There are many benefits to using a cloud service for personal file storage, such as the ability to access your data from most any internet-connected device or, in many cases, eliminating the need for local backup. Data kept in the cloud also protects it from a variety of local misfortunes, which may sometimes include your own actions.
I did not jump onto the personal cloud storage bandwagon until recently. I generally accessed data from home, and I preferred to manage backups myself. However, I recently did an about-face and now use cloud storage as part of my personal backup strategy. Why? It’s not because I didn’t want to manage my data anymore (I still back up my files locally too). It’s not because I need to access it from anywhere (I still access it primarily from home). It’s because I’m human and I make mistakes.
This decision came about when I painted myself into a corner migrating from an aging laptop to a new desktop. (Yes, a desktop. At the price I’m willing to pay for the options that I want, a desktop still beats a laptop.) The first time I booted up, my desktop had two, mirrored 1TB hard drives. After copying critical files from my laptop and setting up the new system just the way I like it (solid black wallpaper, no desktop icons), I promptly backed everything up to an external USB hard drive. I then had five copies of my most important data: one on my laptop’s internal drive, two on my desktop’s internal drives (mirrored copies), one on my external drive, and one older copy on a USB stick (the last one may be a bit paranoid). Surely, I thought, this would protect me from most any form of conceivable disaster? Unfortunately, I failed to consider the single point of failure: me.
About two weeks after the desktop arrived, I received an exciting package in the mail: my SSD, which I immediately slotted into my desktop. However, during the process of getting the OS properly installed on the SSD, certain actions were taken and certain mistakes made. At one point during the evening, I had an improperly formatted SSD (very much my fault), a split of the internal mirror rendering the disks unreadable (mostly my fault), and a reformatted external drive (also very much my fault). In one fell swoop, three of my five copies of data were now inaccessible, leaving my aging, prone-to-overheating laptop as the only up-to-date copy of my personal data. The root cause analysis? User error.
Eventually, I managed to untangle the mess I had made and ended up with an SSD containing my OS, hard drives with my data (no longer mirrored), and an external hard drive with a backup of both. However, as the complexity of my environment grew, even a slight misstep could cast my data into oblivion. Shortly after saving my data from myself, I found a cloud service to supplement my local backups, and all of my local data is kept in sync with that service. Critically, the copy that resides on the cloud is all but immune to the many ways I could accidentally ruin my own local copy.
I would consider myself a reasonably computer-literate person, but that doesn’t prevent me from making mistakes, which in this case had nearly catastrophic consequences. A cloud backup provides insurance not only against technical failures, but also against our own mistakes.