Backup master class: no attendance required

In October of last year, I ranted about Joel Hruska’s article at ExtremeTech about his “Backup Master Class” article on RAID. After reading the whole series of articles I realize Joel was expanding on his recent data loss experience. Now his articles have given me context. While I heavily criticized his article about RAID, his overall attempt at awareness to data loss is well intended. After reading everything in one sitting, I’ve come to the conclusion that his series was poorly thought out and didn’t arrive to a solid conclusion.
His first article really set the stage as he wasn’t prepared at all for his abrupt hard drive death. He lists a number of methods which prove to be completely pointless, for trying to reclaim his lost data. I really felt his pain in this article as losing data is something no one expects and can be painful both financially and emotionally. Most people won’t admit to the emotional ties to data, but I have no problem in doing so.
Joel’s second article focused on RAID technology and supposed myths and misconceptions however, I felt this entire article was extremely unclear, unfocused and useless. Joel then went on in the next article to compare online storage solutions such as Mozy, Carbonite, and Backblaze. Following this article, he looks at online lockers such as SkyDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox and ironically enough titled “Are online file lockers backup?”. At one point, Joel asks the question “Do file lockers count as online backup services?” His response – “Yes and no.” But reading further doesn’t reveal a solid “no” to his own question but rather a half-hearted explanation on the subtle difference between “cloud lockers” and “backup services”. These distinctions, while helpful to bring to light, doesn’t emphasize any real downside of file lockers counting as online backup.
His last article (which I believe should have been his third, not the final), is about NAS devices. It’s simply a technical review for three NAS solutions from three vendors (Western Digital, Synology and Seagate). Overall, its contribution to his “Backup master class” series is really minimal and doesn’t help his “master backup” theme. To harp on one particular idea, Joel writes:

“RAID arrays don’t provide backup protection — the idea that they do is one of the most common backup myths — so are they useful in this context? We think so. Redundant and backup may not be synonyms where data is concerned, but that doesn’t make redundancy pointless.”

So redundancy isn’t backup, but it’s not pointless. How insightful. It’s this contradiction and lack of follow up with no clear thesis is what irritates me. Assuming that this series is complete and after re-reading everything, Joel doesn’t sway me much from my original criticism. If his articles were aimed at those who really don’t know much about data backup in general, I’d argue that he should rewrite everything. Those who don’t know much about computer backup to begin with should not to bother reading this series as it will only confuse them. Most computer savvy users can understand Joel’s points but to those who are looking for a sense of direction and some perspective, just stay away.
My criticism of Joel articles are due to a lack of a central theme and thesis and no real guidelines for someone to consider their own backup solution. I commend Joel on his efforts in bringing data backup as a priority but I feel his efforts fell short in not painting a clear, concise picture of how to construct your own backup strategy.



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