What If the Worst Should Happen?
This is part that we don’t want to think about: Worst case scenarios. What if a burglar breaks into your house and steals your computer. Can you replace your data? Keep in mind that while having your house burglarized is traumatic (been there, done that) and the computer may contain irreplaceable data. With proper backups you could buy a new computer and restore your data. This brings up another critical point, namely, at least one of your backups MUST be off-site. I use a safe-deposit box in a bank but you could store an external drive in a locked cabinet at work or at someone else’s house. You could also use web-based Cloud storage since that is offsite and backed-up. If all your backups reside in one location and a fire destroys that location then those backups could be lost forever. This is CRITICAL.
If your data is not backed-up and your computer dies you still some options (no good options, but options nonetheless). Normally a computer fails of a hard drive or motherboard failure. If the hard drive still works then a technician can normally remove the drive and retrieve the data. You can also buy a cable kit that turns your internal computer drive to a USB drive. I have one of these in my computer emergency kit (the same way I have jumper cables in my car emergency kit). Sometimes you can even install the old drive into a new computer.
Hard Drive Failure
A hard drive failure can cause data corruption and make the computer inoperable. If the drive really got fried then you can do a “clean room recovery.” This is the worst possible outcome and a last ditch scenario. With a clean room recovery a technician removes the magnetic platters inside the drive. The platters are mounted on a special drive in an attempt to read the data. This procedure requires a NASA-like clean room to prevent introducing dust or contaminants to the platters. This is expensive process can cost thousands of dollars and you will almost certainly experience data loss and corruption. A simple backup and archive plan could avoid this situation altogether.
In summary, prepare for the worst so that the worst will not happen. Your data is critical — be sure to protect it.