It’s not just other people that need to backup!

by Martin Reed on 9 July 2008 in Snippets

Backing up online communities

It is important to have contingency plans in place should anything unexpected happen. I backup pretty regularly but recently the effectiveness of my backup procedures were put to the test!

Hard drive failure

Last Thursday, I switched on my laptop only to be greeted with the error message that my hard drive was corrupted. After trying to test the hard drive in the BIOS, it couldn’t be read. At this point I would have tried putting in the Windows disc to run a repair – the only problem is, I recently emigrated from the UK to the USA and found that I left this rather important disc at home.

Lost data

Fortunately, I practice what I preach. I regularly backup my files and remembered to bring my external hard drives with me to America. My fiancée has a Mac which I am (slowly getting used to) using in the meantime whilst I get someone from home to mail me out my drivers and operating system discs. I am hoping that I can run a repair job on the hard drive – if it has completely failed though, I can pick up a new drive for around $100/£50.

In the meantime, I needed to determine exactly what had been lost. My last backup was around two weeks prior – just before I left the UK. Therefore, my lost data includes:

  • All emails received within the past two weeks (If you sent me an email recently and have not received a reply, please contact me again)
  • Articles from freelance writers for the past two weeks for my new online community (they were able to resend the articles from their own backups, though)
  • Personal photographs taken in the past couple of weeks that hadn’t yet been backed up
  • Files sitting on my desktop that kept track of SEO and monetisation experiments and new site ideas/research

All in all, it could have been a lot worse. Having tested my external hard drive, everything I previously backed up is present. All I need to do is get my old laptop up and running, move over the files and I will pretty much be back to where I was before.

You cannot predict data loss

Of course, this had to happen at pretty much the worst time for me. I recently moved to a new country and have just moved into a new apartment. Just when I have the least amount of time to deal with a hard drive failure, one comes and hits me. What made the situation worse was the fact that I had absent-mindedly left the very discs I needed to do a system restore 3,000 miles away in the UK!

Imagine how much more of a nightmare this would have been if I didn’t keep regular backups. Imagine if my websites also went down and I had no backups. Use this article as a warning – backup now, and schedule a regular backup program so that when the worst happens, you are prepared.

Your thoughts

Do you backup your data? How often? Have you lost important data because you failed to backup? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment below.

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Smiley July 10, 2008 at 5:19 am

I always back up the site & the forums.. but.. never thought to back up my actual hard drive! I surely will start doing now, though!

Smiley July 10, 2008 at 5:20 am

Congrats on your successful migration to America, by the way. I wish you & your fiance the best of luck!

Bat July 10, 2008 at 9:44 am

Eeeeeeek!! I,ve never backed anything up in my life!! Maybe I,d better start eh? Do you know what corrupted your hard drive Martin? I,m glad that didn,t happen to me, I,d have been on the phone to poor Charles for hours lol. ;)
You can get external hard drives fairly cheaply from Argos. The cheapest one they do is about 75 quid for a 500gb and the most expensive is a 1 terrabit for 180 quid!!

Lake Tahoe Hotels July 10, 2008 at 2:05 pm

I’ll go on a limb and say most people don’t back up their data. I have a partition on my HD with backed up data and an external hard drive. Come on, don’t be another satistic ;)

Amish Made Furniture July 10, 2008 at 2:05 pm

I learned my lessons, yes more than once, the hard way. I take back ups without fail once a week.

Mr Woc July 10, 2008 at 11:44 pm

Hi there

Sounds like you have had a painful last week lol, always the same when something goes wrong you cant find it, i backup my files regularly and have backups on other machines too.

Am considering getting one of these 500 gig external hard drives too now, as they are dirt cheap now aint they, can just back most stuff up onto one of those !


Nicole Price July 12, 2008 at 4:03 am

A computer crashing can be pretty nightmarish; it is that horrible sinking feeling, thanks for that reminder. I have been meaning to do that but have been putting it off.

Simon Brown July 13, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Unfortunatly I have gained the unfortunate habit of not backing up data. This could partly be explained by the large volume of data on my hard disk (81.5GB), and although it would be possible to simply backup the most important data (the source code of my programs, for example), my external HD is still slow, mainly because it is connected via USB. As for online backup services, I refuse to use them as I see no reason to trust a stranger with confidential data.

Andrew. Fredericksburg Lawyer. July 14, 2008 at 1:34 am

I’ve had too many computer problems in my life not to back up. And now that I run my own law practice, I have to safeguard client data.

