Increasingly, I encounter users and colleagues uncertain whether they must still leverage local Time Machine backups or offsite backup subscriptions like Carbonite and Mozy. If their documents, spreadsheets, presentations, music, and photos are in the cloud, they reason, and their organization uses a cloud-based version of its proprietary mainline business application, why are backups still required? The answer is easy: backups are still worth their weight in gold. Here's why.
Cloud systems fail
Apple iCloud, Microsoft Office 365, and Google Docs all perform admirably. Those cloud services' deliver secure and reliable operation, but they're not foolproof. Occasionally, errors and outages occur. Corruption is always another worry. Should something happen to your account and only some files or information become corrupted, it's sometimes very difficult to determine which data requires recovery or repair and which doesn't. With an independent copy, recovery is simplified.
Cloud systems don't back up everything
Backups, both local using Time Machine and via offsite subscription, provide a critical safety net. I recommend all residential and business users maintain an independent copy of all their information. Even Mac users storing documents, spreadsheets, presentations, photos, video, and email in the cloud will encounter trouble restoring a workstation if cloud-based file storage is their only option. Applications, license keys, third-party application data incompatible with the chosen cloud-solution or neglected for cloud-backup will prove lost should a laptop or desktop hard disk fail. Neither will Office 365, Google Docs, or some other cloud-based solutions back up a workstation's configuration, user accounts, and settings. Restoring all those elements can introduce delays exceeding several days, which is a frustration that Time Machine, for example, eliminates.
Users aren't perfect. Often times, multiple users store hundreds if not thousands of files within a cloud-based solution. File deletion or file overwrite errors made by a user might not be discovered for 40 days or longer, a period that exceeds some cloud-storage providers' ability to recover archived versions of the impacted file. Local backups, especially in offices that maintain multiple copies, can help an organization recover from a crisis in which one users' errant edits or deletions were overlooked for a prolonged period of time.
Always possess multiple copies of critical information
Computers are stolen. Hard disks fail. Users make mistakes. Disgruntled users sometimes purposefully introduce hard-to-detect errors. Cloud providers also experience outages. Corruption occurs. Mac businesses intent on rapidly recovering from such issues should ensure that they always possess copies of their data, including laptop and desktop configurations, and maintain physical copies of that information. While cloud-based providers make it much easier to share files and back up files and information to the cloud, the time hasn't yet arrived in which an entire system's configuration, settings, applications, licensing, proprietary data, and videos can all be entrusted to all cloud providers.
What backup policy or procedures does your organization have in place? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.