Why Smart People Do Dumb Things (Like Not Backup)

The title of this post was taken from an article I ran across over the weekend by Guy Kawasaki entitled Why Smart People Do Dumb Things (Like Not Backup their Hard Disk) The post is really less about backup than about a discussion of a book that Kawasaki had read; but of course for the purposes of this blog what interested me the most was his self-analysis of what he had done (or hadn’t done, in terms of backup.)  The most relevant excerpt from the post in these terms is as follows

Why didn’t I, a seemingly smart person with a computer background with difficult-to-replace files, not back up my hard disk?

  • Hubris: I no longer feared the hard-disk gods.
  • Arrogance: I was “entitled” to a trouble-free hard disk. Even if it did fail, I have enough connections for some company to jump through hoops to recover it for me.
  • Narcissism: Hard disk failure cannot happen to me, Guy Kawasaki. Now let me get back to admiring myself.
  • Unconscious need to fail. This, honestly, doesn’t apply to me. 🙂 Although, perhaps I had a conscious need for my hard disk to fail so that I wouldn’t have to answer my backlog of 300 emails.

Of course, there’s another reason – because backup, as a friend of mine noted to me the other day, is a pain in the a**.  There aren’t that many masochists out there, and for that reason the more pain that someone experiences the less likely they are to repeat what caused the pain.

Taking this from the personal world to the small and medium business (and larger) world, here’s what I find.  People know that they need to backup.  But it’s a pain.  So they do one of two things.  Either they hire someone and dedicate them to backup (rare in the SMB space, more common the larger the company) or they avoid the subject as much as possible.

Regarding hiring a full-time backup specialists – if someone makes a living delving into the minutiae of backup, then it is no longer painful – it’s interesting and their days are filled with optimizing and micro-optimizing backup.

Regarding avoiding the subject of backup as much as possible, there are a number of strategies people employ to avoid the pain.  One strategy is to just do what you’ve always done – which either means nothing or it means tape.  Of course, the trouble with tape is well-documented – recovery and restore can be problematic.  Another strategy is to count on your storage hardware to protect you (see “Arrogance” and “Hubris” above.)  However, there are storage vendors out there that play into this with discussions of SAN snapshots and the like – which are valuable tactics in a backup strategy but aren’t backup.

I joined Unitrends because I liked the idea of vertical integration (i.e., all-in-one backup appliance) as a way to mitigate and even eliminate the pain of backup.  To me, unless you have someone full-time dedicated to backup, it just makes sense to rely on a single vendor dedicated to ease of use and lowering TCO and ROI.


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