eWeek put out a slide show last week on â€œpersonal data storage gift ideas.â€ This was a thinly disguised ad for a variety of USB-based backup hard drives. At first I was going to link to the story, but decided to instead highlight some really useful backup gifts. A USB drive for backing up your files is better than nothing, but not good enough. Giving a year of online backup service will provide much better protection for your friend or family member.
The problem with USB drives, especially for laptop backup chores, is two fold. First, since everyone puts their USB drive into their laptop bag, when they lose their laptop they also lose their backup. Over 10,200 laptops get left behind every week at airports in the US, so losing a laptop is far too common. If your laptop gets stolen, as well over 600,000 do per year in the US, your backup gets stolen along with it. When something bad happens to your home or office that destroys your computer, it will destroy the USB hard drive sitting beside it.
Second, carrying a USB hard drive full of your data, particularly company data, means you can lose that data. Since few of the USB drives offer encryption services, and fewer still are implemented by non-technical users, losing your USB backup drive means giving away copies of all your files. Businesses, especially those backing up customer data to their USB drives, stand the most to lose, since they're assumed to have the intelligence to protect that customer data. Drop your USB thumbdrive full of your accounting data and whoever picks up that drive has your information in their pocket.
If you want to be a good friend or family member, give the gift of a year's online backup service. The big names in the consumer backup business are Carbonite and Mozy, but there are thousands of others available. You have hundreds of options in the $50 per year per user range. Some services, like HP's Upline, offer family plans for multi-computer families.
With an online backup service, losing your laptop doesn't mean losing your files. Losing your laptop still hurts, but having your files still available eases that pain considerably.