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TRAVEL GEAR: Back that thing up!

© Tyler Olson | Dreamstime.com

Whether it’s insurance for your electronics or having your irreplaceable files saved somewhere, you always need to ready in case Fate — or some crook — intervenes in your travels.

Right now, there a charity drive of sorts taking place on Twitter. Some folks are trying to raise money for a social media friend of mine who had her laptop stolen last night.

I winced when I saw that.

My MacBook black has been with me to Europe, Africa and Asia. I document my trips with it, make and check reservations with it, map routes with it, edit photos, video and this blog with it.

As both a traveler and a travel journalist, I shouldn’t feel crippled if something happened to my laptop, but I would be. And there are plenty of folks out there for whom their laptops and netbooks aren’t expensive playthings; the devices are literally holding their livelihoods.

All of this raises a question:

Why don’t I have my laptop insured?

Better yet, why don’t you?

There are companies out there that will insure your laptop, netbook, iPad, iPod, iPhone, Xbox, ad nauseum. Insure them against theft, loss, accidental damage, system failure, almost any kind of real-world calamity you can think of.

The cost might be a couple hundred dollars or thereabouts, depending on where you live and how much coverage you buy. However much the cost is, it may well pale in comparison to what you stand to lose.

If you have homeowners, renters or auto insurance, check with the insurance agency and see if they offer insurance for your laptop and/or other electronics. They just might.

Before you jump at one of their policies, however, check out some of the companies out there that specialize in laptop insurance. The reason I’m not listing them here is because there are just too many of them.

Just enter the term “laptop insurance” on your favorite search engine and you’ll see what I mean.

As always, check them out thoroughly via the Better Business Bureau and similar consumer protection agencies, and ask lots of questions before you give them your money.

Even without thieves, stuff happens in the digital world. Equipment gets dropped. Equipment gets lost. Spilled latte meets defenseless laptop. Hard drives crash. Files get accidentally deleted, mislabeled, damaged.

The possibilities are as endless as they are disastrous.

An insurance policy may help ease the financial sting of replacing your gear, but it won’t do anything to replace the precious material you lost along with it.

The text files. Your photos. Your music. Your address book full of important contact names and numbers. Your bookmarks. You can’t put a price tag on that kind of loss — and if you could, it would be huge.

Backing up your material is not only relatively easy, but usually free — especially once you decide to take advantage of “the cloud.”

Cloud computing is nothing mysterious. Basically, it’s just shared computer services, delivered online and thus made available simultaneously to everyone, rather than software downloaded into one computer at a time.

For example, virtually every function you find in your Microsoft Office software bundle — word processor, spreadsheet, all of it — can be found and accessed online through providers like Zoho or other cloud computing providers.

Not only can you use the cloud to store and stash precious data this way, but you can access that material anytime, anywhere in the world, from any computer that has Internet access.

These days, I’m setting aside a few minutes every day to back up my old files in the cloud.

There also are commercial services that will back up the contents of your computer for a relatively low fee, if you prefer.

You also can copy files to a compact external hard drive, a USB “thumb drive.” You can even email documents to yourself and save them that way.

How you back up your data is less important than doing it.

These precautions may not not shield you from theft or accidents with your precious gear, but they’re bound to make the aftermath a lot less painful.

Due diligence or undue drama. The choice is yours.

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