Bad advice

Smart Money has one of those inevitable lists up for the new year. In this case, it’s “10 Things Not to Buy in 2010.” Mostly ho-hum, reasonable. Except for this entry:

External hard drives

Consumers who keep their computers for years and upload thousands of songs, videos, movies and photos will need to get more space at some point.

External hard drives are one option, but an up-and-coming alternative might be simpler and save you another transition down the road. Online backup services, like Carbonite.com or Mozy.com, allow users to back up data over the Internet.

Notice that “simpler” and “save you another transition down the road.” Well-intentioned; one of those paving stones on the road to Digital Hell.

What, I’m not a convert to the Church of the Holy Cloud? Do I live in a cave in Waziristan? I’m always connected when using my computer, aren’t I? Aren’t we all? So, what could be wrong with not having to buy an external hard drive?

Three words, two things: power outage; cost. Just the other night, we experienced a (thankfully) brief power outage. Good thing I didn’t need my online services then. The first point is that power outages happen all the time, and most of us don’t maintain backup power systems in our apartments or houses.

The second point is that for data security, storing data external to your PC is vital. You either buy the hardware yourself (e.g. an external hard drive), or rent someone else’s hardware, through online storage such as the two mentioned by SmartMoney:

These services are more expensive than purchasing an external hard drive, which typically starts at around $70. At Carbonite.com, a one-year subscription starts at $54.95, and at Mozy.com monthly subscription costs total $54.45 for a year.

Yes, they are rather more expensive. Year after year, you’d be in essence paying the cost of your external hard drive. Over and over and over again.

As for SmartMoney’s reasons to use online storage? No, it’s not simpler than directly saving your downloads to the external hard drive, or copying them from your computer’s hard drive. That’s actually much simpler and quicker than having to upload them and do external file management on Mozy or other service. If you doubt this, try using a free online storage service (e.g. Live) and compare the time and effort to just copying the same files to an external drive.

Down the road, what happens when my USB external hard drive is not compatible with my new computer? Well, in 10 or so years I might have a problem; anyone seen a floppy disk drive lately? Oh, right. It’s a safe bet that there will, in your lifetime, be a robust secondary market in supposedly obsolete devices and the ability to connect them to your computer.

My advice, from long experience with computers and peripherals? Keep it simple; keep it under your immediate control; avoid paying for something more than once.

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One thought on “Bad advice

  1. Thanks for the article. Online services are great if your place catches on fire or someone comes in and steals your hardware.

    MozyHome works pretty well for me – on both Mac and Windows. If you ever need it, their 2nd level support is good.

    Use the following link to get 20% more space (512 Mb) on a free MozyHome 2 Gb account:

    https://mozy.com/?code=D685JF

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