Monday, November 17, 2008

Just Back It Up. Really.

Hey kids - I'm baaaaaack. I've been working on a project (still in "stealth" mode for a couple of weeks) all of my waking (and non-waking) hours - so I've been remiss in my blogging duties. But now, I'm back.

Now that I'm finally plugged back into the "real" world - and have caught up on some of the headlines I've missed while I was away - one of them really stuck out to me. There is (was) a site for professional photographers called Digital Railroad that just literally folded up shop with 24 hours notice to its subscribers.

Yep, 24 hours!

The page that's up there now states that they are in talks with another company who is interested in buying their assets (including the servers where all the user's goodies are stored) - so maybe, hopefully, probably sometime in the "near future" you MIGHT be able to get access to all the stuff you've uploaded.

The first message they put up was on October 15 stating the company had "reported a staff reduction and an aggressive attempt to secure additional financing and/or a strategic partner, but was unable to stay afloat." Then they just came out with the "The archive may only be accessible for the next 24 hours" line.

Needless to say - the people who subscribed to the service were a little pissed. So they moved the deadline to 48 hours rather than 24 hours. Still, after October 31st - it was all "Have a nice day."

That brings up the important point: if you use online SaaS (Software as a Service) applications (and who doesn't) - it's a good idea to have a local backup of your data. Just in case.

Hard drives are cheap - you can get 500GB for about $200-$300 with 1 terabyte (1000 GB) at less than $500. Make sure that you periodically drag all your pictures, downloaded music, important spreadsheets, etc to a local drive (not just your own hard drive) or just burn a quick CD.

It doesn't take that long - and you don't necessarily have to do it every single day. It just depends on how valuable your data is - and how "replaceable" it is. If it's pictures of Johnny's first steps - or your wedding photos - just back the damn things up. Even if you use an online photo site, etc.

So, does this mean that all SaaS applications and companies are doomed? Should we go back to the stone age of simply installing everything locally and resort to our own backup schemes, etc.? Well, of course not! Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water here - and let's not panic.

However, if your data is important to you (and I would assume it is), then just be smart about it and take some reasonable precautions to back the stuff up. Even if you hosted everything yourself on your own servers - it's a good idea to have a remote backup anyway. So, in the case of SaaS - your own local datastore is your offsite backup.

And, if you're like some people I know - who upload media to their favorite site - and then delete the originals from their hard drives - you better block out some time over the holiday weekend and start re-downloading your stuff so you can back it up.

If Google or Facebook or Fickr or Snapfish, etc. actually go under - chances are very good that they will be bought by someone else and things will continue as "normal." However - at the end of the day - it's YOUR content so take steps to protect it.

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