Backup, Backup, & Backup

UPSYou definitely want to be able to recover from a hacker attack, especially since they are getting more frequent, and more sophisticated. More than once, I have had to recover a website, either because some script kiddie hacked it, or because I personally did something exceedingly stupid. The script kiddies haven’t successfully broken into any of my sites in a long time — partially because I’ve hardened my sites, and partially because I get a lot of support in that area from my hosting provider (who also have a UK facility). I highly recommend D9 hosting, as I have mentioned before.

Doing something stupid, on the other hand, is something to which nobody is immune. To cover that eventuality, I use Backup Buddy. That’s actually a fairly expensive program with a yearly maintenance fee. And yes, it’s possible to accomplish almost everything Backup Buddy does using free tools. So why use Backup Buddy? It’s a time-saver, and since I maintain more than 50 sites, saving 10-15 minutes/site gets to be worthwhile. Once you get things set up, making a backup is a matter of four or five clicks of the mouse — including getting the backup downloaded to my own computer (the backups are encrypted, so I can store copies in several places). I used Backup Buddy to migrate all of my sites from EIG hosting to D9 in one day — including one site that turned out to be more complex than anticipated.

There is one more thing you need to back up, namely, your power. If you have a laptop with a battery that is in good shape and charged, then you may not need a UPS (although I still run mine on one when I’m at the house, because of the extra surge protection, and I can finish or shut down a print job when the power goes out). But if you have a desktop system (I have several, because I have some fairly computationally-intensive applications, like video editing, that I do frequently), then you definitely need a UPS.

Before you scoff at that, thinking that you haven’t had a power outage in several years, let me tell you a sad, true story…

Back about 30 years ago, I owned a computer store. The store wasn’t really doing all that well, so I supplemented my income by doing software contracting. One client, in particular, had about 30 PCs in the group I was in. I supplied my own PC, along with my own UPS. My PC was a 386 system with a full megabyte of memory and a 40 Mb hard drive, easily the most powerful computer in the building (including the “mainframe” in the accounting department). Seeing that they had more than 20 PCs with no UPS systems, I sent a memo to the group leader recommending that they purchase (from me, of course) a UPS for each of their PCs. I got back the reply that he considered that an unnecessary expense, especially since my price for those backup systems was $500 each, and they had not experienced any power problems in that area for at least 3 years.

Oh, well, I just concentrated on my software.

About 3 weeks later, a truck ran into a power pole just across the street, plunging our nearly-windowless office space into darkness. Except for my office, which was nicely lit up by the screen on my PC, accompanied by the steady beeping of my UPS. I took a few minutes to finish up and close files, and then shut down my system, and turned off the beeping UPS.

The power was out for the rest of the day, so we all got off early. Being an hourly contractor, I was not particularly happy about that, but I did have some other things to do at the store. Next morning, I came in, and discovered that I had the only functional PC in the building. Nothing lost at all on my computer. Not only did every other PC user in the group lose data, five of them had PCs that were fried. As in, smoked when they were turned back on. Apparently, just before things went dark, there had been a big power surge.

There was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth that day.

It was an act of will not to smirk. I held my tongue, and didn’t say, “I told you so.” But that week, I got a purchase order for 20 UPS units rated at 250 W (for 15 minutes), at $500 each. That was the biggest month I had at the store for the whole year.

That was shutting the barn door after the horses had left, because they never had another power outage for at least the next 3 years that I was in the vicinity. If they had gotten those UPS units a few weeks earlier, when I recommended that purchase, they would have paid for themselves nearly 5 times over with that one outage. Remember, this was at a time when a 286 PC with a 20 Mb hard drive was more than $4000, and 5 of them were destroyed, so right there’s twice the cost of the UPS systems they bought from me, and doesn’t count the lost time recreating lost work.

Nowadays, a minimal UPS system, capable of keeping your desktop PC running for 10-15 minutes — and even with enough intelligence to automatically initiate a safe shutdown, can be purchased for far less than $500. In fact, Amazon has got units available for anywhere between $40 and $270, including shipping. $270 will get you a 1200 W unit that will keep a typical desktop system going for over an hour.

$40 is pretty cheap insurance, even if your desktop system only cost a few hundred dollars. Your time is worth something, right? When you get it, don’t forget to plug your cable or fiber modem into it, also. And, like I said, I even use one on my laptop.

Get one today. You’ll be glad you did.

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