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June is Backup Awareness Month

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Episode 62
June 16th, 2006

I just got a big package from the nice folks at Seagate/Maxtor. I was all excited thinking it would be another big hard disk I could play with but it was not. Instead it was a promotional package with a T-shirt, some pins, cards announcing a hard disk-a-day giveaway (more on this in a moment), a "how much stuff can I store" calculator, and a press release.

When I receive this kind of package I usually save the T-shirt (for Goodwill) and toss the rest of the tchotchkes (Yiddish for "crap") in the trash. But for some reason I decided to actually read the material they sent and I'm glad I did.

It turns out that June is Maxtor's self-proclaimed Backup Awareness Month. It was providence; I was just about due for my annual "if-you-don't-backup-your-stuff-you-will-absolutely-and-positively-lose-it rant."

I'm glad I decided to read the press release because it makes some very compelling points about how computer users back up their data.

To this end, Maxtor sponsored a poll of 2,604 adult computer users in early May. Based on the six types of digital data and personal files listed in the survey, personal photos are the most valued type of digital content (32%), followed by written documents (22%), and financial/business records (14%).

33% of those polled consider their digital content to be priceless, yet nearly half of them (46%) never make backup copies of their priceless data.

We interrupt this column for the following crass commercial message:

I recently completed my first eBook (for the The Mac Observer, of course), a little ditty we call Dr. Mac's Guide to Backing Up Your Mac, and it seemed appropriate to include the following passage from it in this column:

The fact is that every single hard disk ever made will crash and die someday. And even if your disk doesn't die, files that were fine only yesterday can become corrupted and unusable for no apparent reason today. Finally, though it doesn't happen much on modern Macs, viruses and malware can infect your disks and files.

It's a fact of life... if you only have one copy of a file, someday that file could very well be lost to you forever. And that, gentle reader, is why you absolutely, positively must back up your files.

The Obligatory DriveSavers Plug

For those of you about to disregard my advice and not backup, here are a phone number and URL you should keep handy. They are for a company called DriveSavers and if your hard disk crashes and you haven't backed it up, they're probably your last and only hope. They are the kings of Mac hard disk recovery.

Scott Gaidano is DriveSavers' president. Say hi for me if you have to call them. Ask him how his Ferrari is doing. For what it's worth, Scott is a great guy. He says a lot of people read about DriveSavers in my columns and books, which is weird because I only mention DriveSavers when I write about how important it is to backup. Go figure.

Anyway, here's the deal: If you don't backup and something goes wrong with the only copy of that important file, or your entire hard disk, you're going to have to call Scott's company (or another drive recovery specialist). And it's going to cost you a lot more than a good backup solution.

That is the bottom line.

Scott hates when I say this, but DriveSavers charges a lot to recover your data from crashed and otherwise damaged hard disks (hundreds to thousands of dollars). And, although they're mostly successful, they can't guarantee that they can save any single file. You pay your money and you take your chances. Did I mention that Scott drives a Ferrari?

The phone number is 415-382-2000. Although if you need it, chances are you're not doing much Web surfing, here is the URL for their Web site anyway: http://www.drivesavers.com

We return you now to your regularly scheduled rant.

Maxtor's research goes on to say that nearly half of the survey's respondents (43%) have lost important data or digital files due to a virus, hardware or software malfunction, or other reason. When asked to put a price tag on their digital content, including the time it would take to recreate that content if it was lost, more than half (55%) said "more than $1,000."

The most frequently cited reason for not backing up their data is that they are not sure how to do it or that backing up data is too technical (35%). 29% said they don't think it's important enough to worry about, 14% think it takes too much time, and 11% don't back up because they believe backup devices and services are too expensive. And of those who never back up, 11% said they never knew they had to.

As part of Backup Awareness Month, Maxtor is promoting a five-step "best practices" program for data protection that I agree with wholeheartedly:

  1. Develop a backup schedule. Back up data daily or at a minimum, weekly.
  2. Back up everything on your startup disk.
  3. Automate the process so you can set it and forget it.
  4. Rotate backups and keep at least one offsite.
  5. Don't procrastinate.

So just do it. Back up your data and do it soon. If you're not sure how to best do it (like 35% of the survey respondents), buy yourself a copy of Dr. Mac's Guide to Backing Up Your Mac for a mere $3.99.

There is one last thing: I told you I'd provide more information about Maxtor's drive-a-day giveaway and now I will. To enter the contest and possibly win a free hard disk drive, just visit http://www.backupawareness.com/entertowin.cfm and fill out the form. No purchase is necessary and if you don't win today you can enter again tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that. (You can also find the complete terms and conditions for the contest.)

And that's all he wrote...

Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus has been a Macintosh user for a long, long time and has written 49 computer books including Mac OS X Tiger For Dummies and GarageBand for Dummies. He also offers expert technical help and training to Mac users, in real time and at reasonable prices, via telephone, e-mail, and/or unique Internet-enabled remote control software. For more information on Bob and his services, visit www.boblevitus.com.

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