Risk of Lost Files


Today’s Question: Do you worry about losing your files or having your data compromised when traveling if your laptop gets lost or stolen? It’s not so much that I am afraid of losing my files entirely since they are backed up, but rather someone else gaining access to them via my laptop.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I’m certainly concerned about the risk of having my data compromised or potentially lost when traveling with a laptop, but not enough to give up the benefits of traveling with that laptop.

More Detail: As I’ve noted previously, I use a laptop as my exclusive computer, meaning I don’t have a desktop at home to use when I’m not traveling. This is in large part because I have generally traveled so extensively that it didn’t make sense to have a desktop computer at home that I might only be able to make use of a couple of months or so out of the year.

Having a laptop as my exclusive computer means that I’m able to have most of my important data, such as my Lightroom Classic catalog, with me anytime I have my laptop with me (which is most of the time). It also means there is a degree of risk that my laptop will be lost, stolen, or damaged while traveling with it. Fortunately, this isn’t something I have experienced so far.

I don’t personally feel that my data is especially valuable to someone else or is of a nature that would put me at risk if it were to fall into the wrong hands. So the bigger concern for me personally would be losing that data altogether.

I take a few steps to help mitigate these risks. Before departing on a trip I update two backup copies of my laptop and all external hard drives that I will be traveling with, and I leave those updated backups behind so I can recover from them if needed.

I maintain an online backup using Backblaze (https://timgrey.me/onlinebackup) that may not remain completely updated during my travels based on sometimes limited internet access, but that generally remains relatively well updated when I’m traveling. I also travel with backup drives, including a Time Machine drive for backing up the internal hard drive on my laptop while traveling. Obviously this backup drive could be lost along with my laptop, but it provides some degree of confidence that I have options to recover my data if that should become necessary.

No backup solution provides an absolutely perfect degree of data protection for all potential circumstances. However, I feel reasonably confident that my backup workflow helps to minimize the risks of data loss. I also do my best to keep careful track of my laptop and external hard drives when traveling. So far my approach is working, and hopefully that record will be maintained moving forward.