Some time ago the Ur-Guru sent me the following question as a suggestion for a backup reminder:
“Is it better to lose your data due to hardware failure and thus have a brand, device, electronics, or piece of metal to blame, or to lose your data because you did something wrong or accidentally weren’t thinking when you deleted files? The latter case you’d want to ram your head into a wall. In the other case you tend to put your anger towards a piece of plastic.”
I could add “software failure” to “hardware failure” in that list and have the essence of the question be the same: would you rather blame a person or a product? If you lose data, does it matter whether it’s your fault?
Emotionally, it probably does. In the face of such trauma, the desire to blame something is a strong one, though the preference for blaming a machine versus a person (or another person versus yourself) is a matter of individual character.
Yet the actual damage in either case is the same: your data is gone. That could mean anything from inconvenience to going out of business, depending on the data you lose. Even when you have intact backups, losing data usually means inconvenience, because you have to take time to restore the data. If you don’t have backups, or if your backups are damaged, losing the data you’re working on can mean disaster, and in the end it won’t matter why it happened.
Almost everyone in the backup business—myself included—frames the importance of backup and recovery systems in terms of potential lost data rather than potential saved data. This is because of the way the human brain works. As the authors of Selling to the Old Brain point out, one of the key points in marketing anything is to “diagnose the pain”. Psychology experiments have confirmed that people will take more risks to avoid loss than to secure gains.
Spending money on backup software and hardware or on a complete data protection system can be seen as a risk, especially in an economy where there isn’t enough money to begin with. And there are no obvious, visible positives that come from backups—at most you have stacks of tapes or disks that have to be stored somewhere, and the associated transport and storage costs. If you’re paying for an online data protection system, you may not even have that much visible result.
Investing in a backup solution is like buying insurance: what you really hope is that you’ll never need it. Indeed, I’ve heard backups described as life insurance that doesn’t just pay out to your beneficiaries but actually resurrects you. And of the two, drive failure and other causes of data loss are more likely than accidental death and dismemberment.
So back up your data today, unless you wanna see something REALLY scary.