I keep telling people how important it is to back up their data on regular basis but most don’t listen. Honestly, it is either like preaching to a choir or like talking to a wall. Those folks who could be convinced already back their stuff up regularly. The rest can’t be bothered no matter how long and hard I try to convince them. Until of course they learn this lesson the hard way.
Few days ago I stumbled upon a little human interest news blurb titled: Stolen laptop contains man’s dreams. In a nutshell it is a story about a guy who lost his masters thesis because his laptop got stolen. Which is a monumentally stupid thing to do. I’m suspecting the aim of the story was to evoke pity for the poor guy but I have none. You reap what you sow.
I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, but in this day and age there is just no excuse for backing up important work. I can understand why people often neglect to do full disk backups. It takes a little bit of effort to get it accomplished. If you have many gigabytes of pictures, videos and documents backing up is not trivial. It’s not like you can zip it all up and send it to yourself in an email for example. It usually requires some investment – for example a purchase of an external drive or some online storage/backup plan from a company like Mozy. It is not rocket science, but I get it – people are lazy.
But, if you are working on something important – like a thesis, backing it up is trivial. Send a copy to yourself in an email. Upload it to Google docs. Use Dropbox. Save it to a thumb-drive that you always carry in your pocket. None of the above costs money, and it takes seconds to accomplish. In fact, it is foolish not to do this.
You don’t even have to be a “computer guy” to realize the folly of not backing up your crucial work. It is just common sense based on experience. For example, I have accidentally deleted my work more than once. I had a computer die on me more than once. I have heard the dreaded *CLICK-CLICK* sound of a dead hard drive many times. I have learned this lesson a hard way – always have at least one redundant copy of your important work.
When I was writing my thesis I had multiple copies:
- One on my desktop at home
- One on an external drive I used to back up my home computer
- One on my laptop
- One on my work computer
- One on a thumb-drive I carried in my pocket
- One in a private SVN repository I set up on a remote server
All of these locations were synced via SVN so they usually remained fairly up to date. And I was still slightly paranoid about losing my work even though a simultaneous failure of all the machines that held my copies was very unlikely. Out of the paranoia by the end of my college career I also had a nightly script running on my desktop which would zip up my thesis folder, email it to me, and sftp it to another private remote server.
You can say I overdid it, especially since none of my machines failed while I was working on my thesis. But I always thought that with backups it is always better be safe than sorry. After all, all of this is almost effortless. When our parents (or in some cases grandparents) were writing important papers like that, they used typewriters or long-hand. For them backing up their work was impractical and time consuming. It usually involved meticulously re-typing the entire document, using special carbon-copy paper, or locating a xerox copy machine (after they became popular). We have it easy – we can click a button and have our work backed up to multiple sources within seconds.
I just don’t understand why wouldn’t you back up “the work of your life”. That’s not even being lazy – that’s being downright criminally foolish and reckless.