I recently posted a recommendation for a specific backup program, but it got me to thinking about backing up in general.
It’s a common topic here on Ask Leo! for a good reason. Not a day goes by that I don’t see somebody suffering for lack of a backup. Not a day goes by that I don’t see somebody who could have avoided a serious problem simply by having taken a backup.
So why don’t more people back up?
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Computers should just work
It’s tempting to think people are being lazy, but I believe that that’s quite unfair. As I mentioned in another commentary, people just expect computers to work. Unfortunately, as we see over and over, it’s frequently not true; it’s just not a realistic expectation.
Let’s face it. Those of us who’ve used computers for any length of time know better. Not because we’re any smarter, but because, in all likelihood, we’ve experienced a catastrophic data loss at some point or another. We know better because we’ve been burned.
Unfortunately, it’s not until we’ve seen or had that gut-wrenching experience that we begin to realize the inconvenience of setting up a backup solution pales in comparison to the inconvenience of the data loss it could have prevented. All of a sudden, that backup doesn’t look like such a bad idea.
So how do we prevent the average user or first time user from ever having to go through that experience? How do we convince more people to some how back up their data?
I’m not sure we can.
I honestly think that this is one of those cases where there is no substitute for living through that painful experience.
All we can do is be ready with solutions so that it doesn’t have to happen again.
Wishing for an ideal world
In an ideal world, none of us would have to consider backing up. In a truly ideal world, data would never be lost, hardware would never fail, and we’d never accidentally permanently delete something we’d need later.
Needless to say, we don’t live in that ideal world.
But I think there might be an opportunity to make things better.
The fundamental problem here is that users have to recognize the issue and then separately, proactively, take preventative action.
What if they didn’t have to?
What if backups were baked in?
What if, as part of setting up every machine, installing the operating system simply included a true, full-featured backup solution, instead of the typically crippled, hard-to-use applications that are so often there? What if, like choosing a password, you couldn’t even complete initial setup without having done something to address the risk of data loss – something better than enabling a Recycle Bin and something more complete and robust than Window’s System Restore. What if every machine came with a back-up hard drive or a free online back-up service?
I have to acknowledge that the Mac’s Time Machine is pretty close. It still takes initiative, and apparently a second hard disk, to set it up, but it’s a step in the right direction.
How about the rest of us?
I know I get repetitive and somewhat annoying about backing up from time to time here on Ask Leo!, but believe me, it’s with cause. Not only have I myself experienced data loss, I’ve also experienced my back-up plans saving my bacon on multiple occasions. If you saw how often I see people needlessly lose important data, I think you’d understand as well: this is a much larger issue than most people think.
What solution do you use? What should the average user do?