File backup. System backup. Backup backup. Hopefully we all do it.
Whether we conduct our business from our computers, keep our accounts, or even just store our pictures, we should be practicing some form of backup. But even if we do, to paraphrase a certain saying, stuff happens.
Sometimes a lot of stuff happens and occasionally a diverse confluence of stuff all happens at once, creating a perfect stuff storm. When this happens, even the most diligent, most methodical system of local file backup can prove, alas, not enough.
When that perfect storm happens, and the chances of it happening grow exponentially each year you spend on your computer, all systems, be they Mac or PC, Microsoft, Apple or Linux, can end up just as dead, just as baron, just as devoid of all files as the next one. When it happens – again, chances are “when”, not “if” – you have two choices: you can start all over with a new system, or a new hard drive and try to think of it as a sort of spiritual cleansing experience, or you can shell out some potentially big bucks to see if any of the data can be recovered.
So, Heaven forbid, the inevitable has caught up with you and you’ve had a catastrophic data failure; you’ve lost everything you were working on for that huge job, or all your family photos that you painstakingly scanned so you wouldn’t have to worry about losing the originals so much, or all the wonderful pictures you took of your grandchild’s first birthday.
All of the above can be just as devastating. Some you can get back again with a lot of time and hard work, and some you can never replace. If the failure was one hard drive and you happen to have a backup somewhere, then you win! But what if the hard drive was the only one you had or you just didn’t think a secondary backup was necessary?
This is what we would call “learning the hard way”. And what if you did have a second, maybe even a third, local backup, either internal or external or both, and something happens to all of them at once? This is what we would call “a perfect storm” or, in my case “you should have known better”. Yes, I had a perfect data loss storm happen to me in April of this year, one that took me four weeks and a not inconsiderable sum to recover from, but recover I did, with only about a 5% data loss.
This is what we would call “a miracle”. Take heed of my cautionary tale and take steps to prevent the inevitable; and it is inevitable. Be it one year, or, in my case, fifteen years, eventually you will experience hard drive failure or other type of data loss. It’s not a question of if; it’s a question of when.
What’s the best way to back up your data?
Methods vary from person to person, of course, but everyone who knows agrees that multiple backups are a must. To put a finer point on it, not only multiple backups, but an offsite backup is essential. I was all for the multiple backup part, the offsite thing? Not so much. Sure, I knew, if only deep down, that I should be using an offsite method, but back in the day that meant copying all your important files to a CD (this is back in the day, remember) – make that multiple CD’s – and storing those discs somewhere else, like a safe deposit box.
That meant that the diligent person would need to re-burn those CD’s at certain set intervals. I’m not so good at vigilant. Admittedly, this was before USB external drives and I was still using PC in the box computers from McDell, so I had 1 hard drive. Some of you are going “So?”, but after years of multiple internal drives, that seems so odd to me, now! Anyway, one drive for OS, work, everything; no backup; tempting fate, indeed!
Then came the late 90’s and the wonder that was USB. My first USB “external drive” was a thumb drive. I got a HUGE 256kb one that cost an arm and a leg. What seemed then to be an impossibly large amount of space filled up pretty fast; no wonder when a very small individual file size now weighs in at about 100mb in my work.
Then I got a real, honest to goodness external HD that must have been something equally as mindboggling, like 8mb or something, but I don’t remember. When the 500GB external drives came out I was amazed and in due course (due course being when the prices started to go down) I was running two of them, as well as a couple 500GB internal drives. I had my 2 internal and one external backups in place and felt as safe as could be. By this time everyone was turning their eyes towards the mighty cloud, where unlimited data could be stored with no danger of power surges, crashing drives or dead batteries.
A magical place that, for a fee, could be yours
Of course, that monthly or yearly fee depended upon the amount of data you had to send into the mystical cloud. I looked into cloud storage and, of course, some sites offered a few GB’s of space “free” when you bought their product. A few gigabytes equal a teeny tiny amount of space, for me, and the kind of space I needed cost way too much, or at least I thought until I lost it all.
