Friday, October 17, 2008

On backing up.

The collapse of Washington Mutual was called the "biggest bank failure of all time," meaning that - in today's times - no one is "too big to fail."

So it's good to have a backup plan. That's what blogger Khoi Vinh recommends, especially when it comes to anything you have stored online.

This advice is applicable to most areas of our lives: fire escape plans, fire-proof lock boxes for valuables, generators for power outages, etc. Planning, "just in case," can be a real lifesaver.

Just this week, I had an instance at work where I'm glad we made a backup plan. Our marketing department stores our files (ads, newsletters, web site graphics, etc.) on a network disk. That network disk has failed before, and the first time we had no backup plan. We lost all our files in an instant. Then we started to store our files on our work computers, and copy them to the network disk. But that didn't always happen, so when our network drive went down again, Marketing had a big scare. Luckily, we were able to recover most (but still not all) of our files.

After that crash, we bought an external hard drive to backup all of our files. I do this personally every other day or so: move files from the network disk to the external disk. So when we lost our network drive again this week (thankfully, only briefly), I didn't freak out. We had a backup plan.

Do you? If you store files online, like I do all over the place on Flickr or in my Gmail account, do you have them stored somewhere physical? What about your money? Do you have a few dollars of spare cash hidden somewhere, just in case? Maybe a spare gas can for those "uh oh" moments?

My brain seems to be in constant survival mode. I'm constantly backing up my Mac files, regularly buying canned goods, having my trusty sword available for intruders, and keeping food on me at all times. But there's always more I can do.

Vinh's bigger point is that, anymore, no one is "too big to fail":
The size of a company is certainly not a reliable shield against failure, but being small doesn't necessarily guarantee a company will be around in the long term, either. I just don't think that it's realistic to assume that all of the data we're storing online is safe. So a friendly reminder: back up.
He makes the point about online items (Facebook profiles, e-mail messages, banking information), but the point can go further to life in general. Anything can fail.

Things can easily get out of hand. Guys building bunkers in their backyard during the Y2K scare (remember that?) took things a little far. But hey, as long as you've got the storage shelter there, it's one less thing to worry about.

You know, just in case.

You don't have to be a paranoid person to realize that unexpected things happen. A wise person will set time aside to think about the "what ifs" life throws at us, and plan for them as much as possible.

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