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While watching The Big Bang Theory on Thursday nights — or anytime day or night on TBS for that matter — I wondered why the show makes me laugh. I truly enjoy the geek speak, but it’s the personalities of the characters that really drive the series’ success. Removing any one of the characters would drastically change the show, and possibly its overall success. Is there a Big Bang Theory without Sheldon? Or a Modern Family without Cam? Or even a Seinfeld without Kramer? (I shudder at the thought!)

Just as keeping the cast intact is important to a show’s success, keeping your data intact is paramount to the success of your business or your personal life. How many of us are cluelessly computing away, blissfully ignorant of the “what-if” scenario. What if my hard drive fails? What if my year-long project report is corrupted? What if the world never knew, “Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock” for crying out loud!?? 

I, too, have been a victim of this disaster. My home computer’s hard drive wouldn’t boot, no matter what I tried to do. The issue was a bad physical sector — a dead hard drive in laymen’s terms. All of the information on that drive was gone; music, pictures, tax returns, financial statements, you know the typical stuff we don’t want prying eyes to see. There are few things worse than the empty feeling you get when your data has evaporated. The personal loss was so painful that I can’t even imagine the terror of losing all of the information on a work system — presentations, reports, ideas and other intellectual property. Once your data is gone, there is no turning back unless you have a backup plan, which is crucial to both reducing risk in your business and your blood pressure. 

There are thousands of statistics, reports and solutions promoting data protection from loss, but how many of us really use them? (Flu shots anyone?) Amazingly, we are more protected from viruses, bots and Trojans than we are from physical destruction of what we hold most valuable, our data. 

Which data protection solution is the right one? The answer must balance multiple pain points and users’ technical skill levels. 

  1. The local backup — Your backup copy is located on a separate section of the same hard drive as your primary data. While this is the least expensive solution, it won’t protect against losing your laptop. Also, with a bad physical sector — aka dead hard drive — as in my case, the entire drive is unusable anyway, rendering your backup useless. Consider this as the Raj Koothrappali approach to backup, heart in the right place, but a little light on real-world implementation.
  2. The cloud backup — You subscribe to a cloud service and your computer either backs up to your account automatically, or you drag your files over to the service periodically. This will definitely protect you from computer loss and bad physical sectors, but you will have to pay to play. Once you cancel your subscription or change cloud companies, you’re again exposed. Oh, and who knows what three-letter agency is peeking into your data? Howard Wolowitz, the engineer, might use this approach — technically elegant with little regard for cost.
  3. Network-attached storage (NAS) backup — This is where your computer backs up to a separate device anywhere on your network. This approach is a one-time cost and is always in your control. One NAS device backs up your entire small business or whole house at a very reasonable price — a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Additionally, today’s NAS devices provide much more functionality than just backup, including team collaboration, document sharing, media server, huge file storage, etc. However, if backup is all you need, then it works as a fantastic solution. Here it comes…wait for it…Clearly, this would be Sheldon Cooper’s backup of choice — belt-and-suspenders safety under total control.

Raj, Howard, Sheldon, do I have your big backup theory right?

Editor note: The Big Bang Theory Lizard-Spock Expansion episode aired on November 17, 2008. It was season 2, episode 8.

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