Over the past several months I have been traveling all over the country visiting Best Buy stores, one of our major retail partners, and in the process I have found something terribly, deeply shocking. No, not with Best Buy customer service, or their prices, or some kind of amazing ground-breaking scandal that will bring the blue and gold retailer to its knees. Best Buy is fine. The state of consumer backup, however, is not.
I work at a cloud backup company, so I am in “the bubble”. Nearly everyone I talk to is somehow involved in technology. Talking to people who don’t work in the tech industry is always a fantastic opportunity for me to do some market research, if you will, without the biases and pre-conceptions that come with working at a tech company in Silicon Valley. It’s a chance to connect, face-to-face, with the people we build our products for: the all-important customer.
What I found was shocking. People–lots of them–are using consumer-grade hard drives to back up their files, not because they don’t know about the cloud and off-site backup, but because they truly believe that a hard drive backup is better! There is so much mis-information out there about “the cloud” that I can’t say I blame them for wanting a backup that they can touch and see. It feels secure, holding your hard drive in your hand, until you realize that if you use hard drives as your sole back up method, you WILL lose your files. It is not a question of “if” it is a question of “when?”
So without further ado, here are the most common myths and misconceptions about backing up I heard on my travels.
“I don’t need the cloud, I use a hard drive to back up”
This is the most common one I heard, and also the easiest to address. Hard drives do not last. They will fail eventually, and probably a lot sooner than you think. In our datacenters, for example, annual failure rates for hard drives range from 2% to up to 40% per year (don’t worry our system is designed for drives to fail, more on this in a minute). And those are enterprise-grade drives–designed to be the most robust, longest lasting drives available.
A consumer-grade drive cannot be expected to last much longer than a couple of years and if it’s sitting in your house instead of nestled safely in a datacenter, it can get dropped, lost, stolen, spilled on etc. So if you trust your backups to a hard drive alone you will eventually lose your precious photos, important files and everything else that you store on your computer.
“What the heck is this ‘cloud’ that I am backing up to anyway?”
“The cloud” is just a fancy name for a bunch of internet-connected hard drives and servers sitting in a datacenter. Backing up to “the cloud” is fundamentally the same as backing up to a hard drive in your house. The only difference is that instead of backing up to one hard drive that sits in a shoebox in your closet, you’re backing up to 10 or 100 hard drives all at once, and those hard drives are protected by lock and key in a secure, secret location. It’s the difference between keeping your money under the mattress versus storing it in a bank.
“I use Time Capsule to protect my Mac”
Time Capsule is great; it’s easy to use and simple to set up. And there are no subscription fees! Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is. When you buy a Time Capsule from Apple all you are buying is a consumer hard drive in a fancy suit, with the all the same problems that come with trusting consumer-grade external drives with your backups.
“The cloud is not secure, I don’t want my files to be hacked/accessible on the internet”
After the iCloud “hack” a couple of years ago people started getting very wary about the cloud. People already didn’t trust it, and this seemed to confirm their suspicions. Let me just clarify one thing: iCloud was not “hacked”. There was a targeted campaign by an organization of malicious attackers to guess unsecure passwords.
So the iCloud “hack” was really an indication that people need to use more secure passwords to protect their accounts, not just their backup accounts, but all their accounts.
This is why we and many other companies have started offering two-factor authentication that sends a secure code to your phone every time you log in. This is virtually impossible to break and extremely secure, as the potential hacker would need to know your password and have access to phone at the same time.
Also, if you use a hard drive to back up your computer your files are just sitting there on the hard drive ready to be read by anyone who plugs it into their computer. Our datacenters encrypt everything, so even if by some miracle someone could break into one of our ultra-secure datacenters and steal a hard drive, they would be completely unable to get any files off of it.
“If hard drives fail so much, then isn’t your datacenter just as prone to failure as the hard drive in my house?”
Good question. The difference is our datacenters are specifically designed for hard drives to fail. We replicate data and disperse it across multiple drives, so we can lose a huge number of drives in our system without losing your data. Even if something catastrophic were to happen to one of our datacenters, we have more than one!
“You’re going to steal/sell/look at my data”
I hear this one all the time. The simple answer is that this is just not true. We don’t monetize your data in any way shape or form. We don’t sell it, we don’t look at it, we don’t mess with it in any way.
The stuff you upload to our servers just sits there, and it’s yours and yours alone. Period. The same way a bank can’t steal your money if you leave it there, we can’t steal your data if you upload it to our servers.
Keep in mind that not all services were created equal in this respect. Google, for example, does reserve the right to use your data for just about anything they please. Seriously. Go read their terms of service if you don’t believe me. Pogoplug is different. We are in the business of protecting your data, not selling it.
“I don’t need a mobile backup solution, I transfer my photos to my computer to protect them”
A lot of backup companies these days focus solely on backing up your computer but ignore the fact that for the average user the vast majority of photos are now taken on phones.
We recognize this and we think that the typical flow of “take photos on my phone, plug my phone into my computer, transfer my photos to my computer and backup my computer to an external hard drive” is A) a huge pain and B) not a very secure way to protect your photos because your computer and/or external hard drive could fail at any time.
That’s why our mobile applications upload all your photos silently to our servers in the background. You don’t have to do anything–just install the app, set it up one time and forget it. All your photos are automatically protected and organized without you having to lift a finger.
“I already use iCloud/Google Drive to back up my phone”
That’s great, we encourage users to use these services. But they are not sufficient on their own for several reasons. For one, in the case of iCloud specifically, it is not a true back up of your data. If you delete a photo from your phone, you also delete it from iCloud. Pogoplug allows you to delete photos and videos and reclaim that valuable space on your phone without losing your photos and videos.
For another, these services limit the amount of files you can store. iCloud costs $20 per month for 1 Terabyte (1,000 Gigabytes) of space. Yes, that is a lot storage, but it also costs 4x more than what Pogoplug charges, and we offer unlimited storage, not just 1 Terabyte. As the volume of photos and videos people generate continues to increase, an unlimited solution is the only way to ensure you never run out of space and never lose a file or photo.
Lastly, these other services do not back up your computer. Pogoplug gives you one safe place for all your stuff whether it’s on your tablet, computer or phone. We also allow you to mix and match operating systems. Got an Android phone and an iPad? You’re out of luck unless you have a cross-platform service like Pogoplug.
“What’s the solution then?”
So at this point you are probably wondering, what IS the best way to back up my stuff? Well, I’ll tell you. The best mix of convenience, features and price is to use cloud backup in conjunction with hard drive back up. While we can replace traditional hard drive backup completely and many of our users rely on us as their sole backup destination, hard drives do maintain one key advantage over the cloud: speed.
No offsite storage will be as fast as having the files stored locally. Having a local backup on a hard drive or Apple Time Capsule is a great way to quickly recover files that you have lost. But (and it is a BIG but) the hard drive you back up to will eventually fail, so you need the cloud to ensure that your data is always protected.
Backing up to the cloud also gives you the additional advantage of easily organizing your photos, files and videos and making them available from anywhere. A hard drive backup just sits in your closet, gathering dust until it inevitably dies, taking your precious files with it.