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May 2011 Meeting Hilights

By Monte Ferguson

Our May meeting had an overall theme, how do you prepare for a data loss? It was prompted by a recent Amazon service outage that lasted for days. A lot of popular advertising messages hawk "The Cloud" as a solution to our data management issues. This outage leads to a reassessment of that idea. Even big companies with complex redundancy schemes can have things go horribly wrong. How are we as individuals supposed to cope?

In Amazon's case the root cause of the problem turned out to be a simple mistake. But it took them a while to find the issue and then fix it.

The take away for individuals is to keep your backup strategy straightforward. Simple enough that you will follow it. Yet comprehensive so you won't lose data if something happens.

The easiest way to keep your data backed up is to purchase an external hard drive and turn on Time Machine. It's free. Efficient. And it does a good job. The only downside to that is if something happens to your home there goes your back up, think fire. (Of course you could have another back up stored offsite.) Another option is to back up your data to an online back up service. Carbonite being one of the cheapest plans around. The main downside to that is it will take a loooooong time for your initial back up to finish. (Most high speed connections boast super fast download speeds but they never advertise their upload speed. That's because the upload speed is usually about 1/10th as fast as the download.) Another option brought up was Dropbox. You have the safety of uploading your data to the cloud. Yet you retain a copy on your computer. The only downside to Dropbox is its initial free offering is small, 2GB, but you can pay to have that increased. If you need to back up several computers in your home, and want it all stored on a central back up, then you'll want to look into special software like Retrospect.

We also talked about the options of running a file server, or a centralized back up store like a Drobo as an alternative option.

When all is said and done though, you have to choose what works best for you. For most folks Time Machine is the best option. It's a set it and forget it solution. Which means its much more likely that folks will use it and use it consistently. For that same reason Dropbox was our second recommendation. It's straightforward and you don't have to do much to make it work. In effect it's like making a copy in the Finder, but with versioning and some other side benefits. Lastly, an offsite back up of any kind was our last recommendation. But whatever you do, make sure you stick to it. You never know when that back up will come in handy.

Posted: Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

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