in Editorial

Remote backup – the health insurers of the tech industry

Backup your files. You’ve been hearing it for years and you’ve finally taken notice. Either the nagging from friends or colleagues got too much, or you suffered what happened to most serious backer uppers: a catastrophic loss of data.

For this writer it was a fried hard drive taking with it irreplaceable family photos. That and the beginning of a project that has ended up spanning several years. Losing that forever would be unthinkable. So my data is backed up, as is that of many others who learned this lesson the hard way. I do it locally on the same machine, externally on a backup drive and remotely, using one of the many available remote backup companies that have sprung up over the past decade or so.

The company I use is relatively fairly priced and they offer a decent amount of backup space. I’m satisfied for now, but every time the renewal comes around I wonder to myself: “should I change provider?” I do with almost every other aspect of my life. Insurance of various types, credit cards, bank account deals, hardware purchases – who ever is offering the best package, at the best price, at the right time gets my custom.

I know an honest salesman when I see one

The Problem

However, with remote backup there’s a problem with this mantra. None of them – as far as I know, and if any do, please tell me – allow you to backup your data between companies. What I mean is, if I have X Gigabytes of data backed up with one firm but wish to change to a second, I cannot transfer that already backed up data.

See that girl? That's your data.

Now this might not be the biggest of problems for those in high speed upload areas, but it’s still relevant. If you back up even ‘just’ 30GB of data to one company and want to move come renewal time, you know that you are going to spend a few days, a few weeks or in my case – I live in a remote area with an awful upload rate – several months, re-uploading everything that you’ve already backed up. This leaves you with a period of time where your data is not safe. On top of this, what if you have more? 50GB, 100GB, 200GB, the problem only worstens.

In this way remote backup firms are quite like health insurance companies. Once you’ve got yourself in bed with one, you better stick with them or there will be a period where you’re not protected – in the case of moratorium policies anyhow. Of course if you go with a standard health policy where no pre-existing conditions of covered, this would be the equivalent of never being able to back up the same data again. Remote back up firms arn’t that bad, but I feel there is a problem here.