For backups, I highly recommend Mozy. It can backup your files automatically on the schedule you setup. I use it, and I love it!

You get 2 GB of backup space for free. Your files are stored encrypted on the Mozy servers, so everything is safe in case your computer is lost or your house burns down.

Britt Phillips July 15, 2008 at 4:53 pm

I’ve been thinking about buying a Drobo to back up my network.

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 17, 2008 at 12:28 am

Smiley – It’s so easy to have backup plans in place for your site and servers only to forget to back up your own local drive! Don’t wait for disaster to strike – get yourself an external drive now and get a backup routine going! Thanks for the best wishes, too!

Bat – I think everyone should backup their data, with a frequency to be determined by how heavily they use their computers. No idea why the hard drive failed – probably just a mechanical failure, which can strike at any time.

Tahoe – Yup, you’re probably right! I am glad you have an external hard drive in addition to the extra partition as that won’t help you if your entire hard drive fails!

Amish – Glad to hear it; at least you learnt from your mistakes!

Mr Woc – Painful is definitely one word to describe it! External hard drives are extremely cheap these days so there really is no excuse not to have backups!

Nicole – Yup, it wasn’t a great feeling but at least I had a recent backup to fall back on! If I didn’t have that, I would have lost a heck of a lot of data (and consequently money).

Simon – Well I hope you break that habit soon. My hard drive runs at over 100GB so having a large amount of data is not an excuse for failing to backup! I too, am wary of online backup sevices.

Andrew – Thanks for mentioning Mozy. As I just mentioned, I prefer to avoid online backup services but others may find them useful.

Britt – I had never heard of Drobo; thanks for giving them a mention. Be sure to let us know how you find it should you take the plunge.

Ben July 18, 2008 at 6:35 pm

I backup an export of my posts with Wordpress every week on an external drive. Once a month I do a full ftp files + database backup.

Smiley July 19, 2008 at 2:49 am

You’re more than welcome. I’ve backed all my important files onto CD for now until I get a ZIP drive.

LOL, by important files, that’s mainly all my downloaded punk music, ha!

But, every night when I back up the forums, I put the SQL onto CD incase my HDD blows, and in a stroke of bad luck, the site blows up too!

How are you liking it in America? Very different from home, that’s for sure! I can’t move there, I’d get too homesick. It’s too hot in California for starters! I missed the Yorkshire rain. It was a nice holiday, though. We called it a day.. as if I could ever move out of Yorkshire. Born & bred, it’s where I was born, it’s where I’m destined to die.

JArthur July 21, 2008 at 9:03 pm

My hubby is a fanatical back-up artist. He runs two businesses on his laptop and has all of our household info on there. It’s been acting up lately, so I know he’s being super-careful with his data.

I, on the other hand…..well, I’m not nearly as important as he is, nor as organized. I just picked up a 1G jump drive to keep the things I’m working on for school and my job stored on. But I need to to more, as our family pictures on my hard drive currently. I try to burn things to disk and store them every so often, which also helps keep my HD cleared. But I”ve been slacking lately, so thanks for the reminder. I think I’ll try Mozy, at least for now.

Eva White July 22, 2008 at 4:52 am

I learnt the hard way about creating back up. Lost a lot of research and ready articles once. So now what I do is I keep an external hard disk drive which I connect to the system once a week and get all essential stuff onto it. That way I don’t panic too much about viruses crashing the main system.

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 23, 2008 at 3:55 pm

Ben – I’m glad to see you have a backup plan for your online work; just make sure you don’t forget about the files sitting in your computer at home!

Smiley – Have you considered an external USB hard drive? It may be more convenient than burning to disc each time and the more convenient a backup process is, the more likely you are to stick to it!

America is treating me well so far; I am always surprised with the heat and humidity of New York City at this time of year, though and certainly miss the occasional(!) rain shower from England! This day next month, I’ll be a married man… who would have thought it?!?

JArthur – A backup artist, eh?!? I love it! It’s always good when computers give you some warning before they crash. If you still fail to backup, it really is your own fault. I know what you mean about photos – images and music filled up my last hard drive!

Eva – Ah, tough love; always the hardest lesson! Sounds like you have a similar backup plan to me – I think it’s worth it just for the peace of mind it brings.

Smiley July 24, 2008 at 10:59 pm

Wow, congratulations. Ohhhhhhhh.. aren’t you going to miss Real Ale?

