I remember being asked while registering a while back for geeks.pirillo.com, "What is the thing in life you treasure the most?" Took a bit of thinking, but I realized that there was really no single material "thing" that I valued as a precious favorite item. All material goods are in a state of transition, from newness to the recycle bin.
I mean, there was a point in time when I got the first generation iPhone, shortly after it was launched. I would literally prop it up in its dock and admire it on my desk, talking to it like Tom Hanks talked to his volleyball in Castaway. "I know you..." <wink>
But now it is on a shelf-- dusty, powered off, and discarded, replaced several times over by a new model. Perhaps Chris Pirillo meant intangible life stuff as most treasured: Concepts or temporal things, like wind, sunsets, relationships, skydiving. In any case, I couldn't think of a material thing that I couldn't live without.
So if I were woken by a smoke alarm, found myself amidst flames, what would I try to grab on my way out? Probably my Drobo; my backup disk drive that holds data (mostly photos) since 2003. The memories, you know? It's easy to dismiss what you don't see often, but when discovering old photographs, so many rich memories come rushing back.
Backup is one of those topics, like dentist appointments, tax filing, retirement planning, car maintenance, and diets. Hundreds have already tried to get you to do it. So I won't give you one of those pep talks. If you don't backup move along, nothing more to read here.
But for those who do backup and feel inclined to do it better, a helpful way I've started thinking about it is as a protection plan.
I work for a warranty company, so loss and restoration is a central theme to my life. More so as an engineer, I always want a plan for fixing things. I've looked at the various online services that provide inexpensive solutions, and here's my summary:
- Carbonite: Cheap, recommended by many, slow, like a web folder, and you don't know where the data goes. That is, they claim they're hooked into "The Cloud" but they tell us nothing of what that means.
- Mozy: Slow, fail-prone re-uploading clients (on OSX in my experience), and extremely courteous but utterly helpless support staff.
- JungleDisk: The most manual to configure, but very good for the paranoid. What I like most about JungleDisk is you can configure the destination data store (e.g. to your own AWS bucket), and you can manage the encryption of your own backup (i.e. AWS has no access to the content of your data).
- And of course, there's tarsnap. A command-line backup utility, I wrote a whole post just on that one.
It's hard to think about and plan for what-if's all the time, but at the very least, get started on your photo and document folders and subscribe to a service so you know your stuff won't disappear with a simple short circuit.