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Why You Should Back Up Your Data

In Helsinki last Friday morning, I had a meeting-room accident just before a talk to some folks at Nokia, the mobile-phone company. The result was a non-functioning computer requiring the replacement of the machine’s internal hard disk. This occurred just hours before I had to give a talk at a large gathering of journalists.

To put it mildly, this was distressing. But it could have been worse, much worse.

It wasn’t so bad, because I’d backed up my data, something I do as a matter of routine.

Before departing on Wednesday, I did a total backup of my hard disk to a portable disk drive that I carry with me when I travel. This wasn’t just a backup, but what’s called a clone, using a Mac product with a kind of silly name — SuperDuper — but a non-silly function. This software creates an essentially identical copy of the original disk, and with a Mac and a Firewire connection on the disk drive, you can boot from the cloned drive.

So after the repair shop installed a new disk drive in my Mac, I started the computer from the cloned drive, re-cloned that data to the new internal disk and started again from there. What was missing? Well, just a couple of tweaks I’d made to my presentation the night before. (This all was an overnight process; to give my journalism-conference presentation that day we rented a Mac and I copied my presentation from the cloned drive to that machine. By the second day of the journalism conference, when I gave another talk, I was back on my own computer.)

I was also missing the panic I’d have felt without this backup solution. You can’t buy peace of mind for such things; you have to create it ahead of time.

Three notes: First, I was able to make my Nokia presentation because I’d created a PDF of the slides — albeit minus the cool videos and audios — and showed that on one of the Nokia folks’ computers. Second, what I should have done, and will do in the future, is keep the full presentation in two extra places: a thumb drive using flash memory, and online where I could retrieve it if necessary. Third, I keep another backup drive at home. (Someday, we’ll keep all of our important data backed up, and encrypted, in the Internet “cloud” where we can get to it whenever and wherever we need it.)

Am I cautious bordering on paranoid? You bet, and I’ve never been so happy to be this way.

4 Comments on “Why You Should Back Up Your Data”

  1. #1 Jennifer
    on Apr 16th, 2007 at 10:13 am

    For online backup news, information and articles, there is an excellent website:

    This site lists more than 400 online backup companies and ranks the top 25 on a monthly basis.

    Any one can add their company in the directory. Just click on the “Search” button found at the top.


  2. #2 DFrakes
    on Apr 16th, 2007 at 6:51 pm


    Your link to SuperDuper is an odd “careerdoctor” login URL to a different site. For those looking for SuperDuper, it’s at

    P.S. Good on you for having a bootable backup 😉

  3. #3 gareth
    on Apr 16th, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    Every thing needs a backup and frankly the real time pain is lossing your address book- your very own cell for that matter. I am a fan of zyb (, they have made mobile data backup the easiest way to do. Now another step would be to back up my translation sessions 🙂 hah that would come with time

  4. #4 Dan Gillmor
    on Apr 17th, 2007 at 6:15 am

    Link fixed, Dan — thanks for the catch.