35 Comments

Summary:

Last week, my 10-month old MacBook crashed. And died. And now I’m slowly uncovering the depth and breadth of my arrogance. Because, my dear readers, I had not backed up my computer for 10 months. And the only reason I had a 10-month old backup of my data is because it occurred as I was getting my files from my old G4 laptop to my MacBook last Fall. This is a cautionary tale for anyone out there who is still finding every excuse in the book not to back up their computer. And I had many.

macintoshIf you haven’t guessed already from my previous posts here, I’m a Mac user. Not just a Mac user, but a Mac disciple after many years journeying from WANG to DOS to Windows. I brag constantly about how I’ve never had a major crash on any Mac I’ve ever owned over the last 15 years – and I keep each one for at least 3-5 years which is eons for laptops. My Macs have been virtually bullet-proof.

But last week, my 10-month old MacBook crashed. And died. And now I’m slowly uncovering the depth and breadth of my arrogance. Because, my dear readers, I had not backed up my computer for 10 months. And the only reason I had a 10-month old backup of my data is because it occurred as I was getting my files from my old G4 laptop to my MacBook last Fall.

This is a cautionary tale for anyone out there who is still finding every excuse in the book not to back up their computer. And I had many.

My biggest excuse for not backing up was that I just couldn’t wrap my head around how to get it set up and how to make it happen. I think I also had a secret fear that I would set it up incorrectly and somehow save my files in the wrong place causing the disappearance of everything on my computer. I’m not sure how I got it into my head that backing up was going to be hard, but I avoided it like the Plague.

Today, less than a week after the Big Computer Meltdown (and my own tearful personal meltdown), I am assessing the business impact of lost data. My tears last week weren’t actually about my work files but about losing 10 months worth of photos and videos of my 2-year-old daughter. This week, I can’t muster up tears, but can see some dollars spinning down the drain as I have to:

  1. rewrite half a dozen proposals that I was readying to send out to new and existing clients.
  2. rewrite a new book proposal that was almost ready to send to my agent to shop around.
  3. do a salvage expedition through my Gmail Sent Box to find any documents I sent to clients so I still have some semblance of a business record.
  4. upload any documents I can find to Google Docs – the only other place where I had put some critical documents as part of my “experiment” with using Google Docs.
  5. rewrite my long list of sites that I use to market my various projects and client projects that took me over a year to compile.

time capsuleAnd for backups?

I left my local Mac store last week with red eyes from crying, a black MacBook, and an Apple Time Capsule. I charged the owner of the store to make sure I walked out with everything I needed to be up and working immediately as well as to be able to back up my files without any effort or thought on my part.

Now, every hour on the hour, when I am within range of my wifi connection (via the Time Capsule), my files are backed up (the Time Capsule has 500 GB of space). I don’t have to do anything more since configuring it. I don’t have to think about it. And I don’t have to wait until the end of the day or the weekend to do it. It happens behind-the-scenes while I’m still getting my work done.

My list of important files I have lost continues to grow. Each item I add to that list means another 1-3 hours of rewriting, recompiling, recreating. That is lost time. Lost income. I think if I had thought of backing up my computer in pure business terms – in dollars – I may have been motivated to do something sooner. For now, I just have to bite the bullet.

When was the last time you backed up your computer? And what is your backup set up like? Please share so anyone out there who is still making excuses can potentially find a solution that is right for them.

NOTE: I also blogged about the more “personal” side of this topic at Entrepreneur Mom on WorkItMom.

(photo by Apple; bullethole courtesy of clipart)

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  1. Jeff Friend Tuesday, July 1, 2008

    Let me reassure you that most of us who have a backup plan in place have walked in your shoes! As a web developer, I lost a drive two years ago with all the source files for a clients e-commerce website. So every update to that site took hours and hours.

    I now run Intego Personal Backup X4 at the end of every day and backup my Powerbook to a 160 gig LaCie HD. Then every weekend, I back up everything to a LaCie NAS drive on the network (just as a precaution). I will say that the Time Capsule looks inviting, and easier to deal with than the NAS drive which is slow.

  2. Aliza, I became a true backup fanatic a number of years ago, but thankfully not due to loss of data. I use Time Machine on my iMac to back up hourly to an external hard drive. And every night, I backup to an off-site location via Mozy for Mac (mozy.com). Time Machine means quick access. Mozy is protection against theft and/or fire. Mozy costs $4.95 per month for unlimited storage, which means I can protect all of my data, photos, and music.

