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If you have a computer then you have valuable information on that computer, whether it is design projects you have done over the years, business files or just a few hundred photos of your puppy Rex making that puppy face for the camera. Losing all those valuable files is a great way to ruin your day! Computers are reliable for the most part, but we all know bad stuff happens to them all the time - laptops get stolen or left on the train, hard drives get the click of death, your daughter Suzy accidentally deletes all your files while trying to figure out where she downloaded that cool new video. It just happens.

So, how do you protect your data?

TDK 4.7GB 16X DVD-R 100 Packs Disc Model DVD-R47FCB100Over the years I have tried many different methods for backing up my computer files. Back in the 90s, I would burn files to CDs whenever I got a “hunch” that something might be getting ready to fail me. Then in the early days of this site, I got a Firelite external hard drive and while I could schedule how often I wanted to run backups, more often than not, the program just didn’t work as advertised.

Then last year, after one too many close calls with data loss, I decided there had to be an easier way!  After researching a variety of online backup options, I decided to sign up for the free Carbonite trial (which did not even require a credit card – another plus). Within days  it was apparent that I had found the solution that worked for me – I didn’t even wait for the 15 day free trial to end – I gladly paid $54.95 for the year.

Why Carbonite works for me.

  • First, and foremost, they give you a free 15-day trial to let you really make sure their product is a good fit for your needs.
  • It is real time -  within minutes of downloading a file or modifying a file Carbonite has identified the new file, put it in the queue, and has sent it up to to the backup server. Note – the very first time you set up your files for back up it is going to take hours, but once you get going, it is pretty close to immediate!
  • It is automatic. I am juggling waaay too many things to remember to schedule a back up for my files. Carbonite takes the stress off me, because it backs up my files automatically.
  • Carbonite is secure. They use the same encryption technology used by the online banking industry.
  • I can access my files from anywhere. If I am working on my laptop in my favorite Starbucks and need a file from my desktop computer I can get it. Simply login to Carbonite, go to Remote Access and get whatever file you need for the day. No remembering to put something on a flashdrive, it’s there.
  • The file recovery process is one-click easy. Nothing complicated here – a simple click of the restore button and you are back in business. With some plans you even have the power to decide which files are restored first, saving you even more time.

Put to the test, Carbonite came through.

How to survive a Computer disasterActually, Carbonite passed the test with FLYING colors. About a month ago a nasty computer virus managed to get past my virus protection and did some pretty crazy stuff to my system files. The only solution was to reformat my entire computer. I was a little stressed about possibly losing data, but since I could see every one of my files from my laptop through the Carbonite interface, I was confident all would be fine.

Once my hard drive had been reformatted I simply logged into my Carbonite account, installed the Carbonite software and ran the recovery program. Granted, it took about 12 hours to restore all my data, but EVERY last file made it! Talk about relief. That was 15 years of business and personal files that I could have potentially lost.

Carbonite is one of my essential tools for business – and at $54.95 a year, that is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with knowing my files are there – where ever and whenever I need them.

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NOTE: This post was originally written by me in 2006, but I have updated it with new numbers and tools.

You are getting ready to start a new business or expanding your current one to include an online presence, what is your first step? These days you might want to check what domain name is available for your potential business before you purchase your business cards. According to Domain Tools, there are 125,067,779 ACTIVE domain names, of which 91,264,685 are .com names.

Before you go to purchase your domain name, I recommend brainstorming a bit and start with 5-10 potential names. Once you have this list, you need to go to Bustaname.com and let their system help you come up with potential names based on the keywords you want to highlight. Once you think you have a domain name, you need to register it. You can purchase your domain through a company like Networksolutions.com or my personal choice GoDaddy.com. Network Solutions has long been the standard, trusted source for purchasing domains, but GoDaddy has proven itself as a leader in the industry and has the best prices for domains.

Dot com is still king and if you can get a .com name, you really should. You may need to be a bit creative with your domain name – using a phrase or dashes between words, but there are plenty of names left and Bustaname or GoDaddy will actually suggest alternatives if your first choice is taken. It might take a two or three word combination to get the domain you want and I recommend focusing on the keywords you are going after rather than the “cute” or “cool” factor in a name.

Deals on domains:

Categories : Blogging, Web Tools
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essential toolsSince today is International Freelancers Day, it seems fitting to feature freelance writer Laura Spencer of Writing Thoughts and Freelance Folder in this installment of Essential Tools. Laura has 19 years of professional business writing experience and is an excellent resource for writers and freelancers alike (I personally like her round up of 12 Must Reads for Writers – on getting started, what to charge, how to grow and more).

So, what tools does a freelance writer use on a daily basis in today’s technology based economy? In Laura’s own words:

  • WordPress. I realize that probably everyone says this, but it’s true. WordPress is one of my top tools for the various blogs that I write for.
  • Microsoft Office. Most of my non-blog clients require that I use MS Word.  I’m also a heavy Excel user for keeping a wide variety of statistics.
  • Twitter. Although I have other social media accounts, this has become my social media of choice primarily because of the ease of use. I also like the DM feature.
  • Google Docs. I’ve found this to be a great way to collaborate with others and share information.
  • Flickr. This is a great source of Creative Commons licensed images. Many of the photographers are quite gifted.
  • Gimp 2. I’d actually like something a little more full-featured than this, but for now this works well.
  • WOT. This little Firefox add-in tells me whether I’m on a reliable site or not. It’s in my toolbar, and I don’t even have to think about it. The color lets me know if a site is safe.
  • Skype. I use Skype to connect with clients as well as to stay in touch with family that’s not local.

To keep up with Laura and her insights on writing and freelancing, be sure to follow her on Twitter.

Subscribe to the Essential Keystrokes feed so you don’t miss a single Essential Tools feature. If you are interested in sharing your essential tools for business, drop me a line at cpolanosky [at] gmaildotcom.

Categories : Essential Tools
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