File Sync (e.g. Dropbox) is NOT Backup

Does File Sync mean we no longer need Backups?!?

Recently, friend and WordPress developer par excellence Bradley Charbonneau at Likoma penned a piece about how Dropbox has allowed him to do away with his backup application. File synchronization applications like Dropbox are a huge boon to those of us who have multiple devices. Being able to access the same set of files across all your devices is a huge boost to productivity and gives you the flexibility to access work or personal information whenever and wherever the need arises; add in the ability to share documents with family and colleagues, and tools like Dropbox have become invaluable!

Indeed, we’re big fans of file sync applications. I personally use Cubby Pro, OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive. Although this list is probably more than I need, each serves a purpose and each has unique advantages and disadvantages. Yet, even though I use these services to sync files between several computers, I still use a dedicated backup program.

file/folder synchronization will sync everything … including deletions, corruption, overwritten files or maliciously damaged files.

On the surface, it seems like syncing your files & folders across multiple devices (with a copy in the cloud!) is be a great way to back up files – bam, you’re done! While this is very convenient and saves you money over having to pay for backup – I would argue that this is a false economy. The problem is sync is not the same as backup, and here is why – file/folder synchronization will, by definition, sync everything … including deletions, corruption, overwritten files or maliciously damaged files.

More importantly, data stored in one place is data that, at some point, you will lose.

More importantly, data stored in one place is data that, at some point, you will lose. Dropbox (as well as competing file sync services) is one location and only one location; even if it syncs between 10 devices, it is still one location because damage to files or loss of access to the service can cause loss across all devices. Dropbox does provide some degree of file version management; however, this is nowhere near as comprehensive as that which is available in a proper backup tool. Furthermore, the ease of recovering from a major disaster (e.g. recover every file that has changed since last Tuesday) would be very time consuming on Dropbox, as compared with a dedicated backup application.

Finally, what happens if your file sync service of choice suffers a massive failure, goes out of business or changes their business model? The likelihood of such an event may not seem high, but the consequences could be devastating.

Our strong recommendation is to ensure that all of your files (including those synchronized by Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Cubby, etc.) are backed up both locally (e.g. to a USB drive) and to a dedicated cloud backup service. We like and have been recommending CrashPlan for a long time, though there a number of other highly regarded alternative backup services. Consumer plans are inexpensive (Crashplan Plus offers unlimited data from one computer for $60/year); business plans are also available, with most offering cross platform support and mobile access to your data.

Don’t think of backup as an unnecessary expense or a duplication of your existing file sync application’s functionality; rather backup is essential insurance policy.

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  1. […] And finally … remember that Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive etc. are not really backup! […]

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