Everyone says, “Make a backup. Always make a backup,” of everything—photos, files, music. Why? Unless you have been living under a rock for the last thirty years everyone knows that computers fail, hard-drives fail. Breath on them funny, look at them funny, switch them on when the wind is in the wrong direction, and they’ll break, crash, and take all your valuable information with them. They are the weak link in the chain, right? Wrong.
Who says, “Beware of the Cloud?” In the mindset of most people, myself included, cloud storage has been touted as the panacea for all our storage woes. It seems everyone, Apple, Google, Microsoft and hundreds of smaller companies, are heralding cloud storage as the great Fluffy Knight in the Sky, our protector and saviour, guardian of our virtual world. Computer fails, it doesn’t matter, just download your stuff from the cloud. All is well.
Then you have your completely online solutions, e.g. Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365, Blogger, WordPress and others: Don’t just backup to the cloud, but do all your work there, reports, emails, everything—your information is safe with us. Is it?
Everyone who uses a blog is using a specialised form of cloud storage. You compose your posts online, edit them online, and then store them online in the cloud for everyone else to see. When I first switched my blog from Google Blogger to a self-hosted WordPress solution, I did so, in part, because Blogger (back then) was unreliable. It would sometimes fail to upload changes, or photographs, or would become unresponsive and you would have to refresh the browser page to get it working again. You had to remember to copy everything you’d typed so you could paste it in again after the refresh. Is WordPress any better? It doesn’t freeze, and uploads have been reliable, but actually it is much, much worse. Using the online editing screen you make changes, hit ‘Save Draft’ and then ‘View preview’ to see what you’ve achieved. Everything seems fine. Working on a long/complex post? You could do this many times, and every single time it updates and everything seems fine. Except when it isn’t. Two hours later, I did a final check and everything looked great. Not even a hint of a problem. Later still, I log on again and see that those two hours’ worth of changes are gone. Two hours of work lost. How many times has this happened in the last ten months? About four.
Many online services keep automatic backups, a little like MS Word saves a backup copy of a document when you are part-way through working on it. Does WordPress? No. Does Blogger? Yes, but it can kick you out before it has saved. Lose what you are working on and it’s gone, forever. Things had been fine for six months. Everything appeared normal, but appearances can be deceptive. So I fell for it, I trusted my lovely fluffy cloud, and it rained on me.
What about other online content creation? Google email, stable as you like? Not if it decides to time-out your login session in the middle of a long email. (My wife reports this affects Blogger too). Gmail does at least make some backups, but not often—you’d better use the ‘Save Draft’ button regularly if the email is important. MS Office 365? No idea, I’ve never used it. Other online backup services? Mixed. Files haven’t always uploaded correctly, and they need to be checked by re-downloading if they’re valuable. To make life online even more interesting, accounts can also be hacked. If all your data is only online, then you’ve lost it, gone.
So what are we to do? Work local, save multiple copies everywhere. MS Word doesn’t lose my data, it backs up automatically to my hard-drive, and all my files are still accessible if I have no internet connection. Winner. Computers these days are reliable, mostly, but they can be broken, burnt or stolen. Having cloud backup is still invaluable. But I would no longer work online, or save my work online alone. Instead, I am experimenting this week with MS Word’s blog post feature (info. here). I write the blog, edit it and save it locally using all the power of a full word processor. My backup solution is Dropbox. It keeps a local copy of your file, and automatically backs up to the cloud in the background. No internet? I can still access my local files. My computer breaks, burns, or is stolen? I can access my files from another computer from the web. Best of all? If the changes to my WordPress or Blogger post goes pear shaped, I don’t lose two hours of work, I just re-upload my locally written and stored copy. WordPress, Blogger, you will never be able to stuff me again. BOO-YAH!
If you want a nice, easy to use cloud backup solution that keeps your files locally as well, after twelve months of daily usage, I’d recommend Dropbox. (I know there are others; I tried a few over a year ago, so I can’t comment on their performance now, but make sure you choose one that uses local storage as well). If Dropbox looks like your thing, (it’ll sync files to all your computers, and your smartphone too) just click on the piccie below if you want that nice, smug, safe feeling: