I wanted to follow up a previous post with some additional comments. This past week, a popular social bookmarking service called Ma.gnolia went down and lost all of their users’ data. Their users were understandably angry and frustrated. Citizen Garden did an interview with the guy who created Ma.gnolia and he brings up a question that I alluded to – we have a lot of content – a lot of data – stored all over the place online – what’s our backup strategy?
It’s easy to back up the data on your computer at home – put in a blank DVD, get the files over, put said DVD in a safe. Or you can back up your data online. (You might not back anything up at all, even though you know you should). Performing backups on your home computer is very straight-forward. All the data is in one spot – your hard drive – and if you’re organized, it’s probably pretty easy to remember where everything is.
We don’t think the same way about our data that’s stored online, and it’s not so easy to have a nice automatic backup strategy, primarily because it’s scattered all over the place. Granted, data loss in the realm of cloud-based services is pretty rare since most of these services are in professionally hosted environments that have backups of their own – or at least we assume they do. But how can we be sure? Most companies don’t provide a lot of information about their infrastructure and IT policies.
There is a lot of content out there that I wouldn’t be able to recover if one of the services I use lost it. Fortunately, I don’t have anything in the cloud that is imperative to my survival – any loss of this data would simply be an inconvenience for me – but as we start to rely more on cloud-based services, it’s going to become increasingly important to have a recovery plan.
The main problem here is that it’s just not that easy to regularly back up all of your online data. Sure, you can export your Delicious bookmarks and save local copies of your Google Docs to your hard drive. In fact, most sites that I’ve seen have an export or backup feature. You could even schedule yourself to perform these backups regularly… But I don’t even want to think about how time-consuming it would be to manually back up your content from every cloud service you use.
What is needed is a service (probably a cloud-based service) that will go out and back up all of your data for you. You would provide your usernames and passwords to all of the services you use, and the service would connect in at regular intervals to retrieve all of your data in whatever format the site uses to export. Perhaps it would then generate a zip file or tarball with all of your data. It would probably need to deliver your data in the formats the individual sites output, so it could be recovered easily if needed. I’d most likely pay for that convenience.
We’ve always thought of backing up our data as being extremely important, but we’ve become lax in the Web 2.0 world, simply assuming that our data will always remain safe. It’s becoming increasingly clear that this is not the case, and we need to fix it – sooner, rather than later.