Why computer backups matter

160930-externalhddIt’s been over a year since I last encouraged you to have a computer backup strategy in place, and some recent news made me want to emphasize this once again. More than ever, many of us store precious photos and documents on our computers, so taking the time to back them up properly is vital. The following stories illustrate just some of the reasons for having those backups.

Protecting against fire (or other natural disasters)

The following story by Matt Sledge in The New Orleans Advocate had a happy ending, but it could have ended tragically:

Gideon Hodge, 35, describes himself as a playwright, novelist and actor. When his fiancée told him that their apartment was on fire, he left work in Mid-City and rushed to the scene. That’s when he realized that his only copies of two completed novels were on a laptop inside. …

Hodge dashed into the building. He ran past the smoke and the firefighters yelling at him to stop and managed to grab the precious laptop.

“Anybody that’s ever created art, there’s no replacing that,” Hodge said. “It’s got pretty much my life’s work.”

Hodge could have been seriously hurt, and his laptop could have been unsalvageable. Fortunately, everything worked out fine. But if he just had an offsite backup, he wouldn’t have felt compelled to take such a risk.

Protecting against hard drive failures

The Advocate has an eye-catching photo of Hodge running into his home to get his computer. But as Dinah Sanders wrote on Twitter:

No one is going to take dramatic photos of “Writer frowns quizzically as hard drive just up and catastrophically fails one day.”

Such failures are an ongoing risk computer users face every day, and backups mean we’re protected when they happen.

Protecting against accidentally deleted files

Another situation where backups come in very handy is when a computer update goes wrong. Josh Marshall wrote in great detail about his recent experience using a new feature of Apple’s latest operating system for the Mac. He has both a home computer and a work computer, and when he tried using the new feature, things went very wrong. Without going into all the details (some of which are specific to his set-up), the following is one excerpt from his narrative:

In a flash all the files on my desktop disappeared and were replaced by the files from my work desktop.


Anyone who has had an update go wrong can imagine how this would feel. Fortunately, Marshall had a good up-to-date backup and was able to restore all his files.

Protecting against theft

Michael Zhang wrote about one sad story on the PetaPixel website, where the lack of offsite backups was devastating:

Oakland-based photographer Jennifer Little had her home broken into last week, and her loss was devastating. In addition to stealing 8 of her cameras, the burglars also took 21 hard drives containing Little’s life’s work as a professional photographer.

Our precious computer files are the opposite of clutter. I would hate for any Unclutterer readers to lose any such files, so please take the time to create and implement a thoughtful backup strategy (if you haven’t already) that includes files on your computer and any files you’ve offloaded from your computer to external hard drives, thumb drives, CDs, or DVDs.

9 Comments for “Why computer backups matter”

  1. posted by Barb on

    Do you have any company recommendations for off-site storage?

  2. posted by Sandy Stelter on

    Carbonite or Mozy are both good and reasonable priced.

  3. posted by JC on

    Check out Backbaze. Under $5 per computer per month for unlimited data stored offsite. absolute bargain and set up in 2 clicks. No I’m not affiliated just a passionate fan. Recently saved my dads whole photo collection after a sudden drive failure.

  4. posted by SC on

    My vote is for Crashplan. I’ve been happy with it for a number of years. It can do local backups, local network backups, peer to peer backups all for free (so load up your parent’s machine that doesn’t do anything else! Cloud backups cost money.

    A really important thing to remember is that you should also TEST your restore ability. It doesn’t help if you have everything backed up and then you can’t restore. So test that once in a while.

  5. posted by James on

    Not sure why people are still talking about backups for light use, you re-engineer the question, so it is no longer an issue. I specifically use Dropbox, but it isn’t always the answer, maybe Onedrive, or Owncloud, or a hundred other solutions

    I have no files on any of my computers not in the Dropbox folder.

    If Dropbox goes down, there is a local copy on my desktop that can get put onto a hard-drive. I have also seen services that mirror clouds, work in dropbox, that gets mirrored to something else.

    I also get deleted file recovery, with extended version history.

    For software, once I get a new PC, it normally has Windows loaded, and then everything else is subscription, so I log into my accounts and it’s downloaded shortly.

    For local settings, I either don’t use them, or have an actionscript setup with them so they can be automagically setup from a dropbox recovery such as printer and driver.

    90% of my settings are log-in details and websites which are all stored under my google account for chrome to pick up.

    Anything personal, you don’t want on your work computer, and vice versa, just un-sync those folders.

    Obviously the multiple hard drive loss (multiple terabytes I assume) in the stories above is a question, but a reliable offsite could probably be found for those. Do you need always on instant access? If not, then save reduced file size versions on your normal cloud, and then have a secure off-site for the drives.

    You can even set up a protected file locker within Dropbox, so even if your account details get leaked, private info stays private.

    I don’t work for Dropbox, and I was looking at switching to Onedrive, but sort of distrust Microsoft.

  6. posted by Sarah on

    Have been using Mozy for a few years now. It’s saved me on several occasions when my hard drive has gone bad. In addition to that, I also continuously back up to a Seagate external hard drive in my home. (Belt-and-suspenders, yes!)

  7. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    Barb, I use Crashplan for my offsite backups, and I’ve been happy with that service. But there are certainly other good alternatives.

  8. posted by Jeff S Alterman on

    I have all of my files copied at least 5 times over. I use a second computer as a one of my backups. I keep an external hard drive in a separate part of the house in case there is a fire so that in all likelihood, I won’t lose everything. Last year the hard drive on my present computer became corrupted because of some sort of failure and thanks to the backups, I did not lose one file. Always back up all of your important files.

  9. posted by Get Straight on

    I always upload to google drive if that is very important. It is more convenient to get the file when my laptop is connected to wifi. Of course i will back up all the documents an external hard drive as well but I lost all my important documents when the hard drive was not working. Any good brand is recommended??? Thank you!

Comments are closed.