Saturday, May 14, 2011


In the world of computers there is an adage which goes “There are two types of people that use computers – those that back up and those that wish they had.”

The episode with Blogger having some people’s blog posts disappear after problems happened during routine maintenance underscores the importance of this. I for one, normally do back up my data (more on that later) but once I’ve posted my blog I saw no need to keep a copy of a draft or the actual final word document. After all – it’s on Blogger right?

Sure enough one day’s post went AWOL when I logged on earlier today. I just looked now and it has returned but it made me think “What If?” (Sound effect of echoes saying “If If If If” in the background!) And it is true – with more people hacking these days – whether for “fun” or because they are trying to gain information – and with people developing and letting loose viruses, password phishers and other malware – one cannot be too careful. Now I’m not saying that one should be paranoid but I am saying that developing a good back up routine actually becomes more and more paramount these days.

Then the question arises of what media to use for this back up. Not too long ago I received a phone call from a friend who wanted to know if I had a 3 and ½ inch floppy disk drive. Seems she had recently come across a box of old disks and wanted to see if there was anything of personal value on them. Ironically yes I did have one down in a box of “Stuff” so I dug it out and lent it to her. In the end she found one document that had sentimental value to her.

So how do you choose the correct media for long term storage? This is very important. Does one back up on to CD or DVD? Is an external hard drive the better choice? How about online backup services like Carbonite, Mozy, iDrive or even DropBox? And how much will it cost over time? Should you actually trust all your photos to sites like Flickr, Photobucket, SMUGMUG or Picassa? What about your documents on places like Windows Live or the Chrome OS Cloud? How important is the actual ownership/copyright of your work to you? And how willing are you to take the chance that all the information you upload to a remote site will actually be there for you when you want/need it?

These are the serious questions that you really have to ask yourself before you utilize remote storage even just to share information. When you post a photo to Facebook, Twitter or Flickr do you still own it? Do they now own your image? Or have they become your partner – able to sell or use the image for their own use and purposes without consulting you?

But if you are going to keep your photos and documents at home using local back up what are your best choices? Personally I use a combination of back up options. If there is a document or photo I feel I need to have access to at any time I make sure a copy is uploaded to DropBox. (If you haven’t used DropBox you should consider it.) You get 2GB of free online storage when you join. If you refer friends to it and they click on your referral link you get an additional 250MB free storage for each friend that joins up to a total of 8GB. This is great not only for storing items you might need remote access to but also for collaborating on a project. (That is a subject for another blog post.) You can also purchase additional storage. You can then download a widget to the desktop of all your computers and just drag items to it. They will automatically copy up to your DropBox account. Since I am telling you about it, if you are not using it yet and wish to sign up for it please do me a personal favor and use my referral link here: DropBox. I’ll get more storage when you sign up and it doesn’t cost you anything to do that! Thanks.

I am pretty anal about backing up though and I have multiple hard drives of different capacities and brands that I use to make 4 copies of my information. I also have CDs and DVDs of extremely important information, photos, etc. This was a practice I arrived at years ago after suffering some hard drive crashes and losing important (to me) information.

I also always try to keep at least one hard drive with all my information on it offsite in a safe deposit box. I make a point of rotating the drive that is in the safe deposit box with one from home once every two weeks.

Yet I still feel I am not doing enough at times.

Back in the pre-computer days one had boxes or filing cabinets. You took your photos and put them in albums and, for most people, in the case of fire the albums were among the first things grabbed on the way out. Even if you didn’t take your photos, in all probability you had shared them with more than one person so you could always get a copy. Today most people look at your online album but don’t copy the photos to their accounts.

A prime example of what can go wrong is that you are among the majority of people who post all their photos to Facebook. You then erase your camera card or clear your phone’s memory and never keep a copy of the photos on your hard drive or anywhere else. What can you do when your Facebook account gets hacked and someone decides to delete your photos from there? Have you ever considered that? While this may not be a huge issue for most people now it is only a matter of time. And while one might think that Facebook has backed everything up – do we really know for sure? And do they have any responsibility towards us for safeguarding that data from actual loss? This we won’t know until a lawsuit ends up making its way to the top courts of many countries.

So, as I said earlier, while my intention today was not to make anyone paranoid, it was to wake you up and make you think about backing up your personal data so that if something happens you haven’t lost it all. Do you have a backup plan in place? Do you adhere to it? I would love it if some of you would share your strategies below. Thanks.

1 comment:

  1. I am very particular about backing up- I think it came from years of living in Africa where it was so easy to lose information on the computer- either a computer would blow up (literally) or be hacked into- etc etc- once I lost 100 pages of a book I was working on...believe me, I made sure to have multiple back up sources after that incident- WITH HARD COPIES as well...thankfully...50 of the pages I lost were in hard copy- so I just had to rewrite 50 or so pages. I think no one can be tooo anal about this issue :)