As the systems administrator at the UVic Faculty of Law every semester I see one or two students who have lost everything… documents, pictures, music… Everything on their laptop computers. The look on their faces is unmistakable. They come to me looking for help. Unfortunately more often than not I have to deliver the news to them that they have lost all their data. Typically the the data is lost because of a hard drive failure (a recent Google report seems to indicate that newer high density hard drives are becoming less reliable not more reliable). Recovery is sometimes possible (just ask my good friend Mike Binstead), but it can often be quite expensive ($1,000 or more) if the problem is severe enough that a hard drive recovery company needs to be involved.
The most recent student who came in to my office with a troubled look on her face, just had her laptop stolen, and did not have any of her data backed up. She lost everything except for things she had e-mailed other people (she uses a webmail program, so her e-mail was not lost).
Last week I heard another sad story from publishing company that I’ve been working with. One of their branch offices had a fire which destroyed all six of their computers. The person in the office I’ve been working with most closely didn’t have any of her data backed up and lost everything. Two others in the office had backups, but stored them at the office, so their computers and their backups were both destroyed (just because you back things up doesn’t make your backup system full proof).
I know a number of data loss stories from Hurricane Katrina… I won’t tell them here, but I’m sure you can imagine what happened to many people and companies who were not backing up their data, and keeping some of the backups stored off site.
The biggest complaint I hear about backups is that people feel they are a pain to do. I agree! Most backup systems are a pain. If a backup system requires human intervention on a regular basis, it is probably not going to work well. Up until recently I backed up my home computer by burning the Data to DVDs. I have enough pictures and videos on our computer now that it took 3 DVDs to back everything up. It was a pain to do, and as a consequence, I ended up backing things up once every two or three months … not very impressive for a systems administrator.
At the Faculty of Law we backup everything on our servers nightly using a little piece of software on the servers that backs all the changed data to a central server on campus. The next day, a copy of the backed up data is shipped to a storage location on the other side of the country. I sleep better knowing that if the Law School Burns down, all our data is recoverable.
I recently started using a similar system for my laptop and home computer to backup all the data. It is Wonderful easy to use service, and for up to 2GB of data it is Free! The company is called Mozy Online Backup. If you have more than 2GB of data, you can pay $5 per month to store Unlimited Data. I am happily paying $5 per month for my unlimited account. Mozy works on both Windows (2000/XP/Vista) and Mac OSX (the Mac client is currently in beta testing, but I am happy with it’s performance on my laptop). Here are the features I love about the Mozy backup service:
- It requires no intervention to backup. Just setup an account, install the software, select what you want to backup, and then just let it run!
- It backs up your changed files every 3 hours, and keeps different versions of the same document for 30 days.
- It stores your data off site at a different location, so in the case of a natural disaster or fire, your backup will be safe.
- It is cost effective. Free for up to 2GB (which will work perfectly for UVic Law students) and $5 per month for unlimited backups.
- The data is encrypted before it is sent to the server so that it is secure while it is being transfered over the internet, and while it is being stored on the Mozy server.
- Mozy just signed up General Electric as a customer, to backup their systems world wide. A nice vote of confidence in Mozy.
I encourage everyone who does not have a good, reliable backup system in place to take a hard look at Mozy for your personal backup solution. I’ll be installing it on the two computers are my parents house the next time I visit.