June 25, 2010, 10:02 AM — Whether it's a week's trip to the country or a three-month break from school, you'll enjoy your vacation more if you take a few preliminary steps to ensure that things will run smoothly in your absence, and that you can handle any crises that may come up. Here are five things you should be sure to take care of in the hours before you leave your desk.
1. Update your backups
Murphy's Law dictates that disaster will strike when you're least prepared for it. Take out some extra insurance by updating your backups just before you leave. For maximum security, make a complete duplicate of your disk using a program such as SuperDuper, and store it in a safe, offsite location. That way, even if the building burns down while you're away, you'll be able to get back to work quickly without losing any data.
2. Make important data available to yourself
Even with great backups, you could find yourself in trouble if you discover you need a crucial file but are unable to get at it. If you use an online backup service such as CrashPlan Central or Backblaze, you can access your backups from any Web browser. If not, think about any files you might conceivably need while you're away from your computer, and copy them to cloud-based storage such as Dropbox or your MobileMe iDisk. No Internet where you're going? You could also put your files on a USB flash drive and take the drive with you.
Be sure you know, or can get to, your key passwords--especially those used for your backups or online storage! One way to do this is to sync your passwords to your mobile device using a program such as 1Password. Another is to go low-tech and keep them on a piece of paper in your pocket.
3. Set up remote access
If you'll have an iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, or laptop with you (or access to someone else's computer), you can reply to urgent e-mail messages, review and edit files, and even control your desktop computer remotely, should the need arise. But all these things require some setup in advance.
* If necessary, confirm that you can access your work e-mail account from your mobile device.