Preparing for Data Loss Disasters

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The following is a guest post by Wes Burns

Data loss is no longer a concern restricted to the computer geeks of the world. In fact, I’d be willing to bet good money that 90% of the people reading this post have at least one important document or treasured family photo sitting on the hard drive right now. Some of that data is quite important, so it only makes sense to prepare for the worst case scenario.
I’ll be the first one to admit that backing up data is not a fun task. Prepping for other disasters can be fun in its own way, but data backup feels like a chore. It’s repetitive and not particularly rewarding. But unfortunately, it is necessary.

There are statistics all over the place that show that data loss is a legitimate concern. According to the DataLoss database, major data loss episodes are increasing at an alarming rate. The good news is that developments in the cloud storage industry have made it much easier (and cheaper) for the average computer user to implement backup solutions.

External Hard Drives

External hard drives can be used to create simple backups. All you have to do is head to the local computer store and pick up an external hard drive for less than $100. Then, you can copy important files over to the external drive for safekeeping.

However, I’m not a big fan of the external hard drive option. For one, external hard drives do not offer protection against theft, fires and floods. If someone breaks into your apartment, for example, you just might lose your primary computer and your backup drives. All that backing up would be for naught in such a scenario.

Additionally, external hard drives require regular manual backups. It’s up to you to remember to back up your files on a regular basis. Not only is this time consuming, but it’s all too easy to get lazy in this department.

Online Backups

Online backups are the best solution for the average computer user. For one, online backups can be scheduled to happen automatically on a set schedule. You don’t have to remember to backup and you don’t have to waste your time copying files over every few days.

Online backups also add the benefit of geographic redundancy, which is a fancy term for “your backups stay somewhere else.” No matter what happens to the data in your apartment, your data in the cloud remains safe. Fires, floods and thefts cannot wipe out your online backups.

Guest poster Laura wrote an article back in February that mentions specific companies that offer online backup for individuals. Those recommendations still hold true today, so I’ll let you see that post for specific recommendations. I would like to add that the companies listed on that page are all cheap enough to be worthwhile for anyone with a computer.

Finding Lost and Stolen Computers

One of the data loss emergencies mentioned above is the risk of theft. Apartments are susceptible to break-ins, and I can testify to that having been a victim of a break-in myself. There are few things as unsettling as coming home and realizing that a stranger has forced his way in to your “safe place.”

One of the biggest losses to me was my computer. I used that computer to play online poker, make payments online and to store digital photos of my friends and family. The loss hit me a lot harder than I would have guessed prior to the break-in.

The online backup industry has made several inroads in helping people deal with lost and stolen computers. For example, the backup provider Backblaze has a “Locate My Computer” feature that you can activate remotely if your computer goes missing. I can’t tell you how much I wish I would have had a Backblaze account during my theft experience.
When activated, the locate feature will automatically notify you of its location the next time that computer is connected to the internet. You’ll get a report that shows the IP address of the computer and its general location on a map. The feature does rely on an internet connection, but the odds are good that the thief (or whoever he sells the computer to) will eventually connect the computer to the internet.

JustCloud, ZipCloud and MyPCBackup also have similar features. I wouldn’t recommend going in person to recover the computer, though. Get the police involved and they should help. You can see this blogger’s account of using the feature to find his computer and bust a drug dealer in the process.

One of the nice things about these “find my computer” features is that they cost nothing extra. The companies mentioned above all offer the feature as a part of the whole backup service.

About the Author
Wes Burns is a tech writer and online entrepreneur. He has more first-hand experience with data loss than he would care to admit. He now has a keen interest in online file storage and computer security.


 For beginning preppers

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    1. I have not personally used them, but my brother uses Carbonite as a backup for his business files, as he works for a large restaurant chain. It is a paid subscription, that the company pays for.

  1. I have thought about this type of backup but I am concerned about security. They say that no one can access your files but you. However I do not believe it. There are people who steal from their employers everyday. Who’s to say there wouldn’t be someone who would do it as these companies and steal important information for their customers. They have to have employees to manage the files and servers, the knowledge they need to preform their jobs would also be the same knowledge needed to steal the files. Also how do they protect themselves from hackers. Hacking has become one of the most committed crimes in this country. Our government can’t even protect itself.

    1. I agree with your concerns April. An option to avoid dealing with outside companies is to just back everything up yourself in flash drives or a backup drive, and store these in a separate location.

  2. Hi everyone. Thanks for reading. I just wanted to stop by and respond to the comments posted so far.

    Ron: I’m a fan of Carbonite. It’s not as fancy as some of the other options out there, but it’s cheap and it works well. I follow security in the storage industry and have yet to hear a bad story about Carbonite.

    April: That’s a legitimate concern and many people have expressed similar concerns in regards to online storage. One option is to go with a company that offers zero-knowledge backup. Two companies that come to mind are Backblaze and SpiderOak.

    Those two companies are open about their security standards and open themselves up to difficult questions. Both companies have gone to Reddit and answered similar questions to yours:

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