Where are real automatic backups?

Our daughter had her first hard-drive crash last week. (I can hear it now – what? Didn’t you teach your daughter about smart computing – yeah, yeah )

She had a Dell computer that had just come off warranty (don’t they always) and even though it had a DVD burner, backing up just isn’t one of those things that regular people think of. Her biggest concern was her photos that hadn’t yet been printed but had been removed from her digital camera.

Trish made a point that is very valid: Dell should offer automated online backups for their customers. For $10/month, the ability to forget about having to backup – because Dell is going to do it for you (and not bother backing up any of those unneeded files) – would make it easier on consumers and other non-geeks who just want a computer for the benefit of it.

Now some services have been offered in the past (xDrive – don’t get me started ) and some are talking about doing it now for fresh but these companies may be missing the point. Even Google’s offering would require someone to sign-up – something that basic consumers are likely to forget or never get around to. It has to be offered at the Point of sale if they truly want to avoid the hassle that users currently go through. Just like virus-scanning and other useful tools.

Trish was right: it’s just GOOD customer service. Dell – you recently got into a deal with Google – maybe you should get gDrive on the table as well and reclaim your desktop throne by offering a service that actually works.

Today: Hard-drive crashes. Call Tech support – do you have a backup? Sorry – we can get you a new hard-drive but you’ve just lost all your stuff. You should backup. Gee thanks.

Tomorrow: Hard-drive crashes. Call tech support – do you have a new drive handy? If so, we can simply download your most recent changes onto it, or send you a CD for $x – or we can send you out a new hard-drive with all of your files intact on it.

Yes – there are privacy issues – but hey – if you want good solid offsite backup , then you have to trust someone. And it would have to be smart:

1. Only do documents, files, or recommended items. Of course, allow users to choose and update them.
2. Do NOT touch EXEs, DLLs,zips.
3. Only do incrementals. Keep the files handy.

The comments in the Battelle blog are dead-on:
1- Store remotely * ONLY * those files you are confortable with storing.

2- Carry a USB on a keychain for those important files you do NOT want online.

But they miss the point of what consumers do need. They download their pictures to their computer, they store their recipes, they listen to music, they write letters, they may store their finances – they may even do a desktop search every now and then but they certainly don’t have do a Defrag or a backup or a RegClean or anything like that – nor do they feel they should have to.

Obviously, this isn’t something for the tech geeks or larger corporations – but it seems that if companies really want to offer some help to the things that drive regular users nuts, they should start with their list of things they tell everyone to do (don’t open attachments, scan for viruses, backup regularly) and see where they help take the onus off the consumer to do it.

(on the gDrive note, I told Trish – this is what Google will likely be offering with GDrive – her answer? “I don’t use Google”. Another answer: “Google does more than search?” – While Google may be trusted by the early adapters, people buy their computers from companies like Dell, Apple, Circuit City, Best Buy – THESE are the people who should be offering the service (even through a branded Google gDrive))

Which companies wouldn’t you trust to do this? I chose XDrive to do it for me and got burned. While many would say “I don’t trust any company” – you obviously trust SOME company – because someone else does your web hosting, you use email, etc. So who do you trust to do this for you?

UPDATE: Maybe one could try Carbonite as mentioned on CNN. Funny how this all happens at the same time.