Twenty years ago, I was working in an office where the only form of backup was a tape drive that we ran every month or so to copy the entire contents of the computer onto a small tape that I would take take home with me. Nobody else every did the backups – if I wasn’t there, it just flat-out didn’t happen.
Fifteen years ago I was working in an office where we backed up a number of server shares to a number of ZIP disks (remember ZIP disks?) – that again, went home with me every night. Again – if I wasn’t there, the backups didn’t happen.
A little while after that I moved to the company I work at now, and the corporate backups were taken out of my hands – looked after by a tape drive running to a schedule in the server room, and a tick sheet to say the tapes had been changed.
Throughout this entire story, I had never bothered with backups at home – but then suddenly in the early 2000s I found myself living with somebody for the first time, and perhaps most important had a digital camera. Week in, week out, we were recording photos that we didn’t want to lose – so we began making copies on ZIP disk, and uploading the more presentable shots to Flickr (these were the days before MySpace, Facebook, or whatever else took off).
Then broadband appeared.
Shortly after broadband appeared, online backups appeared. I tried out several different backup solutions – among them Carbonite and CrashPlan – but never really stuck with any of them (which I know is awful, given what I do for a living).
Somewhat fortuitously, technology solved our backup problems for us – Google Photos now looks after every photograph we have ever taken, and every video we have ever recorded.Â Google Docs looks after every document we save (although teaching my other half to save things in the Google Drive folder has been something of an adventure). Of course, Google being Google, we can now search for photos that we never recorded any information about – have you ever tried searching your photos stored at Google for words such as “dog”, “cat”, or “sky” ? Try it.
Privacy conspiracy theorists will no doubt roll their eyes and proclaim that we have sold our souls to Google – and that we don’t actually have a backup, because we have no on-site duplicate. Here’s the thing – we don’t really care, because we haven’t saved anything that important. Google doesn’t have bank statements, or birth certificates, or anything like that – they do have an awful lot of idiotic photos taken for memes on the internet though.
Google Docs isn’t so much about being a backup for us – it’s more about being a conventient way of getting at any of the photos or documents at any time, from any device. I can take a photo on my phone while writing this, and pull it up on a computer screen on the other side of the world a few moments later.
Who would have guessed all those years ago – when saving a copy involved buying floppy disks and sitting while the computer churned through 1.4Mb every couple of minutes – that our computers would now transfer several times that much data every second – or that our mobile phones would be able to suck photos and movies out of thin air ?