You don't need to backup your computer, in the same way you don't need to wear underwear. However, there are times that things happen, and you wish you had it.
Many people wonder why I get all wound up making sure my computer is backed up.
A few weeks ago, I realized my Time Machine/Time Capsule was on the fritz. In typical Apple product fashion, the device just kinda died a weird, non-working death. It started backing up my computer, but would never finish it. It just wasn't backing anything up anymore. And given my general absent-mindedness, I kept forgetting to look into it - until 3 weeks passed without backups.
And add to that another 3 days of fiddling with the Time Capsule to "save" it - so it was almost a month with no backup.
Once I finally accepted its death, I panicked. I needed to get new backup setup right away.
I heard from many people, "Everything will be fine, what's the worry? How often does a computer up and die and the hard drive break? You always get a warning sign, right?"
I used to believe that, too.
I have been reluctant to share the story about why I'm so adamant about everyone having some type of backup system. It's not one of my finer moments.
Working for HP Storage influenced me to appreciate backup more, especially after hearing about how a small business could be down for weeks if there isn't proper backup. I tried to find a video that showed this - but sadly, couldn't.
However, here's a different video that addresses the importance of backup and preventing data loss:
One afternoon about 7 years ago, I was using my MacBook at a client site, when out of the blue, it just shut down. Just like that! I thought that was weird, so I tried to turn it on again, and I heard this grinding gear sound. I tried again, same thing. I pondered what to do next, so I called a friend of mine who worked at Apple and he told me to stop. Just stop. Don't do anything else. And he said he's meet me at the Apple store near my house to get a new one.
Come to find out, I was destroying my hard drive and my computer died.
The rest of the day, I just wrote paper notes and sketched, and put my computer safely away. I was worried - really worried! Random thoughts raced through my mind all afternoon:
- What if everything was gone?
- What if I forgot to manually backup my computer on the external hard drive?
- The work that I'm doing technically isn't owned by me - it's owned by my clients. What does that mean if I lost their work?
- Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts.
After we went to the Apple store and bought a new computer, we went to his house to move files from my old computer to my new computer. The transfer didn't work, like didn't work at all.
My friend told me my files were gone. Totally gone.
If I wanted them back, I'd have to spend minimally $2-5K for a computer forensics company to see what they could salvage from the drive. They would need to determine if it were possible to retrieve the files.
Possible. Not likely. Not definitely. Like kinda maybe not likely.
And I didn't have a complete, current backup.
Before this happened, my clients were asking me frequently about my backup strategy for the files I was working on. Client work is owned by a client if you are a contractor. They wanted to be sure their work was somewhere just in case. I told them I would take care of it.
Dozens of times.
And I was working on a plan to automate the process rather than me manually updating an external hard drive each week, but I didn't make it a priority because "things like this don't happen to most people."
If the files were gone, not only would I have had to admit that I lost the files, but I would need to admit that I didn't place backups as a priority for "what if" scenarios. What would happen then?
I was certain my clients would fire me on the spot. I basically lost their property.
I cried. And cried. My friend went to fencing and I stayed at his house, crying, because that's useful in times like this when there is nothing else that can be done.
Luckily, at fencing one of the guys suggested putting my hard drive in the freezer. Sometimes, computer guys would do that to cool down the drive and allow the ball bearings to work. At this point, there was nothing to lose. My friend gave it a try.
Irish Luck was on my side. After an hour in the freezer, my friend was able to transfer the files from the disk onto my new computer. It all died immediately after the last file was transferred.
I was a lucky, lucky girl.
The next day, I bought a Time Capsule and Time Machine. I made sure everything was backed up in in the next 2 days.
- Backup is a cheap and easy way to have insurance in case something really bad happens. And if you own a Mac - there is no excuse. And be sure to get online backups too - they are cost efficient and effective. Things happen even to a Time Capsule. Having 2 backup plans is better than one.
- Company operations are just as important as completing client work. You need to take care of your business.
Not having a backup system is a SERIOUS problem, especially in this information economy. Your documents, spreadsheets, and notes are valuable in this information economy, and if your computer dies without backup, you would need to recreate these materials. That may sound easy, but it's really not.
We will often admit that we have files we never reference, and it's true - there are some files that could be discarded for good. But what about that most recent project you are working on? What if you were working on a book, were half-way done writing it, and it just vanished?
And the file vanishing could have been prevented.
The next time you see someone freaking out about not having backup, don't belittle their worries. Maybe you should be a little worried too.
Again, backups are like underwear. You don't plan on bad things happening when you don't wear it, but it can.