At work, you don't think about it. Someone in the back office backs up all the computers, and you know that if your desktop ever crashes, you can run frantically to the IT department and they will retrieve your files. But what about at home? The importance of backing up home computers has become even more pressing, as more workers telecommute, work from home, and use their personal notebooks when traveling on business.

Preventing data loss through the use of backup softwareIn reality, backup is just as important to home users as it is to corporate users. In cases when the home computer is being used for business purposes, it is possible that corporate policy may even require it. In addition, with viruses and other types of malware spreading throughout the Internet like wildfire, having a full backup can prove quite valuable. A single piece of malware can cause a tremendous amount of destruction, including loss or corruption of important data files, and even destruction of system and program files. Having a full backup will allow the user to revert back to the last version that existed before the infection.

With modern PCs coming equipped with huge hard drives, we don't think of saving space any more—but the fact is, although we have more space on our hard drives, we also have bigger files. Home computers especially may have tens or hundreds of gigabytes of photos, music files, and digital movies, and a dedicated audiophile can quickly fill up an average hard drive with a music collection. When the hard drive begins to fill up, performance will take a hit. Backing up these types of digital and audio files, and personal photo galleries, to a secondary storage vehicle will save valuable space, and also make those files easy to find through simple desktop organization.

As most home users can attest, hard drives to occasionally fail, and the result can be devastating. Users tend to have a lot of trust in their PCs until they suffer from a hard drive failure, but this trust is misplaced. These failures can and do occur, regardless of the maker, what type of PC (or Mac, for that matter), or how much you may have paid for your system. It may also happen that an electrical surge (especially if you do not have a surge protector) can damage files, or the entire drive. A backup system will give you protection when the inevitable occurs.

Aside from hard drive failure, we must not neglect the issue of critical user mistakes. Even the most savvy computer user will make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes can be devastating. Accidents happen, and sometimes files get erased or overwritten. Entire partitions can be deleted by accident.

Lastly, it is important to consider external events over which you have no control. Laptops get stolen every day. Natural and man-made disasters like fire, flood or earthquake can quickly destroy a computer completely, with no chance of recovery. Having a backup won't bring back your computer, but it will bring back your data—which is much more valuable.

Today, backup software systems and external storage media are easier to use than they have ever been, and they are surprisingly inexpensive. In fact, home users can now easily find and install free backup software. It's time to start protecting your home systems - today.