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Product Review

How Safe Is Your Data?

I remember when I was given my first 2 GB hard drive. I said, “I will NEVER fill that up!”  Now, I’m having a hard time figuring out if I need to delete files or upgrade my 1 TB of storage.

Not Anymore

Between the software we use, our digital music collections, thousands of documents and digital photos, we can easily fill a hard drive in no time.

The price of storage is so low, that we take it for granted: we save everything, we know we should back it up, but a very small percentage of people I come in contact with actually do anything to protect that data.

I speak from personal experience when it comes to data security.  I have had a laptop stolen, I’ve had hard drives fail, I’ve lost USB thumb drives and I work all day on three different computers.

Protect Your Data

Especially if you use USB thumb drives or carry a laptop, you need to secure your data.  A lost or stolen device in the wrong hands could be very problematic for years to come.  I use TrueCrypt to protect my systems.  It is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.  I have chosen to set my system up so that when the computer starts up, it asks for a password to gain access to any files on the computer, but they also offer the option of only encrypting certain files or directories.  It is very easy to install and you won’t even know it’s there.

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Hardware Options

Many people gravitate to external hard drives with backup software.  This isn’t idiot-proof enough for me.  Like TrueCrypt, I wanted something automatic that requires no thought.  On my desktop, I utilize RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Drives).  Basically, I have two physical hard drives in my computer, but they only show up as one.  Every time I write a file, it is written to both drives.  So when (not if) one drive fails, I have a complete copy.  I finally did this after I had lost my entire digital photo and music collection due to a disk failure.  About a month ago, one of the drives in my system died, but I lost no data due to RAID.  RAID is becoming an available option from many computer manufacturers such as Dell, HP and Lenovo so look for it on your next computer purchase.

Software Options

Unfortunately due to size limitations, RAID isn’t a viable option on a compact laptop such as mine.  Again, I wanted something that was a no-brainer.  That’s where Mozy comes in.  I pay $55 per year per machine to have unlimited, automatic, off site backups.  The first backup takes some time, but incremental backups after that are very quick.  If my house burns down, RAID isn’t going to help me, but I can have Mozy mail me DVD’s of my data and get back up and running very quickly.  I run this on all of my machines and the peace of mind is well worth the money spent.  They offer 2 GB of backup for free, which is probably enough for documents, but not pictures or music.

Multiple Computers

I see more and more people working with multiple computer systems, frequently a laptop for most items and a more powerful desktop for photo/video manipulation.  In my case, I have a Windows XP laptop, a Mac Mini desktop and a Windows Vista Tablet that I need to keep my data consistent across.

I tried quite a few different programs that all promised to sync easily across systems, but narrowed it down to one that actually works called SugarSync.  Pricing starts at $24.99 for 10 GB of storage.  Simply choose the directories you want to keep synced and anytime a file is changed or created, it is uploaded to their service.  When the other computers are connected to the internet, they sync from the site to the computer, keeping all computers working with the same copies of your files.  It also provides for web based access if you need to access a file from someone else’s computer.

You Have Car Insurance, Right?

Think of this as insurance for your precious data.  For an extra $150 when I built my computer, I have hardware redundancy and for less than $7 per month I have complete data protection in the event of loss or theft, off-site backups, multiple computer syncing and online access to my important files.  And it’s worth every penny.

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Written By

Nick runs a new media marketing consulting company helping real estate professionals learn how to implement new media tools into their marketing arsenal. He frequently gives presentations on generational marketing, green marketing and advanced online promotion. Nick is active on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.



  1. Jim Duncan

    June 10, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Great post, Nick. My wife gave me a Time Capsule for our anniversary (Love Her!) and I feel better now that everything is backed up regularly – although I should verify that it’s actually backed up.

    I tried Mozy, but after 4 days of uploading data (I’m on cable) with only 3 gig uploaded, I gave up and quit.

  2. Trace

    June 10, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Good stuff. I’m going to have to check out Mozy. There is a saying that data doesn’t truly exist unless it is in at least 3 places…………

  3. Nick Bostic

    June 10, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    @Jim – That’s why I was so excited when FIOS came to my neighborhood. My first couple of cable modem backups to Mozy did take a week or so. But I set it to not bog down my computer and just let it do it’s thing in the background. With FIOS, the same amount of data was done in about 12 hours.

    @Trace – After having my laptop stolen out of my car, I’m definitely a believer in off site backup.

