Beers and Backups

Q: We had a party at my place last weekend, and it almost got me in some very serious problem academically. I’m not talking about disciplinary stuff–I’m talking about my schoolwork itself. It’s all on my laptop, which almost didn’t survive the night. Yes, I know I should have been more careful when I set up for the party, but in the end I left my laptop out in my room, where people were tossing their bags and coats. It wasn’t really supposed to be a big drinking spot, but people were wandering back there with their drinks anyway, and someone managed to spill beer on my laptop. Luckily, a friend told me right away. I wrapped it up in paper towels, dunked it in rice, the whole nine yards–I might have said a prayer or two, too. In the end, it started up fine and all of my hard work–including really important stuff for classes–was intact. But it was a scary moment, because I didn’t have anything backed up! I want to start creating some backups, but I’m not sure I trust “the cloud” (I don’t even understand how it works, really), and I don’t know the first thing about any of this. Help!


A: So you’re ready to back up your computer files–a smart decision! Only 8% of us back up our data daily, and a full 25% never do so at all. But as you discovered, it only takes one scary incident to remind us of the importance of having all our key information and hard work in more than one place!


There are two basic ways to back up your data: on a storage system that you own, or on a storage system that somebody else owns. Let’s start with the first one. When you back up your smartphone to your computer, the files of your smartphone are being stored in your computer–ready to be recovered if you need them later on. In a similar way, you can use an external hard drive to back up your entire computer. External hard drives are essentially just regular hard drives that have been put in cases and adapted to connect to your computer’s USB port. Many of them come pre-loaded with programs designed to make the back-up process easy. You can leave them plugged in regularly or just connect them periodically when it’s time to back up your data.


The other major backup option is a cloud backup. The “cloud” may seem kind of vague and confusing, but it’s actually just more storage–albeit storage that somebody else is holding onto. When you put something in the cloud, you use the internet to store it on a faraway storage device. Companies do this all the time, the experts at Aligned Data Centers tell us–it takes a pretty big company to run its own data centers, and until then, they back up their files and store their data just as you and I do: on someone else’s system. Cloud storage has really caught on on the consumer side, with 1,754 million of us using cloud storage and 2,309 million expected to do so by 2020.


Of course, all of this advice almost came to you a bit too late! For anyone in that boat, it’s important to note that a damaged computer–even one soaked in beer–may not be the end of your data. Data recovery experts tell us that data can sometimes be saved even from wet hard drives. Still, it’s always best to skip the heart attack and just back up your data!


“You can never have too much backup.” — Terry Pratchett


Written by John Regan, former Director of Sales, for equity research.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent the opinions of King’s College or WRKC.