Call For Backup

For years I’ve been urging my friends and family members to back up their computers. In the past 10 years, I’ve probably succeeded in getting fewer than five people to back up their computers even once. (The fact that Dad backs up his important files once a year is one of my greatest success stories.) In that same time span, I’ve probably told at least one person a year – including all three of my brothers – that there really wasn’t anything I could do to help them after something got wiped out.
Probably the one biggest thing that gets in the way of my own backups is that it takes a tremendous amount of time to copy everything to a CD or DVD. (I haven’t done a tape backup in 10 years and it’s probably been closer to 12 or 15 since the last one involving a stack of floppies.) What’s been saving my bacon in recent years has been automation.
Hard drives are cheap these days. You can buy a gigabyte of storage (equivalent to about 714 floppies) for about 60 cents. For the past three or four years, I’ve had an external hard drive hooked up to my computer and set up a program to automatically back up my files every night about the time I’d be going to bed. (I started using Norton Ghost for this, but when I switched to Vista back in February, my copy of Ghost was no longer compatible and I’ve been using the built-in backup program.)
Backing up files to an external drive is a huge step in the right direction and it’s helped me out more than once when I discovered I’d permanently deleted the wrong thing. And if I ever have a computer flat out die, copying everything from the backup beats the heck out of paying a data recovery company a few thousand dollars to try getting everything back. But it doesn’t cover all the bases.
A (hopefully) rhetorical question people sometimes talk about is what would be the one thing they’d want to save if their house was on fire. Aside from the obvious (family members and pets) one common answer is the family photo album. But with the ubiquity of digital cameras, most people’s family photo albums are stored on the computer. And in the event of a fire (or flood, earthquake, etc) the computer’s not an easy thing to grab. (Similarly, in the case of a theft, the computer and secondary drive are likely targets for theft.)
This is why businesses keep a copy of their backups at another location. Individuals can do that too, keeping a back up copy of important files at a trusted friend’s house, but even with the best of intentions, that doesn’t happen very often because it involves actively remembering to do it.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with a free online service called Mozy Home. The free service allows you to store up to 2 GB of files on their servers. It’s not enough space for my photo or music collections, but its sufficient for some of the other things I work with quite frequently such as the various web sites I work on as well as both my email and snail-mail address books. For $5 a month, I could get enough space for everything on my computer, including the aforementioned photo and music collections. (Caveat: One thing I won’t share with them is the login information for my online bank account, but I don’t keep that information on the computer anyhow.)
Best of all, the backup program runs automatically every night. It doesn’t take any special effort on my part.
I’m sure this sounds like an ad for the service, but I really do encourage you to check it out. I’d really love to have a year where I don’t have to tell anyone their important file is gone for good.