Backup Your Work
Backing up your work - the data - is a MUST! The application programs don't have to be backed up, in a sense they already are. If you lose the program, you can get out your installation discs and reinstall the application that you have taken for granted.
What does it take to back up my data?
Personal Discipline: DO IT!
You will need a software program for back up. Even if you use Windows Explorer or its equivalent in Macintosh, or even DOS, you use an application for the back up process.
There are programs that are available that make backing up more convenient, even more sure. These range from "set-it-and-forget" programs to whole hard drive backup via imaging. Software programs also have what is becoming a necessity in our culture: privacy protection via password.
You will also need something to record / write your data on - "media." This may be part of your hard drive (a secondary partition), a second hard drive other than your "boot-up" drive, cds, cartridge, tape, or a dvds. There are also online services that rent you space on a remote server, but unless you have very little data or a high speed internet connection you are well advised not to go that route. (You will notice that I did not mention 3.5" floppies. Their 1.4 megabyte limit can serve to back up only smaller files.)
Thirdly, you will need the hardware that has the capability to write to this media. The most basic is what you already have - your computer's hard drive. If you have enough room on that drive, you can use it with little effort. Just remember that even the copy of your original file on the same hard drive as the original is still going to disappear if that drive disappears. A second hard drive reserved for backing up your data would be advisable. Tape, cds, dvds, magnetic and optical cartridges (Zip), all require specific hardware to write and read the data. At about $50 and cdrs (holding 700 megabyte) at $0.12 (12 cents)/disc, a cd or dvd writer would be worth the investment. Many times software for backing up your data comes with the cd writer.
Once you decide on, obtain, and install the media, hardware, and software...Just Do It! Back it up!