I've had computers crash and burn on me a few times in my life, and each time I'm repentant and stay current with my file backups for about a month and a half, then it peters out. After I found out about my unknown published article, I realized that the files I would need to show I had or had not received payment for this article were probably lost in The Great Sweet Tea Laptop Gumming Up of 2005. Crap.
So that same evening I was continuing to give up sleep so that I could fart around in cyberspace, and after a trail of seemingly unrelated links that I will never be able to recreate, I ended up at Carbonite, a site that offers automatic online file backups, with the ability to retrieve the entire contents of your computer when said piece of junk inevitably tanks on you.
I signed up for the free 15-day trial, and while I haven't had to use the recovery feature yet (thank god), the whole updating process is simple and truly automatic. Basically, you tell it which types of files you want to back up (they recommend everything on your desktop, and everything in your My Documents folder), hit the start button, and it does its thing in the background, gradually sending encrypted copies of all of those files to its storage facility. If you lose your internet connection or turn off the computer, it pauses the download and picks up at the same place next time you're online. It nibbles away at the documents over the course of however long it takes to finish them (you can request that it back up certain files right away, if you're particularly worried about your thesis, for example).
I turned it on that night, and I just noticed now that it's finished backing up all my files. That's a whole bunch, folks, given how many cute kid photos I have on here, and all the Lazy Mama stuff, and what have you. Of course, I've had it connected to the internet on a high-speed connection the whole time, but still - not bad progress, and I didn't have to do a darn thing. And now that the initial files are in place, it checks my computer every time I connect to the internet to see which files need to be updated in my backups. So far I haven't noticed any change in the speed of my other internet work, which can continue while all this backing up is going on in the background.
Once the trial is over, I think the upkeep is $5 a month. I think $60 a year is cheap enough to have piece of mind that the next time I knock over my drink, the crashing computer won't be taking half of our family photos with it.
If any of my readers are interested in trying Carbonite, let me know - if I refer you and you sign up, I can earn free months of service. Just drop me a line at the Lazy Mama email address (lazymamadesigns [ at ] yahoo [ dot ] com) with your real name and your email address, and I'll refer you.