight Simulator program, had their two servers hacked and their site brought down. The company had no external backup system. Thirteen years of hard work and success was instantly wiped out. Source: Mozy

Adding it Up

It’s a really hard game to play in figuring out the actual dollar value of all the data on our computers, but I’ll take myself as an example. First lets break down some actual dollar values and then mention the more nebulous items like business information. Note: I’m admittedly on the more extreme side due to consuming all my media on my computer, running my business on my computer and gaming. Here’s a look at my 2010 spending:

  • $1000+ Software: Operating System, iWork, CS5, StarCraft II, Omnigraffle, iPhone View, Screenflow, Things, etc.
  • $512 iTunes Media: Including music, apps, movies, tv shows, etc.
  • $112 eBooks.
  • I run IT Arsenal almost solely from my computer. The cost of my clients data, my writing, and the resources and time put into it could easily amount to $10,000.

At a total of $11,624, the sticker price on my iMac doesn’t look that bad anymore. As you can see a majority comes from potentially lost income and productivity if everything you’ve built and configured on your computer suddenly disappeared.

I know what you’re thinking, it doesn’t cost all that to replace software I have install discs for…and I agree, but what about the data I can’t replace? What about the time it will take to completely re-install things from scratch vs. restoring from a backup? How about if you lost all your website passwords and the time it would take to recover from that?

You’re no Dummy

One way you can save yourself time and money with something you’ve already put a huge investment into is to make a backup plan for your computer as soon as possible. It’s obvious from the cost above that this isn’t something to put off. “Someday” isn’t on the calendar…let’s make it an actual day, like this Thursday…or sooner.

The Point is Action

The tools to backup today are numerable and affordable, and although it may seem like a daunting task, it really doesn’t have to be. Some tools I commonly recommend are DropboxTime MachineCarboniteSugarSync and Mozy.

The problem isn’t usually with the software though, it’s with making the decision to take action. (Isn’t everything?) So I encourage, no I beg you to make an investment in what you already own today and put a backup plan in place for your computer, your mom’s computer, and everyone you know who would be devastated if catastrophe decided to chomp down on your digital data.

Need Help?

If you want to make the decision to finally cover your butt (and need help doing so), I invite you to talk to me and checkout The Backup Informer, a guide I created to take you from decision point to complete set up with easy to understand language, big pictures and video on backing up your computer. Check out the guide and get in touch if you have any questions on how to make the right decision on backing up. I love to help through e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook.