Did you know that hard drives are rather like light bulbs? They have a finite life and are simply not expected to last forever. At some point, the hard drive inside your computer will fail.
If you are reading this blog, you probably have pictures from your walks and climbs in beautiful mountains. If they are only stored on your computer’s hard drive, you would lose the lot.
By not backing-up you’re simply gambling that the hard drive will fail after you’ve moved on to a newer machine, whether it’s MS Windows, a Mac or Linux.
Losing my pictures would be awful but there’s plenty of other data I’d rather not lose; emails, letters, source code, old academic work. Horror stories of losses abound on the web and I personally know people that it has happened to.
If you backup already, to DVDs or an external hard disk perhaps, but keep that backup in the same building as the computer, you have no protection against the worst case scenarios of fire/theft. I’ve heard it said that people who lose their house in a fire or other disaster come to terms with the loss of everything, except for their pictures.
Backing up on to DVDs or even better, on to external hard drives is a great idea. Nothing is faster for restoring a backup from than a disk in your hand. But you still risk finding that the backup disk has simply died. They all do, eventually.
As long as you have broadband, online backup is a no-brainer. It’s easy to set up, cheap, and once it’s done, it’s done. No need to remember to start the backup, or swap the disk. Nothing more to do – ever.
It can take quite some time to back up initially; days or even weeks if you have a lot of data. But so what? As long as it doesn’t need looking after, it doesn’t matter. And once it’s been done once, only the changes are uploaded.
Its not expensive – especially once you consider how much you’d pay to get your photos back if you were to lose them.
There are many online services and I’ve tried several of those that get better reviews.
Overall I’d recommend Jungle Disk (see below) but I must admit to having been impressed by both CrashPlan Central and BackBlaze.
Edit: 23 May 2010: It struck me that whatever online backup solution you use, the passwords MUST be kept off-site somewhere so that you can access the backup from scratch on a new machine (say, in case your place burns down!). The best way to do that is probably to print them off and keep them somewhere with a friend or relative you trust.
I’ve been using Jungle Disk backed by Amazon S3 (not Rackspace Cloud Files) for several years and can’t find anything that ticks all the same boxes.
But my criteria are perhaps more demanding than some. Apart from checking for data-corruption, encryption and the high bandwidth that any good backup provider will have, I also want data stored in more than one geographic location looked after by a company that’s large enough to be unlikely to go bankrupt.
Amazon S3 writes every file to multiple different geographic locations (and then immediately checks each one to ensure the write was correct).
Most people would probably be happy with BackBlaze or CrashPlan (not Mozy – see below, or Carbonite – which I won’t waste anyone’s time even mentioning further).
The only thing that puts them in front of Jungle Disk is that they require slightly less set-up and they offer a fixed price per month option. Whereas Jungle Disk varies in cost depending on how much data you store. Though for storing less than 10gb of data, Jungle Disk is comparable per month – they just don’t do yearly billing unfortunately. Meaning a forex charge on your card every month if you’re outside the USA.
So, assuming you’re not quite as paranoid as I am, and can live with the small risk of the datacenter being wiped out in a far-fetched disaster (and so aren’t going for Jungle Disk+S3); which one would I recommend?
Probably BackBlaze. Although I prefer CrashPlan’s interface, I prefer BackBlaze’s use of a large, trusted datacenter.
Continue reading “Would you mind if you lost all the pictures from your travels?”