Let’s face it – computer backups are not particularly exciting. Everyone knows deep down that they’re important – after all, nobody wants to lose their business files, their precious family photos, or their personal documents. But a sense of complacency can mean that taking care of backups is a job that often ends up far too far down the average “to do” list.
I’ve been a freelance IT consultant for twelve years, and I still help various individuals and businesses with their computing needs when I’m not writing articles like this one. As such, I’ve seen first hand just how endemic this complacency regarding backups truly is. I’ve also, sadly, seen what happens when it blows up in people’s faces.
I’ve seen everything from my clients having to “fess up” to their clients because they’ve lost crucial work, to families losing everything from treasured photo and video memories to their children’s school coursework. Sometimes, with the help of expensive data recovery firms, I’ve been able to help them recover their data from failed hard drives. But on other occasions, I’ve had to watch faces fall when I’ve been the one to have to tell them not only that there’s nothing I can do to help, but that really they only have themselves to blame.
With all this in mind, I wasn’t altogether surprised when I saw some statistics from Backblaze, based on a survey of over 2000 computer users, regarding how often each of them back up all the data on their computers.
I’ll begin with the really scary numbers: 25% of respondents said they never backed up, and a further 39% said they only backed up annually. Only 8% backed up daily, and 9% weekly.
Let’s think about what that really means: In the past couple of weeks, I’ve saved plenty of new files on my Mac. These include articles for clients, business and personal cash flow spreadsheets, a VAT return, a bunch of invoices, dozens of photos from a weekend break, and numerous other bits and bobs.
If I were to lose all of this, I’d be pretty gutted, and would have wasted an awful lot of time. A months’ worth of work would be a disaster – and could potentially land me in trouble with my clients. A years’ worth would be a serious crisis – and yet 64% of the survey respondents take exactly this risk.
Some of my data is backed up automatically. My photos all go into iCloud, and my emails are all stored in a Hosted Exchange system – but that still leaves significant gaps that mean my only safe option is to back up to an online system on a daily basis. On top of that, I periodically run a local backup to an encrypted external hard drive. I recommend to all of my clients that they have at least two reliable backup methods in place.
If you’ve never lost any data, you may think my view is alarmist. If so, please consider this: Various studies point to hard disk drives failing at a rate of 5% per year. So, you’ve basically got a 1 in 20 chance that the drive in your PC or laptop will fail in a given year. If your hard drive fails and you have no backup, that’s everything gone. To me, that’s far too much of a risk.
But what about if you keep your computer for five years? Well, that 1 in 20 failure rate is each year – so you’re up to 5 in 20. That means that over five years, there’s a one in four chance you’ll lose any data you’ve not backed up.
I do have one group of clients who back up their data religiously. They don’t need reminding or hassling about it, and their eyes don’t glaze over when I bang on about the importance of computer backups. This group probably accounts for about 25% of my clients, and they’re the ones who’ve lost data before and either paid for expensive data recovery or been forced to wave goodbye to their client work or their precious memories. I don’t think the correlation between those two last statistics is in any way coincidental…
If you’re not taking backups seriously, check out our guide to the best backup solutions for Windows, or for Mac. Online backup is inexpensive and simple – and a lot cheaper and simpler than the day that complacency causes a disaster.
IMAGE CREDITS: Wikipedia, Flickr