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A storage reporter’s shameful secret comes to an end

I feel the need to make a confession here. Up until yesterday, despite spending a generous portion of my waking hours covering data backup, disaster recovery and data protection, I myself did not have a backup plan.

I do digital photography in my spare time, and creative writing outside work, and I’ve been a digital music addict since the advent of Napster. So I have about 100 GB on two IDE drives inside a Windows XP machine custom-built for me by a highly geeky friend. And it’s just been sitting there, waiting to be snatched away into the ether.

Then another friend of mine told me about how his MacBook hard drive crashed. On his birthday. While he also had the flu.

He told me how his entire visual design portfolio, an important part of his resume for the business he’s in, has been lost, along with all of his digital photographs, many of which he didn’t have posted on Flickr or stored anywhere else.

He went on to tell me that his costs for trying to recover the data from the drive are going to run him upwards of $2,000–if he’s lucky. It could be cheaper, but that would mean less of his data has been recovered, and so now he finds himself in the position of hoping he’ll have to spend more money.

It’s a bittersweet subject for him that so many people he knows, myself included, have credited his experience with finally getting them off their butts and backing up. But that’s the reality.

I ended up going with the 500 GB Western Digital MyBook, because that’s what my friend also ordered once he learned his lesson the hard way, and he’s far more technical than me, so I trust his judgment. The MyBook came with Memeo’s AutoBackup and AutoSync software, of which I’m only using the former. It also came with a bunch of Google software including Google Desktop, which I found rather odd.

Having covered data storage for the enterprise, I’ve had a chuckle whenever I’ve checked on the initial backup job’s progress. Granted, it’s got a QoS feature that cedes system resources to the PC, but let’s just say I’m not seeing the kind of data transfer rates with this thing I’m used to hearing about. It’s been funny, after being immersed in systems that perform at 8 Gbit or 10 Gbit for a few years, to watch my little PC poke along at what seems like 1 MB/hr, if that.

But still. At least I have a backup. Finally. And I can finally rid my closet of that skeleton.

Now my issue becomes off-site disaster recovery. It’s far more likely that my hard drive(s) will crash than that my house will be napalmed or something (knock on wood), but no sooner had I told Tory that he could stop bugging me about backup, than he started bugging me about taking the drive to my office once the data transfer is done.

But the AutoBackup software, like so many low-end and consumer backup offerings, is set to automatically backup changed files, and what I told Tory was, I like having a low RPO over here. And I made that napalm comment, I’ll admit (I can just feel karma coming to get me). So I’m thinking about some kind of backup SaaS for off-site DR, but capacity with those services is at a much higher premium than it is in 3.5 inch external SATA. And so you know what that means…data classification!

I may be poking along at 1 MB/hr, but it all feels like a slow-motion, small-scale version of the issues I cover every day. It’s interesting to see firsthand how “Digital Life ™” is, in fact, blurring the boundaries between home and business computing.

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