Protecting Data as a Digital Nomad (Part 2)

Photo: Annie Wynn

In this three-part series, we’re taking a look at why backups matter, especially for digital nomads, and how to create and execute a backup strategy that fully protects your digital life.

As a digital nomad, so much of your professional life and personal life is on your computer. You don’t have file drawers or boxes full of paper documents or printouts. Everything lives on your hard drives, whether you’re using a laptop or a desktop computer. How well are you protecting all those files? Let’s dive into what makes up a full-coverage backup strategy.


What Needs Backup?

The obvious answer is everything! Not just files like documents and photos, but also your programs, apps, and configuration files. As anyone knows who has had to start over with a clean computer, it can take hours and hours of non-billable time to download and configure the applications you use for work and for play. files.

If you’re a Mac user, for example, you probably already use Time Machine to back up your computer. This program creates a reference image of files and applications on an external drive and then incrementally updates it on a regular basis. But what exactly does “a regular basis” mean?

If you’re working full-time, you need to back your files up every night. If you’re a part-timer worker, you might get away with every few days, but why take that chance? Nightly backups should be an automatic part of your digital nomad life.


The Full-Coverage 3-2-1 Backup Strategy

Let’s face it, backups aren’t something that any sane person wants to think about for any length of time. It’s way more fun to be playing fantasy sports or an MMPG than figuring out your backup strategy. We get that. We all want an easy and dependable backup strategy, but what does that really mean? We think it means an automated solution that is not only powerful and reliable but is also waterproof and fireproof. A backup strategy should cover all the bases. And it also shouldn’t depend on you remembering to hook up that external drive when you get back from vacation or a business trip.

The golden rule of full-coverage backups is to have three copies of everything: your working disk, a local backup, and an offsite backup. That way, you’re covered against any of those disasters, big and small, that we looked at in part 1 of this series.


Local Backups

Local backups provide 100% availability. Think about when you’ve lost a file or accidentally deleted a key spreadsheet. You want to be able to dive into your backup and retrieve that item ASAP. You don’t want to have to depend on access to the cloud, especially if you’re a digital nomad and your connectivity is currently offline.

When setting up your local backups, you want a solution that is fast, automatic, and secure. And, since it’s going to be inside your RV or trailer, you want it to be waterproof and fireproof, so it can survive the worst possible scenarios. After being a full-time digital nomad for the last few years, I’ve learned that anything bad that can happen will probably eventually happen. Best to be prepared for it, that’s my motto.


Cloud Backups

Backing up to the cloud gives you a second backup location and it also moves your files offsite so that they are physically outside your rig. The challenge, though, is that you may not always be able to get to the cloud. Yes, that campsite outside Zion National Park is gorgeous, but the internet is pretty iffy. If you must drive your rig 30 miles to get a good enough signal for backing up to the cloud, chances are you’re not doing that on a regular basis. It’s way more fun to be hiking up to Angel’s Landing or waiting for just the right light to hit the eastern mountain tops than face the prospect of a half-day spent doing an offsite backup run.

The other complication for digital nomads is the cost of backing up to the cloud. With wireless plans, a digital nomad like me pays for every scrap of data I upload or download to or from the cloud. If you’re backing up a local RAID array, regular cloud backups can quickly eat up your monthly data allowance. Most full-timers have least two data plans for better coverage and more data, but even with that kind of access, you run the risk of being throttled if you exceed your quota. And we’re not even talking about overcrowded cell towers in popular locations, making fast signal and data uploads nearly impossible. When thousands of digital nomads descend on Quartzsite, Arizona in January every year, looking for warmer weather and social gatherings, getting a solid connection to the cloud can be a constant challenge.

In the final part of this series, we’ll look at how to plan for the unpredictable future and make sure your data stays safe and secure.

Annie Wynn

Guest Blogger

Annie Wynn, our guest blogger for this series, has been a digital nomad for over five years, traveling the US and Canada in her Alto trailer. You can follow her adventures at

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