Backup is not just for geeks

I’m horrified by how many people do not even consider backing up their data on a regular basis as something they could do. Someone begs me for free tech support almost every day and I get asked about all kinds of crazy things. I don’t think that anyone has ever asked me to help them develop some sort of backup plan or strategy for them. Even after they lose all their stuff in some catastrophic HD failure, most people are reluctant to even talk about backup. The most common excuse is:

“Well… I don’t really have anything that important on this computer”

Bullshit! This is a blatant lie, and you know it. If it’s not, then don’t come crying to me next time your computer fails to boot. There was nothing important there, right? I’ll just boot Ghost and restore it from the image then – the system should be ready in 20 minutes.

But anyone who ever did tech support for clueless relatives or friends knows that there is always that sad story of stuff they really don’t want to lose. You always have to listen to whimpering, and sobbing about the precious vacation pictures, that video of uncle Bob that was taken 3 days before he passed away, all the irreplaceable emails and chat logs, that huge mp3 collection, all the saved games, the unfinished novel and etc. All of a sudden the unimportant shit, becomes very, very dear to your heart.

It seems that most people assume that backup is something that only paranoid geeks do. After all, if their computer fails, they can always bring it to the “computer guy” who will more often than not be able to recover all that unimportant shit. Try to convince them to set up some kind of a backup, and they look at you like you are crazy. After all it’s your job to do that – now you are just being fucking lazy, trying to make them do work now, so that you don’t have to do it next time their computer fails. Sigh…

It’s really sad. Especially when less than $200 for an external hard drive and 15-20 minutes of setup can buy you a piece of mind, and allow you to preserve all your unimportant garbage even if your primary hard drive dies a horrible death.

I’m not saying everyone should be running RAID-1 array, and have at least 2 external backup drives, and always keep one of them off site. That’s indeed an overkill for home use. But a single external drive of the same size as the one in your system, and a weekly backup script is not. That’s something that everyone should invest into.

Let me clear this once and for all: having a backup strategy doesn’t make you a geek. Reading this blog however, does. So now that you have read this post, and you are officially a geek, go and get that backup situation worked out. What may seem unimportant to you now, will become extremely important once you loose it.

[tags]backup, backing up, backup strategy, external hard drive, luser[/tags]

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7 Responses to Backup is not just for geeks

  1. jambarama UNITED STATES Epiphany Linux Terminalist says:

    I installed cygwin on my parents computer, and between cron & rsync they don’t have to touch anything ever again. I just had them backup an another local drive, though I guess an offsite rsync over ssh solution would be better.

    But you’re right, if the hard drive they use failed, I’d be tech support. So it took me 15 minutes of prevention to save myself potentially hours of fixing.

    Which is why I’m so pleased with Time Machine. Time machine in 10.5 completely blows any backup utility Microsoft has provided out of the water, especially the new one on Vista.

    Personally, I think the Windows security center thingy that monitors a firewall, AV, and something else (I forget what) should also monitor backups in the same way – meaning you can turn the notifications/reminders off if you want, to your own peril.

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  2. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Btw, have you ever used Unision? Does pretty much what you would want rsync to do, but is available as a native windows binary so you don’t really have to do a full cygwin install. You can schedule it via the standard windows Task Scheduler instead of cron.

    I use NTBackup on my windows box and rsync on linux. :)

    Time Machine is the Apple thing, right? I haven’t used OSX that much so I’m not very familiar with it, but I think I heard it mentioned here and there.

    Oh, and the security center thing is brilliant! I never thought about that, but you are right – having something like that would force people to get backup software installed and configured just to get that red shield go away.

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  3. jambarama UNITED STATES Epiphany Linux Terminalist says:

    I’d never heard of Unison – from the quick look I’ve given, it looks awesome. That’ll save me some time next time I want to set someone up with rsync.

    What do you like about NTBackup over Unison? I haven’t been able to play with either yet.

    Time Machine is a backup app on the brand new Apple OS. It does 2 things
    – it acts as an api for those creating apps for 10.5 who want auto backup built into their app
    – and it acts as a full backup system for the entire OS (your data & OS)
    It does versioning, incremental backups, undelete*, etc. Of course you can set it to only backup data. Unfortunately I haven’t seen capability to backup to anything other than external local drives, and local shares done by 10.5 machines (no backing up to a smb/nfs share, and no tunneling over ssh).

    * Undelete has been one of my biggest complaints about Macs. You empty the trash, if there was something there, you are hosed. Nothing gets it back reliably. Not diskwarrior, not data rescue II (usually), not norton utilities, nothing.

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  4. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    [quote comment=”6703″]What do you like about NTBackup over Unison? I haven’t been able to play with either yet.[/quote]

    Actually, the main difference is that ntbackup works more like tar than like rsync/unision. It rolls everything into a single file which in someways makes backups easier to manage, but also makes it more vulnerable to data corruption.

    I do use unision for small nightly backups of important folders. The big weekly backups are ntbackup – not sure why. Force of habit I guess – it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

    On some servers at work we use Veritas which is a very nice suite with some useful features. For example it sends a text message to my phone if the backup failed or something.

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  5. jambarama UNITED STATES Epiphany Linux Terminalist says:

    Thanks for the clarification – so NTbackup does the restoring too.

    I used Veritas at a prior job, it really was great. Support was terrific, the
    product was terrific, so were the prices – but it was worth it. I hope nothing
    has changed since they were bought out by Symantec.

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  6. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Well, the Veritas version we have has no Symantec branding. It works spectacularly as it is, so we haven’t really been upgrading it or anything. It’s a great product.

    Sadly judging from Symantec’s track record, they probably totally fucked it up by now. :(

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  7. Zack UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    A program I like for Windows is Syncback. You can find it with a quick google search. SyncbackSE is much better, but costs $$, but the freeware version of Syncback is very handy for backing up people that just need a folder (aka. My Documents …and subfolders) backed up.

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