Less is always an advantage

17 April 2012

Let’s think about backups for a moment. I don’t have a fiendishly clever or minimal backup scheme to share with you, but let’s imagine.

If you’ve got less than 2GB of data then life is very easy. You can backup the whole lot with a free Dropbox account. You can also carry all your data around on a tiny, cheap flash drive or SD card. If you want to make extra offsite backups you can get a small stock of flash drives and hand them out to friends, spread them around your world, drop them down the side of the sofa. Even though USB 2.0 is relatively slow your whole digital life can be copied in just a few minutes.

If you’ve got more than 2GB of data and less than 8GB you can forget about getting it all in a free Dropbox account but you can still pick up a bunch of fairly cheap flash drives and spread them around. Copying time is still quite reasonable. Start paying for Dropbox if you can afford it.

Once you’re over 128GB you can forget about flash drives. Now you’re looking at portable hard drives, which go up to 1TB, for a price. Multiply that by the number you’ll need. Probably at least three: one onsite, one offsite and one for rotation. At current UK prices these drives are about £80 - £100 each. It adds up.

Dropbox tops out at 100GB whether you’ve got the money to pay for more or not.

When your backup set gets over 1TB you can’t use portable drives. Though full-sized drives cost less per GB they’re a lot more bulky and need a power supply and socket. Life just got that bit harder.

But this isn’t about backups. It’s about thresholds.

What can you fit your stuff into? Your pockets? A small bag? A suitcase? A room? An apartment? A house? A big house… and a storage unit…?

Rather than trying to accommodate what we’ve got, we should work the other way. Find the threshold that makes sense for you, that you’ve got the time to maintain, that you can afford and that creates an acceptable amount of work and complication for you.

Then work down towards that level. Less is always an advantage.

And the backups? I think I need to shrink that 1TB of data I’ve got down to less than 100GB.