Today is World Backup Day, and though it's not a recognized holiday celebrated with praying to the cloud or gifting loved ones with hard drives, it does serve as a good reminder to back up your data. (Not to sound like a nagging mom telling you to eat your vegetables, but backing up your data is good for you. Really. And I'm reminding myself as much as I'm reminding you here.)
Now in its second year, World Backup Day was created by Ismail Jadun, a biology student from Youngstown State in Ohio who saw the need for it after reading comments on the lack of backup awareness on social news site Reddit. "I was just a college student who was looking for something interesting to do," Jadun said. Turns out there was a need for it, too.
A recent Harris Interactive online survey found that only 7 percent of respondents backed up their data on a daily basis, while 23 percent said they performed backups every month. Considering that people create and generate 1.8 zettabytes (!!) of data per year, that puts a lot of info at risk.
So why do we take such care to protect our physical possessions and not valuable digital data like important financial Excel spreadsheets and treasured JPEGs of our babies? After all, aren't those worth more sometimes?
"Part of it is perception. People think it's never going to happen to them," said Dong Ngo, CNET's storage reviews editor and resident backup expert. "And while most of the time your data is safe, your hard drive can die at any time, even new ones."
Another part of the problem is that some people don't even know how to back up their data or think it's too hard, Ngo said. But he adds that it doesn't have to be complicated. "The gist of backing up is to keep copies, exact copies, of data at multiple places. Sometimes, all you need to do is to drag and drop files onto an external hard drive or thumbdrive, or just e-mail that important Word document to yourself via Gmail, Hotmail, or any Web-based e-mail service."
Businesses, where data loss can have a huge effect on productivity and profits, are -- not surprisingly -- more vigilant about backing up, but even they can stand to make improvements.
Acronis, a data backup software and disaster recovery solutions provider, surveyed 6,000 IT practitioners in 18 countries, and while confidence in their backup solutions and technologies is up 14 percent over last year, a third of businesses are still concerned that backup and recovery operations will fail. Also, while the amount of data produced by businesses has increased, according to Acronis, the resources dedicated to ensuring that the data is safe has stayed flat.
"Businesses don't often see backup solutions as a top priority because they are more focused on increased efficiency or cost reduction projects, but long-term contingency planning is equally important to their bottom line," said Dmitri Joukovski, vice president of product management at Acronis. "It is a myth that backup and recovery has to be costly and complex, and this myth sometimes prevents businesses regularly assessing new technologies and making the changes their operations that may improve efficiency."
Joukovski says the best thing companies can do is to "prepare, plan, and practice" by devising a complete contingency plan, communicating it to all relevant parties, and regularly testing it and adjusting it to incorporate new technologies.
For everyday users like you and me, the most important thing is to just start doing it. We'll even make it easy on you and get you started with a list of CNET's top external drives, along with some sage advice from Ngo.
Ideally, you should back up all your data every day, but at the very least, back up your most personal data -- the things that can't be replaced, like photos and important documents.
"Unfortunately, a lot of people learn the hard way about the importance of backing up," Ngo said. "I've had friends who've lost their dissertations and all their data by not backing up. But it's all preventable. You just have to have some discipline."
I'll be the first to admit I don't back up enough. I save copies of my photos and occasionally some videos and documents to an external hard drive every six months or so, but because I haven't had any backup disasters, it's not at the forefront of my mind as often as it should be, and yeah, I get lazy.
I shouldn't play Russian roulette with my data, though, and if something bad were to happen, I know I'd never hear the end of it from Dong (I can just hear the "I told you so's" now), so I'm determined to save myself the lecture and update more frequently from now on.
What about you guys? Have any horror stories of your own to share? Let us know in the comments section below.