Helping clients with technology has reinforced the ever-increasing importance of data in our everyday lives. Data certainly means documents, spreadsheets and QuickBooks information; but it also encompasses family photos, videos of our children, grandma’s recipes, and that music collection that was acquired and curated over many years. Both types of data—business and personal—are precious, expensive and often irreplaceable.
We know we are supposed to back up this data and, like eating well or exercising, some of us make a real effort. Unfortunately, most of us do not have a current backup and data loss can happen at any time without warning. Every moment without a backup courts disaster. The good news is that having a backup is easy and inexpensive. The only difficulties lie in overcoming inertia and breaking old habits.
The simple solution for most people is to use one of the large, online backup services such as Carbonite. Carbonite’s basic plan, which is perfectly adequate for most home users, costs $5/month. It takes only 10-15 minutes to purchase the service, download the software and install it. That’s it!
These backup services run in the background and back up your data to the cloud. This is important for a number of reasons.
- If all your electronics disappear at once (fire, theft, burst pipe), recovering your data is simply a matter of logging in to the backup service on your replacement computer and clicking to restore your data.
- Data synchronization to DropBox, Box, and similar services is not a backup. If a mistake or a virus destroys all the data on your computer, the damage can be propagated and affect all other copies. Backup helps ensure that an uncompromised version of your data will be available.
- Services like Carbonite keep your data backed up almost to the minute and work automatically in the background. No discipline is required such as remembering to connect an external hard drive every week.
- Data is strongly encrypted before being uploaded to the cloud. Even in the event of a data breach, your password is required for decryption. Can the same be said about backing up to an external hard drive?
- Solid state hard drives (SSD) are great pieces of technology and are less prone to failure than traditional hard drives; but, when an SSD fails, it usually does so without warning. Data recovery in these cases is expensive—if it can be done at all.
A wise computer user would spend a minute per month checking the installed backup app to make sure all’s well. Otherwise, set it and forget it.