INSIDE MOBILE: Backup and Recovery-A Personal Story

If you don't have a backup of your critical data and you lose your computer, it will be one of the worst days in your life. Knowledge Center mobile and wireless analyst J. Gerry Purdy explains why taking a little time right now to get your backup going could be the best thing you ever did.


I have written in the past about the need to do regular backups. I pointed out that, while having a local external hard drive is important to back up your most important files, I also recommended that you back up your critical files via a remote online backup service. This way, if you lost your computer and backup drive (for example, if they were stolen or destroyed in a fire, hurricane or tornado), you'd still be able to recover your really critical files.

I got a 320GB portable, external hard drive review unit last year from Toshiba, which made it very easy to back up my Frost & Sullivan Dell Latitude notebook, my Acer personal notebook, plus my wife Alicia's notebook. I have more than 100GB of data on my portable systems. I do a backup of my Frost & Sullivan and personal data on a regular basis-typically weekly or, at worst, at least once every two weeks.

I also opened an account at to use its online backup service. I duplicated the backup process for my personal system there as well. The first full backup of the data on my personal system on Fabrik's service took a really long time-about one week operating in the background. All online backup systems take a long time to do the initial backup. But, once I had the initial backup completed, it didn't take long to back up the changed files-which I scheduled to be done each morning at 1 a.m.

In the past, even though I wrote about the need to do backups, I felt bothered and distracted doing it because I felt that nothing that serious was ever really going to happen to me. Well, I never dreamed in a hundred years that I'd end up doing one of the most stupid things I've ever done in my life-which resulted in my losing my notebook PC. I had to begin a total recovery.

How the unthinkable happened

On Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008, we got up at 6 a.m. to drive from Atlanta to our home in Wellington, Fla. I finished getting the SUV packed and was trying to leave before 7 a.m. All of a sudden, Alicia asked me if I had packed an important file folder. Yes, I told her, I had-it was in my computer case. She asked me to get it for her so she could reference it during the trip. I ran around the car, opened up the left rear door, unzipped the computer case, pulled out my Acer notebook, and put it on the top of the car for just a minute. Then I found her file folder, took the folder to her on the passenger side of the car (she said thanks), ran around to my door, got in the car and we were on our way.

We had just crossed over the border into Florida when the shock hit me-one that turns you clammy and sends your heart racing like mad: I had forgotten to retrieve the notebook back off the top of the SUV and put it back into the computer bag!

"Uh oh," I said to Alicia. "I think a disaster has just occurred."

I pulled off the highway, got out and looked on top of the SUV, thinking in some strange fantasy state that I'd find the notebook PC sitting right there where I'd left it. Alas, it was gone. At that point, I tried to figure out what to do. We called our pet sitter, who went over to the house, looked in the driveway and along the street, but she couldn't find it. Drats!