Your Mom DEMANDS That You Backup Your Computer!
I know, I know…when someone gets after you for not backing up your computer, it sort of feels like Mom is badgering you to brush your teeth and wash your hands, right?
Mom was right. Clean teeth are happy teeth and don’t you DARE touch anything with those filthy hands! If your Mom had included data backup in her admonishments to you, she would have been right about that too.
When it comes to backing up your personal computer—you know, the one that contains all your digital photos, videos, music, important files and more—you probably think to yourself, “I’ll do it soon” or “Maybe I’ll use a cloud backup service someday” or “I have a solid state drive and, um, they don’t crash?” Unfortunately your best intentions, procrastination, laziness or nonchalant attitude won’t save those ONLY COPIES of precious baby photos, images from your wedding, videos of a family vacation, or those critically important, now-digital documents you’ve already shredded, when your hard drive crashes and can’t be recovered.
You have four options when it comes to backing up your one-and-only copy of a digital file:
- Buy a cheap drive and backup to it. Cheap drives don’t last long and aren’t that durable. I’ve had several go bad on me over the last 10-20 years.
- Backup to the cloud with a service like Crashplan (UPDATE: No longer a consumer-focused backup solution, but instead focused on small business starting at $10/month). If you have multiple terabytes of data, however, it could take weeks to backup (and use a lot of your internet bandwidth) or you’ll be sent a big drive and you’ll have to backup to it and then ship it to the cloud service (to get a headstart on future backups and save both you, and the cloud backup service, a lot of bandwidth cost).
- Buy an ioSafe secure vault drive (more on that below).
- Do nothing and hope your computer’s drive never crashes, a power surge or brownout doesn’t fry the drive, your house doesn’t start on fire, or some burglar doesn’t come in and take your computer and its files for a joy ride in his stolen car.
Option #4 is like not having homeowner’s, auto, or health insurance. You may never need any of them, but if you do and aren’t insured, you’ll likely lose big or lose everything.
MY PERSONAL BACKUP STRATEGIES
We use Macs, so Apple’s Time Machine backup is great. Since all of our machines use Apple’s FileVault2 encryption, we set our external backup drives to also be encrypted. So if someone just stole a drive or drives, they’d be useless to them, as would the computers themselves.
Time Machine works perfectly. We’ve had two internal drives fail over the past few years and in both cases a recovery from a Time Machine backup was flawlessly performed.
Since synchronizing Time Machine backups to a cloud backup is not simple, and I’ve yet to find a solution that anyone I respect has any confidence in, I’ve opted not to use a cloud-only backup solution.
Since a few years ago I was using a relatively inexpensive external backup drive from Seagate, I knew I needed something more bulletproof. After significant online research, I purchased my first ioSafe Solo G3 3TB (a terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes) drive for $399.
These drives are amazing. They are fireproof (can withstand 1500ºF for half an hour); waterproof (can be submerged down to 10ft for 72 hours) and they give you one year of a forensic data recovery service (and you can buy more years if you’re within that first year).
Then I needed a second ioSafe vault and wanted a USB 3 version too (my previous iMac was only USB 2 so that original drive worked fine…but my new iMac uses USB 3 and it is MUCH faster!). Fortunately Costco.com has the 4TB, USB 3 version for only $299 until April 30, 2015 (normally $499) so I just bought my second drive. These things are rock-solid, fast, and give me peace of mind that my data is safe.
I do, however, have some key files in the cloud. Inside Dropbox I enjoy my 1TB account for which I spend $99/year. Since files residing at Dropbox are not encrypted, I’ve also created Mac .dmg (disk image) containers in to which I place personal document scans and other files I need encrypted. My wife has the passwords for these .dmgs in her LastPass account, just in case I get hit by a bus.
FUN FACT TO KNOW-AND-TELL: I’ve had push-back from friends and colleagues that, “If a cheap drive crashes, I’ll have a forensics outfit like Kroll OnTrack recover my data.” That seems like it could be a good strategy, but two years ago it would have cost me nearly $2,000 to have Kroll OnTrack forensically recover a portable USB drive my wife accidentally dropped on the garage floor when getting out of her car.
Would you spend $299 to protect all of your photos, videos, music, documents and other files? In my view, it’s pretty cheap insurance (and much cheaper than forensic data recovery!) and besides, you don’t want your Mom yelling at you, right?