iOS 101: Set up and restore from iCloud backup

With the arrival of iCloud backups we are free from needing to attach your iOS device to iTunes to have it backed up. Gone are the annoying delays when you just want to sync something quick, but need to suffer through “Backing up…” first.

Today in Cloud

Austin-based Spanning already offers a backup service for the calendar, contacts and documents within Google Apps, giving their customers some peace of mind in the face of (vanishingly unlikely) catastrophic data loss at Google or (far more probable) inadvertent file deletion by the customer themselves. Today the company added a Gmail backup capability. Unlike the existing service, which is free for up to three users per domain, the Gmail backup requires a paid subscription. Many cloud customers probably assume that their cloud provider handles backup already, and often they sort of do. Interesting times lie ahead, as companies like Spanning and Backupify explain why we need them, and as less reputable actors perhaps start trying to dupe unsuspecting cloud users into paying for “backup” services that they really don’t need.

iOS 101: How to recover from an app or device failure

It happens to the best of us, and usually at the worst times: Your device freezes up or iOS decides to go on a long weekend without you. Don’t panic, though; there are a number of options to help get your iPhone/iPad/iPod up and running again.

How and Why You Should Encrypt Your iOS Backups

If you’re security conscious, or you just want your personal data to be safer, you can encrypt the backups iTunes creates of your iOS devices. You may just be hearing about this following Apple’s location troubles last week, so here’s how to do it.

Getting Your Stuff Off of Your iPhone

There will come a time when you realize that you want to get something off of your iPhone, and yet you don’t have access to the Mac your normally sync with, or your Mac’s HD has failed. Don’t worry, you can still reach your iPhone’s data.

The Backup Barrier: Obstacles to Online Storage Strategies

The combination of having both local and offsite storage is something large enterprises routinely base their backup and disaster recovery strategy on, but cost and complexity have made it difficult for smaller companies and individuals at the consumer level to follow suit. But this week, Hitachi GST announced a new range of external hard drives that also ship bundled with 3GB of cloud-based storage, and such a device demonstrates that the storage industry is beginning to respond to the gap in current provision.
Cloud-based solutions like Mozy and Dropbox have been available for a number of years, and while these certainly meet the requirement to store backups offsite, they tend to become expensive as data volumes grow, particularly in the enterprise setting. Amazon’s Cloud Drive and Apple’s new North Carolina data center play in the same area, although marketing around these products tend to focus upon the storage of larger media files.
Moreover, both traditional cloud backup solutions like Mozy and hybrid products such as Hitachi’s remain constrained by the limitations of consumer broadband. Ad hoc uploading of individual files as they are created or altered is perfectly feasible, but typical upload speeds make it unrealistic to expect most customers to complete their initial backup of applications, images and other large files. Without that ability to simply upload everything at the outset, online backup strategies remain reliant upon a process of manual selection, and typically therefore too time consuming to contemplate. For both large enterprises supporting home-based remote workers and smaller organizations that might rely consumer-grade internet connections, the upload speeds of many consumer broadband packages remain a major hurdle to overcome in delivering effective backup solutions.
In the Enterprise
As we often discuss here at GigaOM Pro, consumerization of the enterprise is a hot topic right now, with (mostly) younger employees bring modes of working learned on Facebook, Twitter and other consumer-grade services and devices to their professional interactions. Slowly, enterprise IT systems and procedures are adjusting to cope. And while the this consumerization ultimately benefits everyone, the space is far from perfect, particularly when it comes to safely backing up files.
In most circumstances, data stored on a server will be backed up somewhere else, either on another machine in the data center, to tape, or offsite via a service like Iron Mountain or Nirvanix. An effective backup and disaster recovery plan for the data center will typically involve some combination of all three.
Data stored on company desktops and — especially — laptops is a very different matter, as machines move around, and are often switched off or offsite when backups are scheduled. One provider of solutions for laptop backup, Druva, claims that currently “over 38 percent of corporate data resides on laptops that are never backed up.” In a press release this week to mark the launch of its new cloud-based backup solution for enterprise laptops, Druva cites another statistic: According to the company, “73 percent of laptop users across industries [complain] that ‘intrusive backups’ create a major obstacle to personal productivity.”
In the Consumer Space
Unfortunately those “intrusive backups” remain the primary solution available to people — especially when it comes backing up files in the home. Typically, they require manual intervention by the computer user, and performance of other applications may often be impeded as the machine devotes its attention to scanning and copying files for the backup. My wholly unscientific observation of behavior suggests that, for the minority who do any kind of backup at all, irregular copying of key files to a CD or DVD remains by far the most popular backup strategy.
For those persuaded to invest money rather than time, automated local solutions such as Drobo or Apple’s Time Machine go a long way toward making the consumer backup process relatively painless, but the need to site computer and backup device near one another causes further problems; theft, fire, flood and other unfortunate events are likely to have an equally detrimental effect on both, lessening the value of having made a backup in the first place.
There’s a clear business opportunity for someone to crack the problem of that initial backup, but until that happens — or broadband upload speeds improve — effective backup will remain the preserve of the enthusiastic and the paranoid.

Backup Strategies For the Paranoid

When was the last time you backed up all of that precious data you carry around on your laptop or have stored away on the desktop? What if your house or office burned down — would your backups go up in flames, too?

Upgrade Strategy: Get Ready for Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard’s release is just around the corner, so here are some quick and easy steps to make sure that you are ready to upgrade.

Turn On Time Machine

If you haven’t already, now is a great time to turn on the Time Machine built in backup. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great first line of defense against data loss.

Make a Bootable External Drive

Use Carbon Copy Cloner or Super Duper to clone your Mac’s hard drive to an external USB drive as an emergency backup, in case both the upgrade and the Time Machine backup both go south. The real point of both this step and the Time Machine step are to backup, backup, backup! Get your data off of your computer and onto something else that can be saved in case of the worst. Read More about Upgrade Strategy: Get Ready for Snow Leopard

My Multilayered Backup Strategy


I’ve spent most of my career working in IT Operations, a good part of which I’ve spent thinking, “Really, what’s the worst that could happen?” A year or so ago, I asked myself, “What’s the worst that could happen if my MacBook died?” It was a pretty sobering question.

I work full time. I also freelance, go to school, and write fiction part time. The best case would be the failure was during a rare moment of idleness, and I could suffer the loss of a computer without breaking a sweat. But what’s the fun in that? Data disasters don’t strike in moments like this; instead, like a formulaic movie plot, they happen when you’re not only on deadline, but one you’re really late on. Planning for a system failure I pray never happens has led to what’s admittedly an overly cautious backup strategy. Most people think they’re being very cautious if they’ve got a secondary backup method; I’ve got a tertiary backup. Read More about My Multilayered Backup Strategy

Do Consumers Care Where Their Content Is Stored?

Reading Om’s piece on Pogoplug this week, I started to think about how local network storage and cloud storage are becoming indistinguishable to the end user. While it’s not technically cloud storage, Pogoplug allows you to placeshift by accessing your locally stored content through the cloud, making anywhere access to content much simpler.