As far as backups goes, I suggest just transferring the data to another hard disk via a USB flash drive. They're cheap, portable, and no true geek should ever be without one.
And yes, the latest edition of Ubuntu is being released later this month. Testing the Beta has been very exciting. Ubuntu has an update feature similar to Windows Update that will install the latest data releases and bug fixes. This feature will also upgrade your OS to the latest stable release, so if you install 9.10 now, you will be able to upgrade to 10.04 LTS when it comes out. It's your choice, and it's really six-of-one which option you go with.