My external hard drive had somehow managed to escape out of my notebook backpack and end up under a chair. For good chunk of evening I was pretty sure I lost it. Took a trip back to work because I didn’t like the idea of waiting till Monday without definitive verdict on it.
I caught myself thinking that I had some stuff on it that would be pain to re-create. Bad sign. What if I didn’t find it? Losing your media storage (or at least imagining that) puts backup in different light.
The more you panic the worse is current state of your backups. You have backups, right?
Not all files are created equal. Roughly rank your data from absolutely important to things that can be simply re-downloaded. Notice that even easy things (like software setup packages) can become pain to restore in large quantity or setup complexity.
If you had lost some data it can very well mean someone else had found it. Put sensitive documents in password-protected archives or specialized containers like TrueCrypt. If you save passwords in software check how are they stored and set master password where you can to protect those. Also be careful to not encrypt stuff so that even you can’t get it back. :)
If you sit at home is there any other place with copy of your data? If not then it is single point of failure that no amount of backups can rectify. Keep things separately. Easiest would be to keep flash drive at work or maybe relative where you drop by often. Online backup options like Dropbox are blooming and are mostly in free to affordable range. For large sizes and decent reliability you can consider renting small safe-deposit box to store hard drive with backup.
For example most of my documents and backups of this blog are stored in Dropbox and are likely to survive even if I somehow manage to lose all of physical media.
Need to restore backup can quickly point out holes in routine. It is best to find those holes before it is too late to plug them.