Don’t back up. Move forward.

Since data is really fragile, and people around me are constantly losing their data,  I have a lot of conversations about the need for backing up data. Backing up sounds boring (and it kindof is), but it’s really important. And if you do it right, you’ll totally rock the computing party in a worry-free style.

Unfortunately, most people that I talk to have one of two ideas:

  1. Oh no. I never back up anything. (Usually said with a sort of “backing up is too nerdy for me” attitude)
  2. Yeah. I back up stuff. I’ve got a whole closet full of backup CDs.

Alright, so there’s something wrong with both of these approaches. I hope that the stupidity of #1 kindof speaks for itself. If your data is valuable at all, then it’s worth making sure that it doesn’t suffer utter annihilation. Neglecting backups is kindof like deciding that you’d rather not look both ways before crossing the street because it’s “inconvenient.” Well, we all know what will eventually happen with this strategy.

#2 is much better, but it’s still inadequate. In fact, so are most conventional (and often-recommended) backup methods:

  • copy data from its original location to a special backup location on your hard drive.
  • copy data to USB drive.
  • copy data to external hard drive.
  • copy data to CD/DVD.
  • CD/DVD backup and store the data at your uncle’s house.
  • emailing stuff to yourself.

So, all of these options are poor:

  • Copying data to a drive or disc of some sort is good because it will help you in the case that one set of data becomes corrupt. However, it takes a long time to back up, and here’s the real clincher: the backup disc/drive can still get damaged! Somehow, people don’t notice this. Theft and disaster threaten your external hard drive just as much as they do your computer itself.
  • Now, you gain some points by keeping the CDs at your uncle’s house, since you lessen the disaster threat, but let’s face it: that’s really inconvenient for both backup and restoration.
  • Emailing things to yourself is nice because the data is secured on a remote email server. But, it’s really messy, disorganized, and a pain in the butt to have to backup each individual file manually.

Is there hope? Yes. It’s called automatic, online, remote backups. Instead of backing up to a device, you back up to a secure location on the internet (the cloud). Basically, this means that you download and install an online backup program, tell it which things you want backed up, and then just let it run. That’s it. You set it up and then forget about it. Every day, this program will automatically back up all new or changed files that you have on your computer…but you’ll never even notice because it’s all automated.

Other advantages? Yes. It’s completely disaster-proof, the programs all have really good encryption, you can recover data by simply downloading it when needed, and you basically never have to prompt it or manage it in any way. In fact, it’s even more convenient than having a “cloud backup” button on your keyboard, for goodness sake.

There are a few providers worth checking out: MozyBackblazeJungleDisk with Rackspace, CrashPlan+, and Carbonite are some that come to mind.

What backup setup seems to work best for you? Maybe one of the mentioned online options? Maybe something else? Post a comment.