The first thing that happened was that I got 1) a blog comment and 2) a couple of e-mails from Nic Darling, “the marketing guy” at UniversePoint, the company that makes ION™ Monitored Backup, which I’ll be reviewing in a future Backup Reminder (probably next week or the week after). Nic directed me to the list of “inane design suggestions” he made to the CEO when first hired by UniversePoint. The suggestion that particularly caught my eye was number 4:
“The software should be leopard proof. I realize that this will be difficult as leopards can swim AND climb trees, but I know you can manage it. (Man, I just really want to stamp NOW LEOPARD PROOF on a software package).”
One reason the idea of “leopard-proof” backup software appeals to me is outlined in an article in yesterday’s Wired entitled “Disaster Planning is Critical, but Pick a Reasonable Disaster.” The author, Bruce Schneier, points out that an effective disaster preparedness plan isn’t the one that equips you to ride out a quarantine in the event of the avian flu pandemic which never materialized or enables your company to continue to function after a direct nuclear strike which obliterates the entire continent (in which case you and your customers are probably all dead anyway). “In general, you can only reasonably prepare for disasters that leave your world largely intact. […] Disaster planning only makes sense within the context of existing society.”
Backing up your data is only one part of disaster preparedness, but the same basic principle applies. Most of us can’t provide for every conceivable contingency, but some contingencies are more likely than others. If you live in California, like me, it’s reasonable to plan for both earthquakes and fires. If you live in the southern US, it makes sense to plan for hurricanes. In most places, it’s worth considering the possibility of theft, though the security of the building which houses your computer equipment will affect the likelihood of that problem.
All of those possibilities are a good reason to have some form of off-site backup. What form that takes and how often you update those backups depend on your budget, the frequency at which your data changes, and how valuable it is to your company.
So where does leopard-proofing fit into that scheme? The Ur-Guru and I did meet a leopard once, but it was much more interested in the flock of wild turkeys walking through the field than in coming into the cabin to chew on our computers. Even apart from the difficulty a leopard would have getting into a data center, it’s hard to see what motivation the creature would have for taking a bite out of a hard drive. None of my computer equipment is even large enough to provide a reasonable heat-source to a leopard.
Making the equipment cat-fur-proof, now, that would be an accomplishment. It’s a challenge to hermetically seal a computer case and still allow things (like your network cable) to be plugged in. And I suspect most of my readers are far more likely to face marauding housepets than hungry leopards. So it’s worth making sure that your backups are safe from furry family members.
Which reminds me, Seagate has clearly made an effort to make its FreeAgent Go drives positively cuddly. The stickers sealing the anti-static wrap on the drive and its USB cable are bright yellow and say “Hello!” The installation guide says “This won’t take long” on one side and “Please enjoy” on the other. Oh, and let’s not forget the sticker on the outside of the box that says “160 Glorious Gigabytes.” (I am not making this up.)
When I bought the X drive, it was an unformatted, naked drive from Toshiba which I had to install in an enclosure and then figure out how to format. No such worries with the FreeAgent Go. Unwrap it, connect the two-pronged USB cable, and presto! You have a drive. Actually, you have a Welcome Screen and a Start Menu courtesy of Ceedo, and the option to install the FreeAgent software and to set up your drive like a giant U3 USB stick.
That’s not what I want this drive for, and indeed I’m not sure the built in sync function is really what I need, either, but the fancy options don’t detract from the ease of use and storage capacity. It seems like quite a sweet little drive, and I expect to write more about it when I’ve had time to use it more.
My only objections are aesthetic. The exterior of the drive is black, mostly, but one entire end of the thing lights up in a shade of yellow-orange reminiscent of road signs and school buses. Why this color, which I would expect people to associate with the need for caution, I don’t know. And I’m not sure what inspired the dark brown-and-yellow-orange FreeAgent interface or Ceedo theme. Has Seagate been taking design tips from UPS?
Although, come to think of it, yellow and black is a color scheme associated with leopards.
You see what I mean about convergence?