For those of us old enough to remember, we had negative and prints. Our parents had shoe boxes full of old faded prints, or crinkled black and white and Polaroid images. We laugh as we look at our uncles or grandparents looking younger than we are now in these old prints. If we lost the print, we might still have the negative. We could scan the faded or broken print and restore it. But what will our children have? A hard drive that no longer interfaces with modern computers? Unreadable programs or formats? The memory of a hard drive crash, electrical surge, or worse? In the past two years I have had the following happen that gives me pause:
Electrical: A hot summer when the air conditioner and dehumidifier in my basement was on the same circuit as a server computer. That computer got fried. Luckily my server had only operating system and some programs on the internal hard drive. I was able to salvage all of the material on that computer, but had to build a new server. I had my basement studio rewired with four new 20 amp lines and dedicated outlets and lines for thinks like the air conditioner and dehumidifier, and the computers and printers on another circuit.
Water. And lots of it. During Irene, I got a solid inch to two inches of water in my basement, where my computers are located. I decided a couple years back to keep the computers off the floor as they pulled in too much dust and dog hair (we have two dogs). Keeping them up does protect them, but the battery backups and subwoofers are on the floor. Both made it through thanks to quick action and huge old Sears Wet Dry vac. A week later Lee hit, and the process was repeated. I have since had the back of the property graded, and a former back door parged and waterproofed to hopefully keep the water out.
Theft. Don't want to think too much about this, but a new Dell Laptop, set up just the way I wanted it, with all of my back up (3) portable 1 TB drives, card reader, Think Tank laptop bag, and all programs, was stolen out of a van as I was moving my daughter. It took an instant for it to be gone out of the front seat when we were moving furniture. It had images on the hard drive and back ups, but it is my laptop, and I store my images and work on my desktop and had moved the images as a copy to the desktop before it got stolen. I still had the wedding images of my niece from a month earlier that I had just processed and shared with her and her husband.
And as most people mention, it is not if you will ever have a hard drive fail, it is when you have a hard drive fail. Test the health of the hard drives regularly, and make backups.
I don't think I am much more different than you in the care I take for my photography. They are my images, my creation, my memories and my inspiration. What would it be like if one day you don't have them? I saw the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans several years ago.
Make it a New Year's Resolution you keep this year to create a backup strategy, and follow it. Write it out. Know which drive has what, where it is backed up, and make a copy to take off site. There are several people who can help you with this, and several websites. www.dpbestflow.org is wonderful, as well as Shutha.org. Both benefit from the input of Peter Krogh, whose books and workshops are the best resource for all of this.
Do it now so we have images to pass on to our children.