The recent ransomware scare and destruction of property as a result of hurricanes has me revisiting the topics of updates and backups.

Hard drives more recently have switched from high speed spinning platters to non moving chips called solid state drives or SSDs. These devices are generally more rugged and less prone to failure than hard drives but all tech eventually fails. It's not a question of if but when. If you don't have at least one copy of your data you have none.

Some people may think they don't need a backup. I would ask them how they would feel if all their photos were instantly gone. Gone forever. Those one set of files alone would crush most parents if they went missing never mind documents that may be related to your business or daily life.

I saw this in a recent video Casey Neistat posted. His in-law's home was one of the many wrecked by hurricane Harvey in Houston. The only thing the family was salvaging were photos. Precious memories, carefully scavenged from the house and laid out on the driveway to dry. 

“Backup is insurance. It's peace of mind.”

The most traditional type of backup is an additional hard drive or SSD externally connected to your computer using backup software. I have a 2TB (terabyte) drive that I periodically connect to my MacBook and use Apple's Time Machine software. This is good to have as it's close and quick to restore if you have a data loss.

The trouble with this method is that I often go through periods where I don't plug it in so there are gaps. I've recently acquired a newer WiFi router that I can plug the drive into an be always on and backing up when I'm connected at home but there is the additional risk of fire, water damage or theft where I would lose both the computer and the backup drive. 

Enter backup services. 

The cloud is a eufamistic term to describe data services connected to the Internet. There are many cloud backup services to choose from. My personal favourite is Backblaze. They have been a consistently well performing and reliable service for me. I actually had a drive failure a few years ago and Backblaze was able to mail me a hard drive with all my files including all my photos. Once installed it constantly runs in the background and uploads files it detects have been changed. The initial upload can take up to several weeks if your Internet connection is slow but once up to date it is the easiest way to keep your files always backed up.

Finally there are cloud file storage systems such as Google Drive, Apple's iCloud, Microsoft's OneDrive, and Dropbox. All these services are another way to keep your files in the cloud synchronized between all your devices. I personally use iCloud Drive since I own a MacBook and an iPhone. In particular I've enabled iCloud Photo Library in Photos on my Mac and my iPhone. This keeps a copy of the photos securely with Apple as well as syncing them between both devices so I don't have to import photos off my iPhone into Photos on the Mac. It also means my entire photo library is accessible on my phone but not taking up all the space. When I want to look at an older photo I tap on the thumbnail and it downloads the full size version. It's great when friends are talking about past memories and you can instantly recall a photo from the event. 

Unlike Time Machine or BackBlaze these services sync any changes from your file system. So if you accidentally delete a file as opposed to having a hardware failure it may be gone permanently when the changes synchronize. Some programs like Photos keep a copy of deleted photos for a period of time to restore mistakes but I would definitely sign up for this as a secondary or tertiary service. The syncing alone is worth the price of admission.

Backup is insurance. It's peace of mind. In some cases it can also be an incredibly convenient feature. It may seem like an expenditure you don't need but I can assure you it's not a question of if you will lose data but when.