Practical Technology

for practical people.

21st-Century Backups


So you’ve never gotten into the habit of making regular backups? Fortunately, nowadays copies of your e-mails probably rest safely with the likes of Yahoo, your photos with Flickr, your word-processor documents with Google, your music with iTunes, and so on. Whew! These applications reside on massive server farms, surely making your data as secure as they’d be with one of those fancy corporate disaster-recovery services.

But no. Data in the cloud are still vulnerable—in fact, your precious documents are no safer there than they ever were on the noisy, ancient 10-megabyte hard drive of your first PC.

Consider this. Within the past year, Apple discontinued its .Mac Groups and personal home pages, and AOL closed down its AOL Pictures, Xdrive, and BlueString services. Things are even worse over at Yahoo, which terminated Yahoo Briefcase, FareChase, My Web, Yahoo Audio Search, Yahoo Pets, Yahoo Live, Yahoo Kickstart, and Yahoo for Teachers, and will soon shutter the venerable Geocities, a site that was already five years old when Yahoo bought it in 1999.

At least these services folded in an orderly fashion. Linkup, formerly MediaMax, closed its doors in the summer of 2008 with little notice, taking with it hundreds of gigabytes of personal photos and videos. Its customers needed backups, and so do you—even a robust service like Gmail goes off-line from time to time.

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