I got what might safely be termed “A right kicking” datawise over the summer. Yep, the Geek lost data, had it overwritten/lost my work/had to crawl up to my dissertation supervisor and say that I lost two weeks work.

Let’s be clear here; I backup my data, it’s far too valuable to lost and I’ve been bitten before, in the dim and distant past when I didn’t spend money/time on backing up, I learned the hard way that you BACKUP or lose those pictures/data/memories/work.

In fact I often carry so many memory sticks around now, that my single enduring programmer joke is that “I pity the fool! that don’t backup his data!”

Where did it all go wrong?


There were a few factors. I have teenage boys who think that they are invulnerable to a drive-by, so they will occassionally go and download things without thinking, I’m pointing at YOU the eldest, yes indeed. They got two things at once on their latop at once, one just a nasty bit of malware masquerading as a bit of antivirus kit, and the other some kind of Zero Day exploit, a root-kit. Ouch.

I rather airily assumed that these were removable with the usual stuff, wrong! We actually trashed the hard drive ont he laptop looking for this stuff.

I plugged my Ubuntu rescue kit in, fine, no problem, except that it boots Windows too, and took the root kit, which got onto MY latop.

Ok fine, I knew what was going on then, but I was in the middle of doing the other laptop and didn’t disconnect from the cloud.

Oh woe is me, because I backup right, to the clould, a lot.  Really a lot.  Curently my main services are Dropbox, Mozy, Humyo, MS Live Sync (Wonderful), Google syncing, (when I connect right), Skydrive and a few others that are less accessable.  So I synched.  The way I sunch often involved putting my encrypted drive, because only a fool syncs unencrypted password data onto the cloud, and a couple of other files that maintain things for me.  Oh goody, I had my encrypted drive open, but it syncs anyhow.

So, because I had been away from my desktop for a while, (I my boys live with my ex-partner, but we get on really very well and I was on an extended visit), it wasn’t on, Live Sync didn’t, saved the work from two weeks ago at least, but I hadn’t backed up to a stick in at least that amount of time, because I was backing up to the cloud so I’m safe right?

Wrong.  Dead wrong as it turns out.


What is the problem here?

It’s taken me a while to think about it.  It’s not the software or the hardware.  It’s not the malware and virus, (well, it IS, but not in this context), it’s a human problem.  I screwed up.

I screwed up because, like nearly everyone I know who actually backs up, and I do have loads of data that I don’t backup because it’s too expensive, so just the important stuff; I was being LAZY and “SAFE” at the same time.  Except that these two things don’t go together.  Especially in the context of data.

I was being “safe” because, I assured myself, I was backing up so I’m alright Jack, you peons don’t know what it is to backup, and I’m always going to come out on top because of it.  Oh how we learn humility.

I was being LAZY because I relied on non-volitional techniques to keep me safe.  I wanted it done automatically, in triplicate, silently witout hassle.  I wanted an agent to do it for me.

Now, what’s wrong with that?

Well, I lost a hard drive and 100GB of data for the family, and two weeks worth of my Dissertation, (for my Masters), that’s what.

Backup, at some point, must be volitional as well.  In the “good old days” when you had to actually put a floppy in to backup, it was volitional.  You didn’t transmit that Zero-day  exploit unless you were careless, unless you actually inserted that floppy.  Now, if you’re not careful, all you have to do is wait for the cloud.  And if you’re paranoid like me, your encrypted files can’t bec checked on the way in by your cloud service, or even your receiving computer.  You are well and truely, like me, scr…..


Point is, backups, real backups are a hassle, they will always be a hassle.  Take the time.  Use a stick daily.  Use two sticks, on every other day.  Do the grandparent, parent, child backup routine, because one day you will get hit by a Zero-day exploit too, and you’ll be writing blog entry about why it’s so important to backup volitionally.

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