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The lessons of online backup

So earlier this week (Wednesday) I got my HP laptop back from the repair shop. It turns out that the fan was broken which is why my laptop sounded like a lawn mower and you could hear it from the other room. I will give 8 of 10 stars to Info Care (who HP along with many others subcontract to) because they fixed the fan problem. They lose 2 stars for 2 reasons:
  • I had some problems with 2 files that were corrupted and rather than replacing those files they simply just reformatted my machine. Fair enough since they warn you that they might do this, but you get the feeling that reformatting is their first solution - not their last solution.
  • They installed a Swedish version of Windows onto my machine. I am near fluent in Windows but I still prefer that my OS be in English for the time being. So this required some additional e-mail and chat support to get right.
Anyhoo, so this weekend was spent bringing my laptop back to some semblance of the way it was. Luckily for me that basically my laptop is an expensive tablet in the sense that I don't keep a lot physically on the hard drive - for that I have my NAS. So looking over the 60 or so I had installed on my other machine, I used this opportunity to not install the 25 or so programmes I could live without or didn't know what they did anyway. I'll tell you right now, it pays to keep a list of everything you have installed so you don't have to guess. Simply just take screen shots of your programmes menu from the control panel every now and then and save it somewhere as a word document. That just left the restoring the 20 GB of data that Norton Online Backup had determined was important.

So I will come right out and say that this secure online backup concept is really cool and I like it. There is actually 20 GB of music, video, and photos that for various reasons I didn't keep on my NAS and this experience will give me an opportunity to correct that. The biggest drawback has been the amount of time. If I had kept the backup locally (say on a copy on my NAS for example, then I would have been done restoring within 1 hour. However, because it is online storage it has taken the better part of a weekend. Also, when I have looked at what I really have been backing up, I can now see that actually the true amount of stuff that has been useful is more like 11 GB and not 20 GB. And I have some other observations as well. So I have learned the following lessons:

1) I should have 2 backups - one which backups to my NAS and the other which backups to my online storage. The online storage can then be the "nuclear option" in case something really bad happens to my physical space.

2) I should be more specific about what to save. Selecting the defaults means that the backup programme errs on the side of caution, and probably backs up more than it needs to (and misses some things).

3) In some cases, you have to remember the order in which you have installed things. The biggest loss of this experience? I lost all of my user data for The Sims 2 - a game I have played on and off for like 6 years. When thinking about it is no catastrophic loss and it was just a mindless way to pass the time, but still, it killed my motivation to play as I have to start from scratch (and it is a reason to migrate to The Sims 3 instead,,,?)

4) I have a 2 TB NAS which holds everything everything with a mirrored disk (known for geeks as RAID1). Mirroring is not that same as backing up. So I trust that both disks will never fail at the same time and I trust that the physical location is secure, safe, protected enough such that it is unlike that I would lose access to them. This is the part that worries me. I am wondering if I should set up a NAS at a friend's place and have the data backup at their place. Anyone who has experience with this let me know :)

Anyway, overall, as I spent the midsummer solo it was a good time to tend to these things. And I will tell you all, if you aren't backing up your data on your computer regularly, you're taking a big risk. Storage these days is free or cheap so there is no real reason to lose all of those awesome pics, fun e-mails, important documents, and other things you have stored on your computer. But of course it is up to you :-)

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