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Confessions about backups

By  Aug 7, 2007

Topics: Programming, C/C++

I've been using a personal computer for more than 15 years. It's time to confess that all this time I've deliberately refused to backup my data not because of negligence or ignorance. Rather, it's the lack of convenient, inexpensive and compact backup media. After this shocking revelation you'll be glad to hear that I've found a solution, at last.
I bought my first PC in 1992. I was well aware of the importance of backing up my data regularly since my VAX/VMS operator days in the late 1980s. In spite of that, I confess that I used to back up my data seldom, and very selectively. Call it negligence or even insanity but backing up an entire hard disk on floppy diskettes simply wasn't an option for me. What were the other alternatives? Slow, tangle-prone DAT cassettes? Gigantic zip drives? Burning the data on CDs? These were all out of the question for various good reasons: media's reliability, slow throughput of some of these devices or the annoyance of burning 100 CDs for a single 80GB disk backup. It was a calculated risk, though I can't recommend this promiscuous policy to anyone.

Later, when portable memory sticks arrived, I started to backup my critical data regularly though still selectively: only a handful of documents would fit into the ever-so-limited disk-on-key. It was better than nothing but not quite the good night's sleep inducing solution I was after.

This promiscuity has cost me quite a fortune throughout the years. My hard disk crashed on me twice, in two different computers. And yet, I insisted on waiting for a convenient, compact, fast and reliable backup media. At last, this auspicious day has arrived. I bought an external USB hard disk. An 80GB 2.5" external drive weighs around 150 grams (6 oz.) and doesn't require special attention or space. You just plug it into a USB port and it's ready. You can get one for less than $100, including the USB caddy and the cable. At last, I've begun to backup all my data regularly!

The lesson from this story isn't just about backups. We occasionally take calculated risks (or want to believe they are calculated) because the alternative is just too expensive, inconvenient or time-consuming. Where do you draw the line?