I take a laptop everywhere, and I know you do, too. When I think about what would happen if suddenly someone were to steal my laptop, there are three aspects about which I worry. What will it cost to replace? What sensitive information was on it that I don’t want anyone else accessing? What data was on my computer that I can no longer access?
Outside of simply carrying insurance, there really isn’t a solution to the cost of the physical hardware. Theft is theft. The second solution is solved by using TrueCrypt, a fantastic encryption solution about which I wrote in October of 2008. This post begins to address the third problem – a way to ensure that data is safe in the event of theft, crash or other loss – by defining the problem and detailing some bad experiences I’ve had with two, popular backup services.
Backing up your data is important, but creating a comprehensive strategy to prevent catastrophic loss can be challenging. The general rule for backing up is easy to remember as 3-2-1. The best solution is to have three copies of your data on two different media types and one needs to be off site. One of the best ways to solve the off-site problem is to use a service that runs automatically on your computer and copies the data securely to the cloud as you work.
Allured by the Carbonite advertisements in my podcasts and other media, I signed up for Carbonite a few years ago. It seemed to work well, didn’t slow down my machine too much, and it seemed to work as advertised.
When I built my media center and began to aggregate all of my personal media there, I began to notice a very severe limitation of Carbonite. After reaching a threshold, they limit the upload bandwidth. Unfortunately for me, that limit was about 200 GB. I needed to upload 1.5 TB including a large amount of video from the Aaron Traffas Band, so Carbonite was no longer an option.
I subscribed to Mozy, Carbonite’s closest competitor who also advertised unlimited uploads for about $5 per month. It took a couple of months, but it was finally able to copy all of my data. Shortly after it caught up, the unthinkable happened. The filesystem on the hard drive storing all of my documents and media became corrupted. I was faced with having only two copies of my data remaining. I had an old copy of everything from a few months before that I stored on my Drobo and I had the current copy on Mozy’s servers.
The 1.5 TB was too much to try to download, so I called Mozy to learn how I could get to my data. I learned that Mozy will send data sets over 200 GB to users on hard drives, but at a significant cost. They would send me all my data on three hard drives for $1,100.
I ended up comparing the old backup with the data on Mozy and downloading the changed files, but it took an enormous amount of time. I learned two very important lessons from my experience. First, the cost of an off-site backup solution isn’t just the monthly fee, the recovery costs need to be considered. Second, Mozy wasn’t for me. Mozy later discontinued their unlimited plan, meaning that they’re not an option for many others either.