There was a thread on Hacker News about Google closing down Google Groups and people losing their data. This is adapted from a reply I made to a comment:
I think the problem is that people haven't adjusted to the new ways of keeping data. They assume their free Yahoo account is theirs, the way their closet is theirs. You know, if you leave a box of pictures in your closet, it'll stay in your closet barring a catastrophe.
Online services are available to serve a certain set of goals and objectives. If those objectives change, your stuff might get thrown out. It's more like asking a hotel to let you keep a box of stuff behind the desk for a while than it is like your own closet. They might keep it for a really long time, but if the hotel changes management or remodels, your stuff could get tossed. Especially if you're not regularly staying at the hotel.
It's not even "you get what you pay for," because paid services shut down too. In this era of cheap storage, there's no excuse to not make multiple backups of key data. Ideally at least one physical copy of important things. Actually print the emails out, put them in a binder, and put it in your closet. Keep one copy at Yahoo, one at another online backup service, one on your PC, and one on an external harddrive. That sounds like a lot, but it's not. Once you get a sensible backup policy and figure out what's important, it doesn't take very long to do backups.
It's a sad story you shared, but not unforgivable. Someone's keeping a box of your stuff behind the desk at a hotel. You can't count on that box to stay there. Now, the problem is people haven't realized that yet. But slowly, it'll become widely known and understood culturally. If it's important enough, keep multiple online and offline backups. Don't count on anyone to hold on to your stuff for you, because if management changes or the place gets remodeled, it might not be there any longer.
Something I was talking about recently... think about how much invaluable information is in your gmail account! I think it's safe for the moment, but I seriously want to investigate a backup strategy for gmail, it's the repository of so much of my personal history.
I agree, it's not a bad thing. Just make sure you set your expectations of what you're receiving and understand free and paid services shut down. With hard drives so cheap it doesn't make sense not to own one and back stuff up.
Wow, this is an interesting perspective. I used to think of online storage as a more reliable closet since the services usually do routine backups. I suppose its better to view them as yet another storage device: it has just as much a chance of losing your data some day. So the rule of thumb follows, put your data on more than one device!
Regardless, I still feel a sufficient public warning with options to retrieve your data would be the right thing to do, especially with a paid service. Perhaps not, but paid services feel more like self-storage facilities. When those shut down, you do indeed get your stuff back.
My old Toshiba Satellite just died. Had that computer for 3-4 years and it's been around the world with me through Europe, the Middle East, Asia, North America, and the Caribbean. Something like 20-30 countries. I had a lot of nice memories with that computer, and it survived an absolute beating before finally kicking the bucket. The casing is cracked in all sorts of places, the screen has been battered and is spotty in a couple places, the CD drive doesn't quite work correctly, the battery only has a few minutes of charge, and I had to replace the power cord for it twice. But it kept going, and I did some great work on that computer.
But, today it is no more. It wouldn't boot up. I had a Windows installation disk with me, and it won't install either. I spent a few hours trying to do some sort of repair, but it ain't happening. So long, Satellite. Thanks for the memories.
But enough with the nostalgia. On a prgmatic note, when's the last time you backed up your computer? I back up my computer once every week or two, but only now am I realizing a few things I lost. There's a couple living documents I had that I haven't backed up in two months, so I lost the last few brainstorms I had. Also, I had just transfered a bunch of pictures and then cleared the space off my iPhone, so those pictures are lost to the ether forever. Nothing too amazing, but I did lose a few decent pictures of Vietnam.
All sorts of media and then my general settings - that's a big one I didn't think about. In January before I left the States, I did a full backup of my computer and then I wrote down all the programs and settings and extensions I had on my computer. Then I installed a clean version of Windows and went and re-installed/re-configured everything. My configurations have evolved since then, and I don't have them down. I'll put it back together quickly enough when I get a new computer, but it would've saved me time if I'd made a document of that.
So yeah - friendly reminder from Sebastian: Back up your computer. When's the last time you did it? Is there a mix of online and offline backups? That is, would you still have your most key stuff if, heaven forbid, your apartment caught on fire? You can email the most critical documents and pictures to yourself which is the bare minimum lazy man's backup you should do. External hard drives are cheap, go grab one and put all your media on there if that's important to you and you're settled into one location. Also consider scanning and uploading non-digital files that are really important to you - letters and pictures especially. It'd be a shame to lose those.
I got an email from a reader this week asking if I'd post about how my computer is set up for productivity. As I was going through my answer in my head, I realized that I'm also very geared towards security, which is frequently overlooked. So, behold: a post about how my computer is set up.
Almost all computers today are fast enough for the average load of tasks that a user will dump on it. Most laptops are light enough to be lugged around comfortably. Storage capacity is abundant across the board.