Over the years, I've had a few laptop hard drives fail me, as well as a few hard drives inside my desktop computer. Remember that if one of hard disks fails, there's a good chance that it's still under warranty. Typically, hard drive manufacturers have warranties that can last up to three years. This is one of the reasons why I only use Western Digital hard drives. They have stellar customer service, and I've rarely had trouble with their hard drives. When I did, they were prompt to send me a replacement, after I had sent them the failed drive. Unless you're willing to spend money to get data out of a failed hard drive, it's best to learn from the experience and move on. I've looked at a few options, but they can get costly. 1. NAS With RAID One of the easiest ways of no longer worrying about backups is to set up an external hard drive with RAID. RAID means that two or more hard drives are setup together so that if one of them fails, you lose no data. The benefit of a NAS, Network Attached Storage, is that this HD is plugged onto your home network. This means that your whole family can archive and store their data onto it. This is very convenient over a WiFi network.
2. External HDs With RAID A step below the NAS with RAID, an external enclosure with multiple hard drives usually comes with a RAID controller, allowing you to setup a secure data archiving solution. If you'd like to know what products that you can buy to create these two types of setups, you should check out Drobo with the DroboShare addition. This is a NAS with RAID. Alternatively, if you don't use the DroboShare add-on, then you'd be looking at an external enclosure with RAID. 3. Other Computers It's good not to keep all of your eggs in one basket. With that in mind, I put most of my important files on my desktop and on my laptop. This means that if one of them fails, the other one serves as a backup. 4. DVDs As painful as it is, it's convenient to burn media, like movies and TV shows, onto DVDs to archive them. It's annoying, but it does get the job done. I find that once you get started, it's hard to stop. 5. The Cloud While there are quite a few different options available, for now it still doesn't make sense to archive a lot of data to the cloud, unless we're talking about photos or email. Gmail currently allows you to store up to 7GB of emails and attachments. Picasa, Flickr and Zooomr allow plenty of online storage for photos. I upload all of my photos to my Zooomr account. I've got over 17,000 archived to this date. [photos via Digital Earth, Wikipedia, Holbrook, and Drobo]