Selasa, 28 Agustus 2012

I'm Paranoid (About Backups)

Yes, I'm paranoid. So should you be. Backups are my passion. "Do your backups" is my mantra.

"Why?" I hear you ask. That's easily answered. I'm a computer troubleshooter and web designer. I spend a lot of time tending to poorly computers. I don't have a workshop, I work in my clients' homes or offices, so poorly computers are usually accompanied by their unhappy owners.

We've all been there - your computer starts working more slowly, it won't turn off properly, it won't turn on properly, it freezes, strange boxes start popping up. I treat my own computer as if I'm an over-anxious mother. The instant it so much as hiccups I'm scanning it with Malwarebytes, Superantispyware and CCleaner. Most of my clients don't do this - they just learn to live with their computer's strange behaviour - which slowly deteriorates until the time comes when it won't turn on, or won't unfreeze, or won't connect to the internet. Then they phone me. Often in a panic.

What would YOU do if you woke up tomorrow and found your computer wouldn't turn on? Or found it had been stolen? Or there'd been a flood or fire in your office?

Computers can be replaced - as I'm typing this I'm on my second new computer in as many months. The old one's screen has failed. The first replacement failed after a few weeks and had to be replaced. What did I do in the interim? I used a friend's computer - I have easy access to all my data online, in the "cloud".

Data can't be replaced. Your precious photos, documents, videos are irreplaceable. You can't nip to the local store and buy a replacement set of family photos. This is where backups come in. Backups are good, you can't have too many. You can, however, have too few.

I meet many people who claim they store their backups on an external hard drive or on memory sticks. Just yesterday I rescued data from an ageing computer that had frozen. Its owner assured me it backed up regularly. When I asked him where to, he had no idea. Do you want to guess where? It was set to back-up to an external hard-drive. Not a bad idea - except the external hard drive had spent the last 3 years living in the roof of his garage. Yes, really. The last backup was 3 years old.

The moral of that part of the story is this: If your computer backs up automatically make sure that

a) You know WHERE it is storing its backups, and

b) That it is actually doing those backups.

Many backup programs simply store a complete new backup each time, I see many hard drives that are full of old backups, have run out of space and haven't been able to store a new one for ages.

Is this happening to you? If your backups are being stored one after the other to a memory stick, DVD, hard drive, etc, check that your backup medium isn't full to capacity with old backups. If necessary, delete all but the most recent to free up space.

There are two downsides to all these backup methods. One is that your backup medium needs to remain connected to your computer. The other is location.

Location? Yes. Where do you store your backup medium? With the computer, right? Suppose your computer is stolen, lost, damaged by fire or flood. What will happen to your backups?

Can you see where this is leading? Cloud storage. Online backups. I couldn't live without mine. I wouldn't sleep at night without mine. When my computer failed just a few weeks ago, I didn't panic. As I said above, I was able to access all my data from friends' computers. It was all there, safely stored online.

Most online backup services can be set to backup to a schedule or, like mine, be set to back up automatically whenever the computer is idle. As long as you have a good enough quality internet connection, you can sleep easily, knowing that your data is safe. I can see at a glance which files have been backed up and which are awaiting backup.

If you decide to join a cloud storage service, just be aware that your initial backup could take a few days - depending on the upload speed of your internet service. Mine took two whole weeks of leaving my computer turned on 24 hours a day.

I can't recommend online, or cloud, backup highly enough. I use an external hard-drive too, but my online backup is my computer lifeline. It should be yours, too.

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