Friday, September 10, 2010

Disaster emphasizes the need for Offsite Backup

Right now I’m sitting at home watching the television coverage of a fire storm going on about 25 miles north of me. Hundreds of people  became homeless within minutes of a huge explosion from a natural gas line. The fire has destroyed at least 54 homes an damaged another 124 more. This horrible tragedy which at this time has taken at least one persons life, proves one very important lesson for computer users.

Those houses were so violently consumed many people literally had to run out their front door with only the clothes on their back to save themselves. They certainly had no time to grab their computers or external hard drives, there simply was no time. So adding to the tragedy, many people affected in this no doubt also lost all their digital pictures, their business records, or their doctoral dissertation.  At this time no doubt data is the last thing on their minds, but once the fire is out and they begin to piece their lives together, the loss of pictures of their house and family outings or other precious memories will end up being just another burden to deal with.

So how could this additional loss be avoided, offsite backup. Backing up your most precious or valuable data to “the cloud” is no longer an option. This tragedy has convinced me that  the external hard drive next to your computer is little better than not having any backup, should a huge fire or natural disaster occur. Backing up to a cloud based service can be remarkably easy, an automated system used by a commercial program such as Carbonite  can be very simple.  Others like Amazons S3 require other programs to move the data to safety.

There a few free programs that will work, although the amount of storage is often limited. Mozy, Dropbox, and Windows Skydrive all offer free online storage. While free sounds good be careful, early on in the cloud storage era there were several free online backup services which disappeared suddenly leaving their clients unable to get data they thought was safe. It’s definitely best to stick with established names, like Dropbox or Amazon and maybe pay a little to backup your most precious memories or documents.

Don’t have high speed internet, then take several external hard drives and rotate one to an offsite location that’s a ways off. Weekly change the drive out so no drive is more than a week out of date. While this method works, its often the type of thing people do for a while but then tend to slack off after time. This is why I feel the set it and forget it of an automated backup online is the best.

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