  4. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 11, 2008 at 4:39 am

    Excellent points. Hard drives WILL fail. Period. Its just a matter of time. You can either choose to back up consistently & regularly – as well as take measures to protect that data (off site storage, redundancy, etc), or you can try to dig the data back out of the partitions on the drive that aren’t toasted when it does crash. I’ve done both. The former is far easier than the latter.

  5. Jeremy Hart

    June 11, 2008 at 6:17 am

    Jim – I went a similar route as Time Capsule, I started doing regular, automatic backups to a 1TB external hard drive, as well as to Time Machine (although that backup is lost if the drive was lost). But what happens when there’s a fire and your backups are destroyed? I’m thinking I might look into SugarSync for that reason, an off-site backup might be a good extra layer of protection.

  6. Kelley Koehler

    June 11, 2008 at 10:56 am

    My last laptop accidentally accelerated due to gravity a little too quickly into the floor. That was a fun lesson.

    Now, I use Carbonite to backup my files automatically, which I believe Jay introduced me to via his blog. We have all our music and whatnot on a separate server, so Carbonite keeps all my documents and mail and pictures safe. I’ve had to wipe and redo this machine, and Carbonite worked beautifully. A bit slow on the big files after the restore, but it’s not like I need to do that every day. What I love about Carbonite is that the backup happens automatically, I don’t have to think about running backup software or copying files.

    Also, we use PGP to encrypt our laptop disks, so should they ever be stolen, our data would be safe. For me, it’s just an extra password to enter at boot. Easy-peasy.

  7. Ken Smith

    June 11, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Had my last computer crash and lost more then I wanted to. Actually the crash that caused the most issues was my Blackberry. It got an error code of death and all the data on the computer also was corrupted. There are phone numbers I still don’t have 6 months later, never realize it until I need them.

  8. Nick Bostic

    June 11, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Jennifer – after-the-fact data recovery is definitely not fun or very cheap. A good plan ahead of time goes a very long way.

    Jeremy – I think Time Capsule (and the other non-Apple variants) are great choices. For me, working on mostly laptops, since I had to sync wirelessly (I’m too lazy to plug in my laptop overnight), a NAS (network attached storage) backup solution wasn’t good enough for me. Plus, when I lost my music collection, I literally said “When I get back from dinner, I should back this all up”. When I got back from dinner, my hard drive was fried. So I see the value in something even more automatic than nightly backups, which is what I would do if I used something locally.

    Kelley – Carbonite looks great too, but I honestly can’t buy something from a company with a walking, talking person on their homepage 🙂 Too cheesy for me.

    Ken – I vowed years ago to never own a phone that won’t sync wirelessly. Even if you don’t have the option of a BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server), there are companies that you can get a license on a BES relatively inexpensively. I know BlackBerry has launched a family-BES (5 licenses) for consumers in some European countries, so hopefully we’ll see it in the US before too long too.

  9. Kelley Koehler

    June 11, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Nick – there’s a faux-person on their website? Sheesh. There wasn’t when I bought it!

  10. Vicki Moore

    June 11, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    I’ve been wanting to get Carbonite. Thanks for the review guys.

  11. Karen Goodman

    June 22, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    I am so glad that I found this post. I’m one of those negligent people that has had great luck in the past. I’ve never had to have data restored. I’m probably due for a major crash. Especially since the computer has started going with me every day in the last year. I bought an external backup drive, but that means I have to remember to actually turn it on and do the backup. And, if there was a fire, I would be out of luck.

    I’m still a little confused about what would be the best option for me. Any help you could provide on the top choices for my situation would be appreciated.

    I work only on a laptop, Windows XP. I have it on every day from roughly 8 am until midnight, but it does go into hibernate quite a bit during that time. What happens if I set a backup to happen and the computer isn’t active at the time? Will it do the backup as soon as the computer is turned back on?

    My internet connection is pretty fast using cable, and I don’t have tons of files at this point. I’m also ok with the initial backup taking some time as long as it won’t be a problem if I have to close the laptop to take it with me and if it can still get work done while it is doing its thing. I’m assuming that if the computer goes into hibernate (such as if I close it to take it with me), it will start back up as soon as I turn it back on.

    And, I’m assuming that all of these services are a safe place to keep confidential information.

    Any suggestions?

  12. Brad - Dakno Real Estate Marketing

    June 22, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    This is always a good reminder. I am a bit of a freak when it comes to backups. Redundant drives and off site backup at my home and office. But just in case both burn down at the same time, I can pull everything from Amazon S3 storage.

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