Belts and Suspenders: Backing Up Your Data
Last year, I was in the middle of a project with a graphic designer. She came to a meeting with the client and I completely distraught – she looked as if someone had died. She cried as she explained that her computer had died over the weekend, taking with it her work on this project and six years worth of other projects. She had a computer repair service working on retrieving all her data: they had charged her almost $2,000 and couldn’t guarantee that they would be able to restore anything.
$2,000 is pretty steep for retrieving data, admittedly, but my colleague was effectively at the mercy of any one who could even offer to get her data back for her in time for her project deadlines.
Belts: Getting A Backup Solution In Place
This cautionary tale is not uncommon, unfortunately. I’ve heard more than few variations, and I’m willing to bet that you have too. It seems like no one’s ready to do much about backing up their data until they actually suffer from some sort of major loss. At best, most people have some sort of backup plan on their ‘to get around to one of these days’ list. The big problem for most people seems to be the conception that setting up a back up solution is difficult and then — on top of that — it seems unrealistic to remember to back up data once a week or once a month. That means making back ups automatic and easy absolutely crucial.
The good news is that such backup options are available. There are options that automate every aspect of backing up your data — including moving it offsite. Many options are entirely online, even allowing for users to retrieve their data from any location. Sure, you can back up to your own offsite server or some other system of your devising — but not all freelancers have the time or inclination to set up their own backup solution. Using a service lets you get back to the more interesting projects on your plate.
The bad news is that these options are rarely free — while many of the online applications providing back up services do have a free version, most of them only offer a few gigs without payment. I have yet to find a freelance graphic designer or writer that only has two gigs of files they want to protect. That doesn’t mean that we should skip out on backing data: it’s a necessary cost of doing business. At least that makes any money you spend on backups tax deductible, whether you’re buying a new hard drive or paying a monthly fee.
Suspenders: Shopping For A Backup Solution
There are a wide variety of services available. If you’ve had great support from any service in particular, I hope you’ll share a link in the comments. One in particular has really stood out for me, though. Mozy can provide backups for both Macs and PCs — and has been around for quite awhile (FreelanceSwitch actually reviewed Mozy in 2007). I’m confident the company will still be around down the road, something I’m not so sure of with some newer companies. Even if you don’t prefer the backup solution Mozy offers, the service provides a good baseline for comparing other options.
There are certain qualities well worth looking for in a backup solution, especially if you’ll be paying for it:
- Security for your data
- Technical support — especially during the hours you’re likely to need it
- An automated backup system that you control
- Version support
Price isn’t in that list. It does make sense to look for a cost-effective backup solution, but this is one place in a freelancer’s business that it’s worth the expense for a reliable system. After all, it’s cheaper to set up a backup solution than to pay for a rush data recovery job.