Why I hate backup

Why I hate backup

Summary: Backup disgusts me. It is the white flag of defeat in a never-ending battle to preserve our stuff against storage devices that don't store reliably. And it's boring.


A few weeks ago was World Backup Day, a worthy attempt to get people to backup and to check their restores. But I couldn't get excited about it.

Which led me to think about why? After all, I backup daily. I encourage my friends to backup and help them set up good backup strategies.

Then I saw this press release from Paragon Software, a maker of storage management and data protection software, from a survey of their Hard Disk Manager customers. Remember, these are people who bought the software, which means they are far savvier than most users.

The headline: A Significant Number of Home PC Users Don’t Practice Effective Personal Data Safety Measures. My favorite: 15% of Paragon's customers who do backup - not all do - backup to the same disk drive that has their data.

My head hurts.

Where to start? But I don't blame consumers for not understanding backup. I blame storage companies for building devices that can't preserve our data.

Virtually all storage devices and systems should come with a bright orange sticker that says "Data loss guaranteed if you don't backup!"

Yes, that's a buzz killer. But it needs to be - until someone perfects highly reliable storage.

The Storage Bits take There are storage systems that don't require backup - one of which survived Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. They rely on data replication and geographic separation.

But for the mobile device world - where your data is one theft away from loss - the goal has to be to make backup automatic and invisible. You get your new device, connect to the web and your data starts repopulating your device.

Or get rid of local storage entirely. But can you trust the cloud?

This isn't an easy problem or it would have been already solved. But we need storage that is as reliable as a book. When was the last time you backed up a book?

Inventors, the world is waiting.

Comments welcome, of course. I quadruple copy critical data, both locally and into the cloud.

Topics: Storage, Data Management, Hardware

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  • Preserving user created content should be an OS function.

    We expect a modern OS to have things like file systems, virtual memory, and network stacks. The OS should also know what files comprise the OS install, and not need to back these up with the user created data.

    It might not be sexy or profitable to add these features to the OS, but it needs to happen.
    Anonymous Username
    • It's not the OS's responsibility to counteract faulty hardware

      When a piece of hardware fails, software can do very little to prevent the outcome.
  • I hate it when this happens

    Just now I am fighting a gremlin that appears to have been introduced by Microsoft's latest "updates" to Win7/64. I have been using Norton Ghost weekly for years; version 15 for over a year. Now, all of a sudden, the backups stall at 5% done. The forums are full of proposed "solutions," none of which have worked so far. All I know is that it has something to do with the fact that my default user name on this machine has spaces in it. I know that because -- following a "forum solution" -- I created another username on this same machine. It runs fine. And all this after three or four removals and re-installs, complete with manual surgery with regedit.

    Who has time for this nonsense?
    Robert Hahn
    • All it takes is a blown fuse

      And out goes the lights. Next time, use an underscore. ;)
  • Still waiting for a trustworthy vendor

    In theory, a mobile backup solution should be easy: the devices are tightly regimented and an "always on" infrastructure is in place, and virtualization techniques are well established. What's holding us back? Vendors.

    A vendor/service provider has to meet only a few main requirements: robustness, reliability, and privacy. Up to now, almost all of the service providers have failed miserably to assure privacy and security of the data. Most actually behave totally opposite, blithely assuming they can sift through your data looking for new revenue opportunities. Terms of service explicitly disclaim any responsibility, making the whole idea of a secure backup a farce.
    terry flores
  • system back up methodologies may not be worthwhile

    i think back ups are a waste of time and energy and unreliable. at best people need to make copies of their downloaded pay-ware, personal files and folders on either disks, secondary hard drive or on the cloud, like skydrive.

    then re-install all the virgin software from scratch to restore the system; in the event that the windows system restore feature proved futile.
  • Maybe if they made backup FUN!

    You know, like a silly little game. Think about it, people will waste HOURS playing
    something like Bubble Breaker or Angry Birds...perhaps if some enterprising
    software developers came up with a game that instead of just playing and
    wasting time, made backup copies of your data.
    Just my thoughts...yeah, I know...that and $1 might get me a soft drink!
    • Apple already did that

      with their star fields in Time Machine....
      • Time Machine is better than nothing, but

        it still loses data. Carbon Copy Cloner is better.

        I use both.
        R Harris
      • I wan't advocating the use of Time Machine

        ...just that Apple made it "fun" with the unnecessary graphics and animations and such. Cloud backup is alright too, but having to restore several gigabytes over any Internet connection is impossible IMO. You still need a local backup for desktops. I use SBS Essentials for local PC backup in my own business, although if it were SBS Standard, I'd move the backup off to a Windows Storage Server Essentials box instead, since SBS Standard has too many other responsibilities (Sharepoint and Exchange). SBSe and WSSe aren't much different except that SBSe does restricted AD also.
      • I'm not talking about just cute animations and such,

        I mean a full-blown, high-scores and all gizmo! With options to upload
        your "score" as well as backup data to either some semi-permanent
        storage or if the user prefers something on the web. That might give
        the average Joe at home an incentive to backup their data. Most of us
        as the more technical type don't really care about high-scores, animations,
        etc. and do just fine with a menu driven backup app. However, for the
        typical user, that is just BORING...so they put it off, and continue playing
        Bubble Breaker or Farmville, til it's forgotten about. If the backup software
        was as engaging as Farmville, why shucks, people wouldn't have to THINK
        about backing up their precious photos, letters, and what-nots.
  • My backup solution

    I have an old computer reconfigured as a file server with a RAID5 array on which I copy most important data (that old Pentium 3 still have a use!, plugged in 3x500gig HDD on an expansion card and do software RAID through Linux textbase interface, no X-Window). I also have an external drive stored at my father's place which I update each time I go there with the new content from my RAID5 server. Offsite copy is important in case of fire or theft (I don't trust the cloud but I trust my dad). Computers are replaceable, not the data on them.

    The stuff that is considered non-essential is not necessarily backed up or not backed up as much as that.
  • But what about restore?

    Windows 7 also nags me to setup backup. It is easy to setup and it can run automatically but what about restore? What would happen in case hard drive on PC or PC itself dies.
    Can I get any of my files from that backup? Can I get my files on another PC? How do I do it? I do not want to spend time researching backup process so I just copy my files manually.
  • Cloud sync

    I personally love cloud synchronization software, like Dropbox and SkyDrive (I'm one of the folks who received 25 GB), as a simple means of backup. Anything you stick in your sync folder will be backed up online and then to any other computer you have with the software installed. I'm not really sure how accidental changes to the files affect this as a viable backup solution, but it works really well if you're dealing with schoolwork, a reasonable picture collection, and maybe some music. It also saves the headache of remembering which version on which computer is the most up to date, as the synchronization allows all your computers to have the most up to date version.

    Of course, if you deal with a lot of video and audio, you will find these of little use except maybe to backup the finished products.
  • Necessary evil

    Your summary says it all.