The moderator of one of the groups of which I’m a member posed the following (paraphrased) question:
“If you had a chance to send a message to 20,000 people in 100 words or less, what would you say?”
Took me about a second to come up with a two word response:
There. 98 words to spare. (99 if I’d chosen “backup” instead. 🙂 )
When I started Ask Leo! I didn’t expect that one topic — or, rather, one solution — would become, in part, my mission. And yet, as I approach the 15 year mark of answering technology related questions, it’s clear: backing up is now one of the things I
harp on talk about almost daily.
There are no situations where backing up hurts, and a amazing variety where it helps. There are several where it downright saves the day (if not the career).
Backing up certainly isn’t The Answer to most questions. In fact, at the time a question is being asked it might even be seen as an annoyance, or a distraction from the true problem at hand. The reason it keeps coming up so often, though, is that it can mitigate the damage caused by so many different kinds of issues.
Sure, if a hard drive fails or you accidentally lose a file it’s clear how a backup can save your bacon. This is what most people think of — in addition, of course, to thinking that it’ll never happen to them: their hard drive will last forever, and they’ve never accidentally deleted a file.
While that scenario’s important I no longer see it as the most important situation in which a backup can help. The winner there? Rasomware.
Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts your important files and denies you access until you fork over a ransom of some sort. If you don’t pay you don’t get your files back. They may has well have been permanently deleted.
“Permanently deleted” is your clue. Regardless of how a file is lost, a backup of that file (or files, or system) taken prior to the problem — be it a hard drive failure or the arrival of malware holding your data hostage — is a sure way to recover. Heck, it may be the only way to recover.
And as avoidable as it might be, ransomware is probably more common than hard disk failure.
It’s not just disasters for which backups can be useful. Install some software that borked your system? “Un-bork” it by restoring from a backup. Not sure why the latest update did what it did? Undo it with that backup. Christmas list spreadsheet not survive the most recent OS or machine upgrade? Grab it from a back up.
You get the idea: backups good.
Computers make copying data easy, almost too easy at times. But since that’s all a backup is — a copy of some bits and bytes — computers can make that easy too.
Yes, unfortunately backup software is frequently too confusing and cumbersome for the average user. I get that, I really do.
But it’s also too important not to invest the time for figure it out before you need it, like you’d invest money in a good insurance policy. Ultimately that’s what a backup is: an insurance policy for your data.
If people only understood just how often I say to myself “you know, this would have been a lot easier for you if you’d had a backup…”
PS: why am I writing this here and not on Ask Leo! itself? Two reasons actually: first, this feels like me just venting a little, and not something that would be particularly useful because of the second reason: I harp on backing up so much that I seriously feel the need to reign myself in at times so as not to annoy.