After my data disaster I went looking in the cloud in earnest. After looking at a lot of them that would have cost a virtual arm and leg. I had in excess of 800GB of data to upload, so we’re talking big bucks here. I had a wish list of features, such as;
Total availability of my files at all times. If I need to download them for whatever reason, I want to do it when I wanted, how much I wanted and from wherever I wanted. I also would like to back up everything, all my work files, all 800+ GB. Sure, I could pick and choose which files I backed up, perhaps choosing only a year or so worth, but this was a wish list, after all.
Continuous backup of all my files; every time I updated a file, I wanted it backed up. I’d like the files to be fairly safe and secure; I didn’t have any personal information I would be uploading, but I still would like things to be secure.
I didn’t want to have to take out a loan to afford it. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Mostly I found options that I’d never be able to afford if I were uploading the whole shebang. For instance,
Google Cloud Storage costs .85¢ per GB, per month for the unlimited availability files (limited availability cost .63¢ per GB) for the first TB worth of data. That’s $680 per month. At $8160 a year, that’s just ridiculous.
Rackspace is .10¢ per GB per month, which at $80 a month is considerably less, but still $960 a year. Amazon Cloud Drive costs $500 a year for between 500 and 1000GB.
Dropbox, which I love, only offers a business plan for over 500GB worth of data, only fair, I suppose, since it’s my business files that I’d be uploading. The Business Plan goes for $795 per year. If I were to pare things down to 500GB, I could go with the $502.80 a year Dropbox Pro.
Next I started looking at the unlimited data storage providers, meaning it would cost the same no matter how much you uploaded. Mainly, I looked at;
Backblaze, about $50 per year, Crashplan, about $70 per year, and Carbonite, $60 per year. That was more like it!
Considering I still keep all my local backups, all three drives, I felt this was probably the way I was going to go. Fort Knox is great if you have all your gold in one place, but I’m still using the local banks, too, so a regular safe is fine – if you’ll forgive all the metaphors.
I narrowed down my list, which was longer than the few I mentioned above to begin with, by utilizing a pet peeve of mine. If it was at all difficult to find pricing, if it wasn’t right there, up front on the menu, if you had to go through any hoops at all to find it, no matter how small, I X’d them off the list. Not very scientific, but there you go. I kept being drawn towards Carbonite, both in everything I was reading and in the comments of it’s customers.
The main complaint, indeed of all the candidates, was how long it took to upload the data. Of course we, being the savvy people we are, know that has everything to do with your internet provider, upload speeds, conditions, and all that, so that wasn’t much of a concern at all for me. So I decided to give Carbonite a shout and asked if they’d let me conduct a couple of research experiments that I could then pass on to you.
The response was a resounding “Yes” and so I began my journey into the cloud.
Remember, the amount of data I uploaded is so much more than the average person will upload that you can consider me an extreme example. It took 30 days to back up all my data, about 28GB per day, which is actually pretty darn fast since I was told the average is around 15GB.
I never even knew it was happening, though. I just told it what I wanted to upload and it did it
You have to manually tell it to upload files over 4GB, but you just do that with a right click, easy peasy. I had a little trouble in one area and contacted customer service. Rob, a very nice customer service rep, called me back and took over my computer (which he thought was a wicked machine, by the way. Just sayin…). It turned out the problem wasn’t on their side, but he was willing to try to help me figure out what I had to do. Fortunately, I figured out how to cure my stupid all by myself.
Once you tell it what you want uploaded, you just sit back, do your work and forget about it…
Well, actually, I do like to keep looking in on it, just to make sure it’s still working, but that’s just me. It updates every file that’s been modified and you can add anything anytime, or stop the backup, one file or the whole thing, anytime. Honestly, it’s just that easy.
The good folks at Carbonite not only let me try it out, but they want one of our readers to have some peace of mind, too, so we’re giving away one year of the Home plan, a $59.99 value to one of you!
It can also be used as a free year for anyone that already uses Carbonite. All you have to lose is a little upload time, and since you’re still able to do everything you normally do, that’s no biggie!
I’ve decided to have a little fun with this contest, so I would like all who want to be considered in the running to write a Haiku (17 syllables, 3 lines, or phrases, 5 syllables/ 7 syllables / 5 syllables) about data loss. Okay…make that any kind of poem…I just think Haiku has the potential of being funny because of the randomness.
Drop your entry into the comments and my fellow Photoshop Nuts and I will read them all and vote on the one we like best, so be creative! The winner will be announced in my post next month. Good luck!
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