Why You Should Have Local Backups Of Your Cloud Backup

Welcome to the cloud era, a point in our history where we think it’s a great idea to let data fly away to a remote server and never touch your home computer ever again. It’s not necessarily a bad idea, but it certainly isn’t a good frame of reference. What you put into the cloud may be safer than if it were on your own devices, but that only depends on who you’re calling upon to store it. When it comes to cloud storage, one of the things you shouldn’t do is to place all your eggs in one basket. You should also take the precaution to backup the data to somewhere you can physically access. Allow me to explain why.

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Google has ended tons of its services in the past. From Google Buzz to Google Reader, to Google Checkout, they all went down because they either didn’t have enough users or weren’t sustainable. Projects and companies are always going to eventually take a hit and fall head-first into a chaotic void of things that “didn’t make it.” It’s the circle of life. If you didn’t back up all the stuff you had in those services, you’ve pretty much hammered nails into a coffin. That coffin is your data.

Sometimes, even highly popular services fall on the fringe. AOL used to be big. Fortunately, you still get to use AOL email and instant messaging, but that’s not always the case when a company starts pouring resources into other projects. While you can be sure that Gmail will stick around for a long time, another more competitive service may be all it takes to bring the giant down. In such a case, you might want to back up what you have there.

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When a service provider isn’t keen on telling you how it’s storing your data, you should definitely be concerned. Any data you put into it should have a copy on a hard drive you have direct access to. When catastrophic failures (like hard drive crashes) happen over there, you will be able to brush it off like it’s no big deal. Data loss is no small issue. It happens all the time! Just look at DataLossDB (short for “Data Loss Database”). The site shows you exactly how many data loss incidents happened in the last few years. Once you see how rampant the problem is, you’ll probably think twice about entrusting your most important data to a questionable company.

Of course, there are reputable companies (like Google) that make use of strong redundancy to ensure that you’d be more likely to get struck by lightning than lose your stuff. Still, if you aren’t sure about your provider’s reputation, don’t chance it. Back it all up to your local hard drive!

When you want to replace one service for another, your original (or new) provider may have some tools at your disposal to make a quick automated transition. This way, you don’t have to move anything to your computer. It just shifts from one server to another. Well, sometimes, this method fails. In a worst case scenario, your data may disappear in the process.

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To prevent something like this from happening, get a local backup of everything to your computer. Don’t bother uploading the data yet. Just back it up and then try to move it to the new server using the automated tool. If it fails, don’t sweat it! You can still manually upload your backup.

Did you know that you can rip out a copy of everything you have from Google’s servers? It’s called Google Takeout and it will let you grab anything you want from any Google product you’re using.

Facebook has something similar. Go to “Settings” and click on “Account Settings.” In the “General” page, you’ll see the words “Download a copy of your Facebook data” at the bottom. Click the link and you’re all set. Facebook will email you a link to everything you ever posted.

Sure, you use the cloud for convenience, but you also use it to maximize the integrity and security of your data. This involves your participation. By backing up data on a spare drive, you empower yourself, opening the doors to more choices. If you have something to say in this regard, please leave a comment below!

7 comments

    • Hi, Zia.

      First of all, nothing is 100% safe. Yes, SkyDrive is very secure compared to other services. It’s backed by Microsoft and stores your data redundantly. When looking at a service’s safety, you can’t say it’s “safe” or not. You can only compare it to the safety of other services.

      In short: Yes, it’s generally safer than other smaller services.

  1. The rule is: “Always have you data in at least two places at once.”

    That usually means your local system and some other form of storage, either local or cloud. If possible, the second (or third or more) location should be off-site from your local machine in case your local site burns down, gets flooded, etc.

    If your data is relatively small, having two cloud providers backing up your local machine is probably best. If your data is too large to upload it to the cloud, you can upload just the critical data to the cloud, and store the rest on a backup system which can be rotated off site on removable hard drives.

    Then there’s the issue of speed of recovery. If your data gets compromised, how fast do you need to recover it? Downloading from the cloud could be really time consuming. Restoring from a local hard drive backup or retrieving a hard drive off site and restoring from it might be faster, depending on the amount of data.

    Doing really GOOD backup tends to be harder than it looks. External hard drives tend to fail more often than internal hard drives, so having more than one might be a good idea. Having more than one cloud provider is good, too.

    It all depends on just how paranoid you want to be, which in turn depends on how valuable your data is – to you, anyway – and how much trouble it would be to replace it if it gets lost. A lot of people are way too cavalier about that.

  2. I’ve been using Backupthat for a while as it keeps all of my stuff distributed. Even if one account is hacked, I have backups for my backups

  3. The bottom line is that with cloud storage you no longer have 100% control of your data. Therefore, with so many negatives against it, why even bother with cloud storage?

    To achieve having data in at least two places at once, one can backup to an external HD, a removable HD to be placed off-site and another PC on the network.

    • In corporate environments, a private cloud through virtualization is actually pretty awesome. Having such a thing would allow people to synchronize files on the fly and update them with new revisions. Using repository management, they can also revert to previous revisions or only allow certain pieces of the latest revision. Repository management goes by many names, but it works under the same principles as CVS/SVN.

      The same advantage can be seen on the consumer level. I keep important documents on both Google Drive and my computer. These documents can synchronize across multiple devices without me having to store a copy everywhere. Whatever I revise will automatically update on all other devices. Such a thing is very useful in a fast-paced high-productivity setting.

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