Why computer backup service is important!
Today, more than ever, you have more and more of your life captured in digital format. RVers, more than many people are capturing their travel digitally. RVers more than many people are more mobile than ever. RVers digital life can be very rich with a large amount of digital content.
Your content will be in forms like books, pictures, movies, important documents, PDFs, bills, records, and more.
You'll have your content scattered across your cell phone, digital tablet, Kindle, Nook, laptop, and desktop computer. For this article I'll call all these things devices.
Lots of content in bunches of places is a disaster waiting to happen.
But maybe it won't happen?
I'm an engineer. To be precise, I'm an electrical engineer and have designed microprocessors for a living.
I can tell you with confidence, that your device WILL fail. The real question is when.
Before you tell me “I've never had any device fail” or “I've never lost any data”, let me take some time and explain just how fragile your data's existence is.
Your spinning hard drive is fragile
Lets talk about your hard drive. It seems like such a safe place for your data doesn't it. It is not. It is good enough, but it is fragile.
Here is how MOST disk drives have worked for the last 30 years. Inside your disk drive there is a spinning metal disk. It spins at 5000-8000 revolutions per minute. In spins ALL THE TIME.
ALL your data is ultimately broken down into a value of 1 or 0 by layers upon layers on math. Yes, even your dog pictures eventually are simply a series of the numbers 1 or 0.
A value of 1 is stored by magnetizing a single spot, a TINY TINY TINY single spot on the spinning disk in one direction. A 0 is stored by magnetizing the spot in the opposite direction. The disk is no bigger than a large matchbook and its surface contains trillions and trillions of these magnetized spots.
Now that you know this, just exactly how likely do you think it really is that a few of your bits wouldn't just vanish? In my mind, it is VERY likely.
Your fancy flash based solid state drive is fragile
Some of you are saying “Come on silly RV52 (Marlan), I store my data in solid state media. It is 100% safe.”
Let me explain how solid state media works. For many of you, you might wonder “what is solid state media”?
Solid state media MOSTLY means that it is NOT a spinning disk drive. For the last 30 years, either the technology had not been invented OR the technology had not been cheap enough to store data on anything BUT spinning drives. But recently, solid state media has become much more competitive. Its advantages make it competitive with spinning disks even if it is more expensive.
Solid state media has many forms and names, but trust me, it is mostly the same type of stuff. Your SD cards are solid state. If you hear the word “flash drive” or “solid state drive” you are hearing about solid state media.
Solid state media fetches and saves data faster than spinning disk media. It is quieter. It takes less power than a spinning disk. Maybe best of all, solid state media has no moving parts. Mechanical parts and movement are a huge source of failure – which means solid state drives should be more reliable than a spinning disk.
But solid state media is not perfect, and it by NO MEANS is a safe place for your data. Just like spinning disk, it is a good enough place, but it will fail. The principles on how your data stored will give you the willies.
Here is just how fragile a solid state drive can be
Here is how your data is stored inside a solid state drive or media.
Inside the solid state media there are tiny microscopic structures that are slivers of metal encapsulated in glass. Wow. Maybe you should read that again. Then, your data is STORED as electrons TRAPPED like prisoners inside the glass on the metal sliver.
Engineers have learned how to INJECT electrons through the glass to get them on and off the metal. Engineers have learned how to detect the electrons on the metal without disturbing them… too much. By detecting the presence of the electrons, that is how the engineers can determine if there is a value of “1” (does not have electrons) or a value of “0” (has electrons).
Even more interesting, we know, give or take a couple, how many electrons are parked inside that glass. Do you think that the circuitry might MISCOUNT an electron every now and then? Heck yes? We can’t even get a count on how many people are at a ball game – how the world will we get this very precise!?
What else can go wrong? Lots! The glass can actually wear out rending that little electron cage (I'll call a “bit”) useless. In fact “wear-out” is so common that engineers simply design the system to live with it.
Neutrinos from space can knock the electrons off the bit.
If you have your data stored in a small portable device a truck could run over it and ruin the solid state media. Don't laugh, this actually happened to my step son.
I told him, you should back up your data. In fact, let me step through some ideas that will help you make sure that your data isn't lost.
Hopefully by now, I've convinced you that your information is stored on fragile things. Because of this fragility, maybe now you can logically be convinced that you should take steps to keep your data safe.
