Barney's Rubble

A Cloud Doofus: Backup Lessons From Life

Don't you hate people who don't practice what they preach? Well then, steer your anger toward me, for I am a hypocrite. I not only preach about the cloud, I wrote a huge feature about data and file synchronization over the Internet ("Secrets of the Data Sync Masters," May 2010). I looked at the best tools and advocated that we all have an active replica of our files -- not just for backup, but for access from any device, anywhere. It was a pretty good idea and pretty good advice.

So what did this nincompoop do? I ignored my own advice. I started writing a cover story about Internet Explorer 9 at my home office, and was doing a final edit while watching my son's Taekwondo class a few miles down the road. I fired up my Dell Latitude E6500 and was hit with security alerts and what looked like a virus scan that launched and ran on its own.

When I realized it wasn't my virus scanner I knew I was in trouble. Task Manager couldn't shut it down -- in fact, I've never seen so many unrecognizable tasks running at one time. Microsoft Security Essentials was hosed as well. I was ready to give that laptop a flying hook kick.

The machine was fried and had to go back to IT. I reconstructed the almost-complete article more or less from scratch on my daughter's old college HP laptop (with a missing "I" key).

I have only myself to blame. As someone who often works from a home office, my IT department wisely bought me a Maxtor external drive. The 500GB unit has plenty of space -- but the backup is hopelessly out of date, because I use Carbonite to back up files. The problem is this latitude E6500 is a relative new machine, and I was too lazy to reactivate Carbonite when I switched out my old Dell. Mistake No. 2.

My third mistake isn't entirely my fault. Whenever I crank out a certain number of words, I print them out in case of a total disaster. And of course my old workhorse HP LaserJet 7000 was on the fritz. So I had no hardcopy backup.

I guess admitting my flaws—even something as simple as not activating a cloud backup system, which takes about two minutes—is a lesson for many of us. Cloud storage and backup are great, but they don't run themselves. They need to be set up correctly and monitored. And end users, like myself, have to take responsibility for their own data.

What's the dumbest IT mistake, as an end user or manager, that you're willing to admit to? Come clean at

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.


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