Hard driveI received some paperwork from my stockbroker so I decided to take a moment to update my taxes-in-progress for the 2012 tax year. I keep all my 1099’s, TurboTax files, notes, donation records, and that sort of thing in a folder on my external USB drive. I sat down at my desk, opened up the drive, and… my tax folder for 2012 was empty. I checked the 2013 folder (which had several important documents that I’ll need next year) and it was empty, too. My heart sank. It would take hours and hours to replace that lost data. I wasn’t even sure if all of it could be replaced. But then I remembered: I have backups!

I opened up CrashPlan, picked my empty folders out of the list, and clicked “Restore”. About 10 seconds later I had my data back. Yay! I wanted to be sure I didn’t lose anything else, so I did a scan of my external drive and found that things were not so good. The drive was badly damaged and I had lost almost 15 GB of data. Thanks to CrashPlan and a local backup, I had all that missing data back in just a few hours. I amĀ so thankful that I had backups.

So why use something like CrashPlan instead of something like Dropbox? Here are my reasons:

  1. Dropbox is too small. I have a lot of data, and I add more almost every day. I’d have to spend $499/year to get enough space on Dropbox. I paid $149 for a 4 year subscription to CrashPlan that gives me unlimited online backup space.
  2. Dropbox isn’t secure enough. With CrashPlan, all my data is encrypted using a custom 448-bit key. With Dropbox, you have no idea who has access to your data.
  3. Dropbox is too slow. It can take hours for a few gigs to upload to Dropbox then download to my other computers. With CrashPlan, it does an almost immediate backup to my local computer (fast), and then to the internet (slow). If something bad happens, I have to wait for all my files to download from Dropbox (days, if not weeks). With CrashPlan, I can pay to have them send my data to me on a hard drive.
  4. Dropbox isn’t meant for backups. I think the most important reason is the simple fact that Dropbox wasn’t meant to be used for backups. I see lots of people using Dropbox for backups, but that just isn’t its purpose. It works great for accessing documents and music while on the go, but it sucks for backing up hundreds of gigs of data.

One or more of the above reasons applies to all the mainstream online storage solutions. Nothing beats backup software at doing backups. I like CrashPlan, but anything is better than nothing so take a few minutes and make sure you are backing up the files you care about most.

Photo courtesy of pmsyyz under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

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