I’m back from beautiful British Columbia with all my data intact and some new backup information to share.
My first backup encounter was on the flight to Seattle. Southwest Airlines’ July Spirit magazine contains a special business section called “Most Underrated.” Guess what the most underrated business practice is? That’s right: backing up. Southwest has this to say about it: “We know that you’ve heard it hundreds of times before, so why haven’t you backed up your hard drive in the last 11 months? Huh? Why? Do it.”
Now, I like to think that people who read this newsletter/blog have backed up more recently than that, and I prefer to be more polite about urging them to do so, but the point is well taken.
Being on vacation is definitely no excuse for not backing up.
As I said last week, I took my external hard drive with me on this trip. It went into my checked luggage along with the digital camera, the removable floppy drive, and half a dozen chargers and cables. So my backup schedule was pretty much the same as usual in terms of daily file backups, once I’d found something to act as a lap desk and hooked things up.
This trip was our biennial family reunion vacation, and the largest one yet, with twelve adults and three small children, not to mention three laptops and at least four digital cameras, plus portable DVD players, MP3 players, and the like. My brother and my cousin Jason the Mac geek had both brought wireless routers so we wouldn’t all be fighting over the limited desk space in the underfurnished office, and once the cable guys came out on Monday, we were able to get online and keep up with the most urgent things we’d left behind.
An internet connection is a very good thing to have when you’re on vacation, purely from a backup perspective. Almost everyone takes photos while on vacation, and these days they’re usually digital photos. In addition to first transferring mine onto my laptop and then copying them onto my external hard drive, I uploaded all my photos to my FileSlinger FTP directory. This was only partly for backup purposes: I wanted to show them to the Ur-Guru, who wasn’t able to join us this year, and e-mailing 200 MB of photos wasn’t feasible.
Jason, who didn’t bring his iBook (his father is borrowing it), uploaded his photos directly into his Yahoo! Photos page, originally created to show off pictures of his nephew, Andrew. Jason and I did some photo-swapping via the flash memory cards our cameras use, and he uploaded my photos as well. That meant there were copies of my pictures in four different places, pretty much guaranteeing their safety. And because I copied Jason’s photos to all the places I put my photos, his were just as safe.
My brother Alex has the best camera equipment of any of us and usually takes the best photos, which he puts up on his own website (or used to, anyway. The domain name seems to have expired). His camera doesn’t use the same format or same kinds of cards as Jason’s and mine do, so we always have to wait until after the vacations to get copies of his photos. This year, unfortunately, none of them turned out, for reasons Alex doesn’t yet understand.
Fortunately for all of us, Alex had the rest of us as backup photographers. I’m making slide shows from photos that Jason and Pam (my stepmother) and I took, and you can see the first two, Grouse Nest Exterior and Grouse Nest South Wing on the FileSlinger.com website. (Sorry, I don’t have a Mac version yet. I’m working on it.)
Traveling is when your data is most vulnerable: that laptop, camera, or USB drive could get dropped, stolen, have something spilled on it, catch a virus from a strange network, or who knows what. Even if you don’t have access to your regular backup method, you can use the internet to upload or e-mail copies of anything important. (But don’t put it in your public_html directory unless you want Google to find it and have half the Net reading it by the time you get home.)
Even if you do bring your regular backup equipment along, an online copy is a good idea, because there’s no guarantee that the backup drive will be any safer from thieves and small children than your main drive is. (Some of the drives out there these days are so tiny that you have to worry about infants swallowing them.)
If you’re planning a vacation, plan your backups as well.