Monday, 5 May 2014

Something in the air ?

Like very many people in this industry, I have loads of stuff that I can’t afford to lose.

So the only option is to back it up, both frequently and in full.

What’s the best way to do that?  Well, you’ll all have your own strategies.

For example, one of my clients was telling me that she backs up all her computer-based records on to a hard drive at the end of every day, then one of the people in her office takes the drive home and looks after it overnight.  That way, by alternating between two or more hard drives, she is pretty sure of never being more than a day or two behind, if disaster strikes.

I do something similar, but instead using an NAS (network attached storage) hard drive (i.e. a 4Tb drive that is accessed through my office network) and backing up to that automatically every night at 1am.  The NAS drive is in a “secret” place, that no-one (I hope) will ever find.

But that’s not good enough.  So I’ve also been a user of cloud storage for a couple of years now, starting with Google’s service.  But ultimately, I opted for Microsoft’s ‘Onedrive’ service (the product formally known as ‘Skydrive’, but which was apparently the subject of an infringement action in the UK by Sky TV, so the name had to change).   I pay $USD100 per year for 200Gb of cloud storage capacity, which is a pretty fair charge, particularly when compared with Google’s fees for a similar, but lower capacity, cloud storage service.

Now, you’d think that Microsoft would have this pretty well-sorted. 

Unfortunately not.

For example:
  • Some Onedrive users (particularly Windows 8.1 users) have had massive problems in just trying to access a local copy of a file they have put onto the cloud service via syncing from another PC.
  • It seems also that a move to Windows 8.1 can mean that the service completely stops.  One of the solutions to this suggested by the Microsoft help desk was to back up your entire Onedrive directory, then delete it, then re-make it and start again, whilst at the same time saying the Microsoft took ‘no responsibility’ for any loss of data.  [Really?  I thought the whole purpose of cloud storage was so that you wouldn’t lose data.]
  • In my case, I have around 130Gb of data in my Onedrive storage, and re-syncing that to the cloud facility literally takes days.
  • Whilst you can upload files with path lengths greater than 255 characters, once you do it, when syncing, the service simply stops at the point where it encounters the ‘excessive’ path length, and the only fix is to log onto the service on-line, locate the offending file and path, shorten it, then re-start the syncing.  But if there is another path with the same problem, the procedure starts all over again.  Some users have reported having literally hundreds of long-path-name files which they have had to rectify one by one.
  • When you are not on a wireless connection, but instead on 3/4G, it seems that Onedrive becomes extremely reluctant to be helpful, on the grounds that it might use too much of your bandwidth.

·         Lastly, if you want further indication of difficulties encountered by Onedrive users, just search “skydrive-onedrive-error-files-cant-be-uploaded”, or similar.

Having said all that (sorry for the rant), when Onedrive is working, it works really very well, and pretty much seamlessly.

But also bear in mind that Microsoft has some pretty severe conditions for using their service …

I haven’t anywhere near the same experience with other cloud storage facilities, so can’t comment on those.

Regardless, and in summary, I think the moral is never to rely on just one form of back-up.  If I had to re-create even just this article, it would mean at least another hour out of my day.  Imagine if I had to re-create all of yesterday’s work?

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