Embracing the cloud

I learned a hard lesson about data loss & data recovery last August.

Two things:

  1. Backing up your data to TWO sources is not just a good idea, it is a requirement if living in the computer age.
  2. Data recovery services are ridiculously expensive!

I always knew that it was a good idea to save my photos (family pics/video, etc) and important documents on something other than my computer. I had being doing that for the past 10 years or so … Purchasing little portable hard drives and carrying them with me when I needed to save pics somewhere.

I thought I was smart … The pics were saved on my computer, and as a backup, I had them on my little portable hard drive. I tried not to leave documents on my computer in the event the computer was stolen as I traveled, so most of our families’ most precious memories were on the portable hard drive. At least, they were …

I was taking a trip through memory lane (remembering the times before my son became a teenager, when he still listened to his dad with eager, open ears) and wanted to look at some old videos. I grabbed my little portable hard drive and plugged it into my computer, opening iPhoto to view the files. But rather than the program simply opening as it usually did, iPhoto gave an error message, stating it couldn’t locate the files. My hard drive, instead of quietly whispering along accessing the data, was making a very loud clicking noise, with the little white light on the drive flashing repeatedly. I started freakin’ out!

I unplugged the drive and restarted the computer. That’s what ya do, right? Step one is ALWAYS restart your computer … That’ll work, right? Wrong. Same clicking noise.

My life started flashing before my eyes … Not only because I assumed I would be DEAD once Muna found out I lost all of the pics/videos of our family’s experiences, but because I started visualizing all of those events, worried I’d never see them again.

Our wedding pics … Gone.

Our son’s “firsts” (i.e., first day of school, first birthday, first bike ride, etc.) … GONE.

My military travels over the past 24 years … Gone.

Family reunions and vacation pics … Gone.

So, I did what anyone else would do when faced with a crisis. I turned to my friend, Mr. Google. As is the case, when looking for advice, Mr. Google didn’t disappoint.

“Put it in the freezer,” one person posted in a forum. “It makes the disk less movable, so it’s temporarily more readable.”

(Yes, I tried it. Don’t judge me. I was desperate. No, it didn’t work.)

“Download this amazing software that only costs $49.99 and will magically fix your lost-data problems,” one website advertised.

I didn’t bother trying any of these … Not because I was skeptical, but because most of those links usually are click-bait, leading you down an internet rabbit-hole that never actually gets you to the information you’re looking for after taking your money. If I have to click more than three times to find the information I need on a website, I don’t trust the website.

As usual, the trolls of the internets did not make things easy.

I’d heard of data recovery services before, but only in the business sense. I’d never used one before and had no idea how much they costs, or even HOW individual users were charged.

More Google searching revealed inconsistent pricing when it comes to personal data recovery. Some charge by the hour. This means they randomly tell you how long they felt like working on your data, then charge you HUNDREDS of dollars per hour, with a minimum of a certain number of hours, of course. Many companies followed this up with NO GUARANTEE of results, but still expect to be paid the same rate for their time, even if they were unsuccessful. This makes sense, initially, as I do believe that people should be compensated for their time. But for me, I prefer to be hiring their time with the expectation of RESULTS at the end. To hire a company to MAYBE get results, while they still DEFINITELY charged me didn’t seem like a good idea. (Besides, how would I REALLY know how long they worked to fix the problem? They can just charge me anything!)

Other companies charged by the amount of data retrieved. So, recovering 500GB of data would cost more than recovering 250GB of data (even if they came from the same device.) I had about 500GB of photos/video lost.  At the rates I was seeing on the internet, I was beginning to wonder if I should just give up rather than pay the $2,500-$3,000 quotes I was seeing.

I finally found one that served by the size of the drive, regardless of how much data was recovered. (So, a 500GB drive has a set price regardless of how much data was actually recovered.) They were cheaper than others, by far, but, more importantly, they had a “mercy clause,” stating that they would charge a nominal fee if they weren’t able to retrieve your data. I shipped them my drive and crossed my fingers. 10 days and $800 later, they shipped me a new hard drive with all of my family’s precious memories recovered. (If you’re looking for a good company, try Data Savers in Atlanta, GA.)

Before I even began browsing through the files, I began exploring exactly HOW I was going to prevent this again. Should I purchase TWO mini hard drives and duplicate all files on both drive (and save future pics on BOTH drives every time I wanted to save them?) That sounded like a lot of work.

Should I just fill up the space on my computer, using the mini drive as a backup like before? This might work, but my laptop didn’t have nearly the amount of space required for me to save my library and future intended imagery.

The only logical choice for me seemed to be surrendering my imagery to the cloud. I’ve been hesitant about placing all of my data “in the internet,” not sure of how secure the cloud servers are. But then, I figured that the cloud servers seemed to have more reliability than my little mini portable hard drive, so I took the plunge. It costs me about $120 a year to keep the service, but it’s cheaper than paying for data recover service again!

It took a while to upload all of our data, but I like that my pics are available on any computer or device. As long as it stays secure, I think I’ll stick with this option.

Learn from my mistake … Find a reliable backup option before it’s too late!

darricklee Written by: