Posted by Lori Ayre on April 12, 2004

How often do you actually performs backups of data on your PC? I know I've been pretty bad about doing it because I haven't had a drive large enough to accommodate all the data easily. Every once in a while I'd copy everything from my desktop to my laptop or retire folders to a CD but I wasn't being systematic nor frequent about doing it.

For one thing, trying to copy only the changed files was a big pain because you had to go folder by folder and sort by date. And copying everything again took too long.

So when friends of the family got their online backup service off the ground, I signed up. And boy was I happy I did. More on that in a minute.

I'm guessing you don't know what I mean by online backup service. Here's the idea. You load a piece of software that runs automatically on a schedule you set-up to backup all the files you want backed up. You pick the folders and each night (or however many times a day or week you want to do it) the folders are backed up. You don't gotta do nothin.

The first backup takes a long time but after that, only the changed files are backed up. Files that are unchanged since the last aren't blindly copied to the online service so each day's backup happens quickly and behind the scenes. You don't have to get involved at all. The service uses a fabulous encryption program (LZW) Ed: broken link removed 2011 and is secure (Blowfish encryption). All in all, it totally rocks!

My Sad Tale - with a happy ending
Now to the part about why I was so happy I had signed up. Well, shortly after I got started with the service, I decided to demo some filtering software (no, Im not going to tell you which one). In my defense, the documentation did not say "Don't try this at home" or I would have gotten technical assistance with the install. I just followed the prompts and was trying it out. Well, I didn't get very far when I determined it wasn't working at all how I thought it should be. Ultimately, my attempts to fix the filter installation thoroughly hosed my system. Though the filter company valiantly tried to help, there was nothing to do but reinstall XP. My installation of XP has never been the same -- sadly. But that's another story.

The good news is that the restoration of all my data was a snap. I'm still using that backup service and can heartily recommend it to anyone else who is being as recalcitrant as I was.

What to look for in a backup service
Online backup services are a great idea for secure offsite storage but you need to be sure your service does indeed HAVE a secure facility. The software that gets loaded onto your PC needs to be stable and play well with others AND provide the kind of flexibility you need in terms of scheduling and file selection. It needs to have good compression and encryption so the data gets moved quickly and safely. And it needs to be responsible about resource utilization so the rest of the system doesn't grind to a halt.

I've found all these above needs are met with the service I signed up with, Data Salvation Is there a Data heaven? A Data hell? Are you praying for your beloved Data to return? -- but there are others to consider including US Data Trust and LiveVault.

The important thing is to start backing up your data. As Jerry Newman says during KQED pledge breaks, get off your good intentions.

P.S. Email me if you end up signing up with Data Salvation because I can get you the family discount. Afterall, aren't all library workers family?