  3. Liza Lee Miller Tuesday, July 1, 2008

    Thank you for sharing your pain. I thought, as I read it, “been there, done that.” And, then patted my backup drive and realized that it was unplugged. Checked Time Machine and yup — it hasn’t been backed up in a while. Drat. So, I plugged it in and my latest backup is happening right now. My worst data loss was all my music. I recovered most of it but the software chopped many of the songs to 1 minute and 21 seconds. I am still finding songs that end in the middle. Never again!

  4. Hi – my reason to upgrade to OS 10.5 was purely for TimeMachine. – Before, I had to manually triggera process using iCal every Friday to copy data to my old iBook. From there I copied everything to a FireWire drive and then made another full back-up of that FireWire drive to a second one.

    NOW: I have two LaCie 120gb FireWire harddrives connected to my Cinema Display. These identical drives are configured as a RAID-1 in OS.X. Every time I connect my MacBook to the Cinema Display, TimeMachine automatically backs ups all changes and every Friday is does a full back-up. Since I have two drives, which are constantly mirrored, three disks have to fail for me to loose all my data. – I am still thinking about offsite backup, but backing up 40+ gigabyte of data over the Internet is kind of scary…

  5. John A Arkansawyer Tuesday, July 1, 2008

    Have you by any chance tried yanking your hard drive to see whether it can be salvaged? Or bringing it up as a Firewire drive? I’ve done both those (okay, it’s the wife who cracked open the machine) with otherwise failed machines with some success.

  6. Michael fitzGerald Tuesday, July 1, 2008

    The thing that persuaded me to move on to a Mac was the availability of time machine. This is a killer application which was too much hassle for me to set up in Windows or Linux. I still need to find the ideal off-site storage answer

  7. The problem wasn’t with the Mac and it wasn’t with the software. It was with the operator. The sentence in your post that alerted me was:
    “I charged the owner of the store to make sure I walked out with everything I needed to be up and working immediately as well as to be able to back up my files without any effort or thought on my part.”
    And specifically that last phrase.

    This is your data. This is, as you have tearfully discovered, a significant portion of your *life*. And yet you explicitly state that you don’t want to expend any effort on it or to think about it.

    Trust me, there is *no* system that can out-think you. You *should* expend effort on backups. You *should* think about them.

    Not because the process of backing up files is in itself very interesting. It’s because by going through that process, you force yourself to reconsider the body of information that is your electronic life–how it’s organized, what’s important, where it’s located. Even backup up *everything* isn’t right, because chances are you cannot restore *everything* because it will be to a newer device and can’t use the older system files.

    I really recommend that you wrestle the backup demon. It will mean you actually know where your stuff is. It will mean you’ll think once in a while about why you’re keeping it. It will mean no more rude surprises.

  8. Archaeogeek Tuesday, July 1, 2008

    As one of the other commentors asked- you have checked to make sure that the drive is well and truly dead? Crashes can occur in other components, leave the computer looking completely dead, but actually the drive and the data is fine. If the computer has been left for dead anyhow, then open it up, get the hard drive out and take it to a repair shop for recovery (or buy one of those drive caddies and plug it in to your new machine). At least investigate the option before taking ages trying to partially recover the data from other sources…

    The new system sounds sweet though!

  9. Todd Sieling Tuesday, July 1, 2008

    Thanks for sharing this story, and I’m sorry to read another tale of data loss. A few extra notes as food for thought:

    * a single-backup mechanism is not the safest way to go. Using at least two different tools to produce different backups ensures that a latent bug isn’t giving a false sense of security. I use Super Duper to make clones of a drive, and Time Machine as an hourly backup of some files.

    * a drive clone is more robust than a Time Machine backup, and is bootable. Drive failure can be worked around in minutes by booting from a clone.

    * Store a backup off-site. This one might not be the most up to date, but a hard drive clone stored at a friend’s house is a sure bet against fire, theft, flood, and other unthinkables.

    * Test it. A backup strategy where restoration has not been tested isn’t worth betting scores of wasted hours.

    Where does one find the time to do all this? It feels like the day doesn’t have enough hours as it is, but backups are insurance for future hours, and worth the investment. As I like to say on software projects, if we don’t have time to do it right the first time, how do we have time to re-do it all later?

  10. Aliza, sorry for your loss. That’s a real bummer. No, not even Apple is immune from dying hardware.

    I’m a complete nutso about backing up. I have 4 external hard drives backed up to my Mac. Plus all my photos and music sitting on my 80G iPod. Plus some stuff backed up online using Amazon S3.

    I’ve tried using Mozy, as Robin suggested (the price is definitely dirt cheap) but was disappointed as my large uploads would always time out and there didn’t appear to be a way to resume the upload. The app always wanted to start all over again. Frustrating.

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