I'll give you some of these steps as a list of “tips”.
The backwards thinking of many people
One more thing before I give you the tips. I'm constantly amazed at people who will pay $1000s to get computers, cameras, phones, e-readers. Those same people then get “all cheap” when it comes to spending money on backing up.
Here is why that thinking is foolish – the VALUE of your device is small compared to the value of the DATA on your device. You will say that your picture of your flower isn't worth much. I agree it isn't. But your 10,000 pictures of the last 20 years of your life, including shots of graduations IS valuable. In fact, it is irreplaceable.
Think of “data value” in the following way. The value of a Hollywood movie to the creators could be worth 100's of millions of dollars, while the equipment to make the movie might only be worth a couple of million. I could go on and on with these examples – but the bottom line – data is worth a lot – if it can even have a value. In fact, data is always worth more than the hardware that is related to it.
So don't cheap out on making sure your data is secure from loss.
Tips to keep your data safe(r)
Here are some of my tips for keeping your data safe and secure and the rationale behind my thinking. Have fun.
1) Manual – local backup – GOOD
Barring doing NOTHING, buy yourself a USB drive to back up your files from your computers. Just plug it in and drag and drop from your “My Documents” folder onto the USB drive. This is a GREAT start and you stand a good chance of saving 90% of what you might lose from accidental loss. It might even survive falling into water.
The downside(s)? If you used a thumbdrive you might lose it. Or run over it with a car. If ANY type of removable drive, it could get stolen. You also stand to lose data that you didn't back up because this solution isn't going to be that often just because it is a pain in the elbow to do regularly. My guess is that most people would struggle to have the discipline to do this monthly.
In all cases, a fire will takeout both your backups and your devices too. I'm sure hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods might not help either.
2) Manual – local backup – with offsite – GOOD(er)
To solve the natural disasters problem, I know people who actually record data onto DVDs/CDs or EXTRA USB drives.
Then they physically move the saved data on DVD, CD, or extra USB drives to a relative's house, office, or other offsite place.
You FIX the problem for fires, floods, and other disasters.
BUT, you still get all the downsides of the method #1 and ADD to it keeping track of the backups and also having the other site. If you use other people, they will get tired of you.
( why the grammatical error in the headline – because I thought it was cute and I wanted it to be better than good but not quite as good as better. )
3) Automatic – local backup – BETTER
Now we're talking. This involves better technology – usually a program that runs in the background looking for files that need backed up. Then that tech automatically saves them to a backup drive located on a local network.
Now your data is mostly safe – no more than a 24 hour gap in the backup and your device.
For Apple (the type of computer I use), they have built in backup to their computers and you can buy network devices that automatically connect to the Apples and backup. It is called Time Machine. The backup device is called Time Capsule. I do not use this technology.
Downside(s) – Usually this is a bit more expensive since it involves a little tech AND a backup device (like Time Capsule). Since it is local, you still get exposed to natural disasters.
I might make a note that in an RV, natural disasters are actually MORE likely – why? You can wreck, fires are common (lots of fuel like LP around), and wind and water in strange areas… RVs INCREASE this risk.
4) Automatic remote computer backup service – BEST
By using a remote computer backup service you get ALL the advantage of #3 and you eliminate the natural disasters downside.
But this comes with downsides too. The big one being cost of the services. The second one is that it requires a good network between you and the backup center.
This is the choice I use. I love it. I DO have good network access and I'm happy to pay to get the security.
When I started looking at backup services, I started looking at Carbonite as it seemed the default choice for Macs. By default it is like the old adage – No one ever got fired for choosing IBM – except of course in this case it was Carbonite.
Unfortunately, I could not get Carbonite to work on my Mac. I don’t know why.
Which led me to a search for remote backup services that are easy to use and able to handle backing up almost anything.
At the end of the search I found a service called Just Cloud. I have been using it for two years. I have never had to retrieve anything, but I’ve done several spot checks.
It backs up several computers automatically and will even backup on a less automatic basis if you want.
I can wholeheartedly recommend using Just Cloud as a computer backup service .
If you are not backing up your data, you should be. Hopefully, this article gives you some ideas on how you can get a handle on backing up your data.
Remember, your RV is more susceptible to things that can cause problems for your data such as fire, flood, electrical incident, or an accident.