And don’t you dare start forgetting to use the letter ‘U’ in words !!! Don’t wanna be logging onto CommunitySpark to be seeing “color” and “favorite” :P

Presona July 25, 2008 at 10:42 am

I have faced some weird situation. When last year I lost my HDrive i found that some backup file of mine is also gone. Still now I didn’t find them. Can you imagine how did I felt.

Phil Tanny July 25, 2008 at 12:55 pm

Wow, yes, backups are so important.

Sorry to put it this way, but not backing up is just another
way of saying, “What I’m doing on the computer all day every
day isn’t all that important.”

Rants aside, the key to backups is making it easy, as
automated as possible. Here are a few tools that I’ve found
to be easy and helpful.

Martin, and other new Mac users, check out SuperDuper!

It’s a wonderfully simple app that allows you to very easily create a
fully bootable exact copy of your Mac, on a remote drive. If
your primary drive fails, you can get back to work in the
time it takes you to reboot. If you’re traveling, you can
take a small portable drive with your backup on the road,
and access your all your files and apps from any Mac.

Our website is backed up offsite, at another host.

More importantly, the backup company ( set up
RSYNC for us, a Unix utility which automatically creates a
daily up to date mirror of our entire server at the backup
host. It’s pretty neat, it only copies over new data, so
you aren’t transferring massive amounts of data through your
bandwidth every day.

The key thing is the site backups are on full auto-pilot,
thus the most likely cause of failure, me, is kept out of
the loop.

I’ll conclude with the usual advice. Backup your data, or
someday you’ll really wish you did. Those are the only two

Polina July 29, 2008 at 8:48 pm

I do backups of all my work on a regular basis, putting everything down on DVDs. But after several DVDs crashed for some unknown reasons (just refused to get read) I don’t have any ideas on what to switch to… am thinking of getting one more hard drive and make it just a mirror of the current one… may be it helps.

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 4, 2008 at 9:29 pm

Smiley – Believe it or not, there are some decent ales to be had here in New York City! Not sure what’ll happen when I move away, though! I’ll still be keeping my ‘proper’ spellings – don’t worry!

Presona – Yup, that happened to me when I was at university. I lost my research project but had a backup. Unfortunately the backup had failed to, meaning I had to write 6,000 words in about 6 hours!

Phil – SuperDuper? Not heard of that. Wouldn’t using Time Machine be easier as it is built right into Leopard? I agree that there really is no excuse not to backup.

Polina – Your DVDs crashed? How do you mean? I would be surprised to hear of a DVD disc crashing – perhaps you didn’t copy the files across correctly. I would recommend a USB external hard drive – easy to use, and getting cheaper by the day.

Smiley August 6, 2008 at 5:44 pm

I was on the Old Peculiar again last neet.. the oak casked barrel. Not clever having 6 pints of it, but heck it was karaoke so why not! Delicious, but lethal!!

Scott March 3, 2009 at 2:52 am

I experienced data loss and it’s to terrible that I repeat my reports and other important documents stored in my PC. It is an S.O.P. that you back up important files from your system. It was a lesson learned for me. Thanks for this post.

Paul August 5, 2009 at 12:44 pm

I backup all my data on both an external hard drive and online. I have thousands of digital photos that can’t be replaced if my hard drive was to crash. I have recovered data from hard drives that have crashed in the past, so I’m hoping if there is something I forgot to backup, I can recover it.

In all the years I have been using computers, I haven’t experienced a hard drive crash, but I know very well that it can happen. Many people don’t backup until they experience their first crash and lose all their data. By then, however, it is too late.

Tom August 6, 2009 at 8:05 am

Luckily, I’ve started backing things up! As you are aware some Russian decided to inject malicious code into my .php files taking the entire site down.

They did it at the worst possible time, too, I was helping my fiancee move into my house and we were settling in so I hadn’t time for the computer.

Yesterday I deleted the entire site, uploaded the back-ups. I have to do a minimum amount of page editing to get it back to how it was, Google has lifted the “attack site” warning.

The only thing I’m having problems with is the forum database, it doesn’t seem to be working. Which is not too big of a loss at the moment anyway as I’m considering moving over to phpBB3 now phpBB2 is no longer supported, security wise. I am suspecting it was a phpBB2 page that was injected and spread to the rest of the site.

PhpBB3 is just so much harder to customize, that’s the only thing stopping me converting.