There are two kinds of people: those who do back up, and those who will back up.

Geek Proverb

As the year winds down, it’s a good idea to take some time and do some annual back-ups and digital housekeeping. Designers and all-purpose computer geeks alike should take care to organise their files to ensure a smooth workflow the year round.

Here’s some areas to backup if you aren’t on a regular schedule.

  1. Email – While some of us have migrated to Gmail or other cloud-only solutions, many of us still use Entourage/Outlook/Thunderbird or other desktop email clients. Back up your email settings and preferences for that particular application. You may want to take a screenshot of your settings just in case something goes wrong and you have to re-configure your accounts.
  2. Adobe settings and preferences – Any savvy designer will take the time to customise his/her installation of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, et al. Take a moment to back up these settings by digging in your ~/Library/Application Support/Adobe folders. Things to look for include Desktop Workspaces, Keyboard Shortcuts, Colour preferences, custom brushes, and plugins.
  3. Fonts – If you use Suitcase or another font management application, take a moment to back up the database and settings. If you keep a manual archive of all your fonts, make sure you add the fonts which are newly-arrived in the last few months so you have a complete back up.
  4. Application Install files – I like to do a fresh install of my operating system every year — usually around the start of January. If you’re like me, you’ll need your software installations at the ready. Create a folder somewhere and back that thing up.
  5. Software licenses – If you purchased any software this year, make sure you keep the registration keys or serial numbers. Perhaps you should go so far as to print out the confirmation email and keep it in a binder somewhere safe. I recommend a database software such as info.xhead which allows you to make entries for all the software you own. Don’t worry, it backs up your data on the cloud just in case you forget to do so manually.
  6. Photos and Videos – Even if it was a dull year, you wouldn’t want to lose your memories, would you? Take a moment to copy the photos and videos you’ve taken recently. If you don’t have an external hard drive, at least upload them to Flickr, Smug Mug, or another online photo-sharing site. This way, if something horrible happens, you can download a copy.
  7. Bills, Invoices, Pay Stubs – If you’re a freelancer like me, you have lots of PDF invoices floating around. Make sure they’re organised, and backed up. Your accountant will thank you come tax time, and you’ll thank yourself if something bad happens.
  8. Your Social Network Data – Even if you trust third-party companies like Facebook not go anywhere, it might be a handy idea to grab your data and stash it at the start of the year. Use a service like Backupify to download all that you have inputted. You never know when you may need a copy locally.

A year-round backup strategy is always a good idea. I recommend an off-site service like Carbonite to create an accessible exact copy of your drive. Storing day-to-day working files on a sharing service like Dropbox provides a layer of backup in addition to the convenience. I also like to use a series of Automator scripts to copy folders to an external hard drive. Those scheduled events live in my calendar throughout the month, automatically.

What do you regularly back up? What strategies do you find most effective and most painless? Leave your comments below.