Less than 5% of Windows users backup the contents of their personal computers. As crucial as it is, why do people don’t do it? Is it that we are lazy? Traditional backup systems and tools are anything but user-friendly, that’s why.
These tools use complex terms such as filetype, shadow-copy, incremental, differential, synchronizing, mirroring, augmentation or backup set, and they often have 100-pages-long manuals.
But, above all, they raise relevant issues for the user to decide, like the following:
Time scheduling. Traditional backup tools force users to back up at certain user pre-scheduled times. Once a day, once a week or every two hours, for instance. This fact has unpleasant consequences:
- The user is responsible for deciding the right frequency and scheduling.
- The computer has to remain turned on and not be used when the backup is taking place.
- Users close applications once they finish work and the last thing they want to do at that moment is backing up.
Selection of files and folders. Users have to choose what they consider important, and only that selection will be protected. But a typical disk contains an average of over 200,000, so selecting what is important is a tough challenge.
Also, there are many files that are located in folders that a typical user wouldn’t even know they exist, and do not want to spend time finding out. There are even files that applications intentionally hide. Who knows where bitcoin wallets are, or passwords, bookmarks and digital certificates?
But not only that, after having selected what to backup, the user is supposed to be disciplined to save things only in the protected folders, as well as remember of adding to the backup list any new folders.
Some say that certain information may be available for recovery from alternative sources, like music, movies or applications, so these could be excluded from backup. But just think how much time, energy and money would it take to get them back from their different sources.
Automatic file selection. To overcome this issue, some tools offer a wizard, which at first may look very convenient. But, does this one-size-fits-all mean that they know what is important for every user? Or even worse, what will be important for the user in the future? How often does the wizard reevaluate and choose what has become important? It is obvious that this oversimplification pretends that the selection can be easy for the user, but the price to pay is to reduce the chances of future recovery.
Open files. Applications usually block the files while are in use. It is difficult for backup tools to protect files that are open and blocked. And so, they either ask the user to stop work, or use slow and complex walkarounds like “shadow-copy”. In some cases, they just overlook them, like the well known synchronizing tools of Dropbox or Google Drive.
Large files. Almost every traditional backup tool warns users about including large files, because managing them takes a great deal of time and space. But they also limit the size of files in absolute terms. These limits are usually high, but they set the user responsible for not exceeding them.
Frequently changed files. Databases and office automation files keep writing information on the disk all the time. Traditional backup tools do not know how to manage these frequently modified files. They usually recommend to backup them only after the user has closed the application. For this reason, only the work done up to the latest backup point would get protected.
Nowadays, a reasonable backup tool should be as easy to use as any other application, intuitive enough so that any of our kids are be able to configure and use it, avoiding any technicalities, weird decisions and time schedules.
Let us all be lazy, and have the computers do the work of protecting our valued information. Peace of mind, but not at any price.