You need Backup. It's not optional.

You need Backup. It’s not optional.


A long time ago, in a kingdom far, far away, I used to work at a place where standard policy was to save our data in multiple places. As far as our policy was concerned, those newfangled computers couldn’t be trusted. So not only did we save things in a couple of different internal databases, but we also saved paper copies of everything — augmented sometimes by all that data being input into spreadsheets on our computers that we shared with one another.

(This was pre-Google Drive and pre-cloud, in general; I’m talking shared Excel workbooks.)

While this seemed slightly excessive, upon reflection, I can say that we never lost an order (that I know of) while I worked there. I worked there for several years, too.

At the time, I was writing loads of papers for college. I’d recently gotten my first laptop — the first computer I’d ever owned. You’d better believe I backed everything up on multiple disks, so I had multiple copies. Again, slight overkill — but I never lost anything important that way.

A friend shared Dumped! by Google with me, and it made me glad that I’ve continued this practice, even in today’s cloud age. Have you ever thought about what would happen if you couldn’t use any of the Google products you currently use? You should. This isn’t intended to incite panic about Google, or to imply that their products are unreliable. However, with our increasing dependence on them to smooth out the roughnesses of everyday life, having a backup plan in place seems like the pragmatic thing to do. Until now, I have only had the foresight to back up drafts and finished documents. That’s a problem.


RIP, little Eee. I'll miss you. :(

RIP, little Eee. I’ll miss you. 🙁


I recently had my netbook die on me. It was my primary computer, so I was understandably quite upset. But things weren’t as terrible as they could have been, mostly because I had all my important stuff backed up in several places. While I do make extensive use of Google’s suite of products (I know very few people who don’t use at least one or two), all my important writing and documents are Dropboxed, Drived (Driven? No Stallone jokes, plskthx), on an external hard drive, and on a thumb drive — as well as on the hard drive of my computer. Of course, the ones on the netbook’s hard drive are currently inaccessible — but all those other copies live on. So it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.

The thing is, a big part of the reason I wasn’t as upset as I would have been also has to do with my dependence on Google products. I have Chrome installed on all my devices (broken netbook, new laptop, tablet, Android phone). They’re all connected, and I’m logged into Chrome on all of them, so they can all share browser history and bookmarks and et cetera. For someone who depends on her ability to do extensive amounts of research (both off- and online) in order to do her job, this catastrophic computer crash really went very smoothly — all because I use Google.

I also use Google Calendar. I use my phone like I used to use my PDA, and I love it — I keep track of everything there, because it’s always with me. I had used Evernote before, which is good — until shiny new Google Keep turned my head and made me start using it, instead.

All this is to say, the Google suite of products is helpful, formidable, and good — and has definitely enhanced my productivity. It has also made me feel relatively secure about my data.

That’s the problem — as clearly evidenced by Tienlon Ho’s story of sudden Google account suspension. If that happened to me, I would be completely screwed. My documents would still exist — because I’ve been smart enough to back them up in multiple places, as mentioned above. I haven’t used Google Reader since falling in love with Taptu ages ago, so its impending shutdown on July 1st didn’t spell doom for me the way it has for some of my friends. It should have served as a prompt for my current line of thinking, but it didn’t.

When I started using Keep, I stopped using Evernote. I use traditional notecards, too — as well as notebooks — but my notes aren’t really duplicated across any of these methods of notekeeping.

Until now, I have only had the foresight to back up drafts and finished documents. That’s a problem.

And Contacts! I don’t blame Google; if their products weren’t good, intuitive, and useful, I wouldn’t use them. I doubt anyone would. But the trouble is, while I’ve maintained vigilance about my writing (which is my most important thing, since, well, I write for a living), I haven’t been nearly so good about all these other aspects of my life that I’ve Googlefied.

Unlike Tienlon Ho, I don’t have a bunch of friends at Google who I can poke about any problems if I experience them. Luckily, that story had a happy ending, and Ho’s full account access was restored after a single spreadsheet was identified that Google apparently felt violated its TOS. But that may not have happened if Ho hadn’t had friends who worked at Google to keep nudging about this problem. The company doesn’t make itself easy for its users to access if there are problems.

Lesson learned: the vigilance I apply to my writing is something I also need to apply to every other piece of data I hold sacred. I also plan to diagram it, so that in my advancing years, I remember what I’ve stored where.

What methods do you use to back up your important data? What do you like and dislike about them? When you keep your data in multiple places, how do you keep track of where everything is — and ensure that you have the most up-to-date version available in all places at all times?

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