Digital data insurance, or: don’t let your memories die when your hard disk does

My Apple Time Capsule packed up yesterday. One minute it was working fine; the next, it sounded like a washing machine full of hammers. The hard disk is gone, which is a pain – it had my iTunes library, three years of home movies and ten years of digital photos.

I had a backup, of course, so it’s just a pain in the arse rather than a complete disaster. But if I’d put my trust in my Time Capsule, if I hadn’t assumed that it would pack up eventually, I’d be up Shit Creek without a boat – and quite possibly divorced. Losing every single video of your daughter is not the sort of thing that makes you popular with your better half.

I can’t stress this enough: hard disk failures are more common than you might think. I’ve had two in the last six months. If you don’t have a backup of all your irreplaceable files – the digital photos, the footage of baby’s first steps, the novel you’re going to finish this Christmas – Murphy’s Law says that sooner or later you’ll lose the lot.

So I’m down to a single external drive, which leaves me with a choice: buy another external drive to mirror my libraries (my MacBook Pro’s hard disk is too small for iTunes, iPhoto and videos; even an upgrade would run out of room pretty sharpish), or sign up for a remote backup service.

I’ve gone for the latter: Mozy. It looks good, it’s reasonably priced, it’s encrypted, it’s offsite and it does incremental backups (so you’re not hurling tens of gigabytes around the place every time you update), so it appears to tick all the boxes. More to the point, at just under five quid per month it’s a pretty cheap way to protect priceless files.

I’ll let you know how I get on. I just have to upload 282 gigabytes of data first.

12 thoughts on “Digital data insurance, or: don’t let your memories die when your hard disk does

  1. Squander Two says:

    I’ve been with Mozy a couple of years now, and they’re pretty good. I did use them for a full retrieval once after reformatting my hard drive, and it was all good. Only real criticism I have is that, if you have an external hard drive attached, it backs up everything on it too, but will also mark all that stuff for deletion if you ever connect to Mozy when the external drive isn’t attached. Not really a major problem, though, as stuff that’s been marked for deletion is still retrievable for weeks, and chances are you’ll plug your drive in again during that time.

    > at just under five quid per month it’s a pretty cheap way to protect priceless files.

    Even cheaper, actually, as it’s five dollars, not quid.

  2. Gary says:

    I use DropBox for sync between phone, Mac, PC and iPad, it’s superb for that IMO.

    Mozy’s got a UK version as well as a US, which is billed in £. I’d imagine you can’t sign up for the US one from a UK address/card now, although I haven’t checked that.

    First impression is that it’s bloody slow. Took a day to do a gigabyte. Only 259 to go…

  3. ncompass says:

    Sugar Sync every time you guys… sorry.

    DropBox – problem is you have to drop into a specified folder – then it works great…

    Mozy – it’s just back up….

    Sugar Sync… you get online version, mobile access, it’s back up, but you can also replicate on your ‘better half’s computer for example.. you can spread your data around and it updates seriously quick.

    Photos no problem, Disk Space is an issue – but you can very quickly expand you space by recommending a few people… Try it out…

  4. Stephen says:

    I used to do online backup with Apple’s pre-Time Machine backup solution, and while there’s no denying that the app itself was really crap, the other bad thing about it was the incredible amount of time it took to back up. Upload speeds on broadband are always a tiny fraction of download.I think it’s the Achilles heel of online backup.

    I use Time Machine on an external drive for normal backup, and then Super Duper to make a bootable backup of my Mac’s hard drive every so often. (Should do it weekly of course.) But you’ve made me think about the fact that not everything I have is on the Mac’s drive, there are other external drives that I should think about backing up as well…

  5. mupwangle says:

    >>First impression is that it’s bloody slow. Took a day to do a gigabyte. Only 259 to go

    You’re on ADSL, what do you expect? You have an upload speed of, at most, 1.5mbps. On a good day. Chances are that you are on a 512Kbps upload. Add to that network throttling, site congestion, youtube, etc.

    I use a LAN based product at work that still takes an hour to do 2gb on a gb lan.

  6. Squander Two says:

    It is incremental, though. That first huge backup should be the only one where you have to leave the machine on for days. After that, it’s quick.

    Pleased to hear I get it cheaper by adopting earlier.

    I use CCC Backup to make a bootable copy of the Mac’s hard drive, then Mozy backs up that copy as well. I’m just waiting to find out what’s going to go wrong that I haven’t allowed for. Cause something’s bound to.

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