NEW YORK (MainStreet)As consumers spend more time on their laptops and other digital devices, they are creating more files and other digital assets, but very few Americans are backing up their devices.
According to a Harris Interactive survey conducted by Backblaze, a seven-year old online backup software company based in the San Francisco Bay area, only 10% of U.S. consumers back up their data daily. In 2008, when Backblaze first started conducting the survey, only 6% of consumers backed up daily.
"Most people do not back up the data on their laptops and desktops," said Gleb Budman, CEO of Backblaze. "Some individuals copy files manually to an external hard drive, but that means backups are typically very infrequent and often miss data from programs such as Outlook, iTunes, Picasa and others."
More than half of consumers lose their data each year because their hard drive or laptop has died, a virus has infected their computer or a user error has reared its head, Budman said.
"There are a lot of ways that data gets vaporized," he said.
While some online sync programs such as iCloud or Dropbox store your data in the cloud, most do not enable you to backup all of your data - typically limiting the type of documents stored, requiring you to manually move files into a different folder to be stored online, or only keeping the most recent version.
Backblaze, an unlimited online backup service, will back up all of the data, including photos, videos, music, health information, financial records, wills/trusts and other documents stored on your laptop or computer continuously without the user having to manually select any files.
Unlike most traditional online backup services, Backblaze has an "exclusion" approach, which means that it backs up all data to the cloud, while just excluding your operating system and applications. This ensures that the photos, videos, music stored inside or outside on your standard data directory or folder are backed up automatically and safely to Backblaze.
Backblaze only charges $5 a month or $50 a year and does not put limits on the amount of data you can store - it will back up an unlimited amount of data. All Backblaze needs is access to the Internet and it continuously backs up all of your data.
Some other cloud storage services such as Amazon S3 and Google Cloud Storage charge based on the amount of data being stored.
"We try to make it really easy," Budman said. "Each person has all of this stuff work, photos, and movies so when they lose their data we try to make sure it was easy to have backed up and easy to get it back."
Since all of the data is stored in the cloud, you can retrieve your lost data by downloading it immediately from any web browser or from your iPhone or iPad, or you can chose to have it sent to you via a USB hard drive or flash drive and FedEx. You can have your data back as soon as the next day.
If your laptop is stolen, not only can you recover your data with Backblaze, but the service can also help you locate your computer by showing you where it is on a map, giving you the IP address for law enforcement to get a subpoena and giving the latest files the thief placed on the computer.
Installing Backblaze is simple and requires only that you add your email address and click on download.
Many people go through the five stages of grief outlined by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross when their hard drive crashes or their laptop is stolen, he said. Users can skip all of those steps denial, anger, bargaining, depressing and acceptance if they are able to retrieve their data.
Backblaze has recovered 4 billion files for its customers and expects to cross 5 billion restored files early next year. In December 2012, Backblaze restored 5.7 million files each day on average with one individual user restore of 4.9 terabytes.
The number of devices owned by consumers and the amount of time they spend connected is increasing exponentially with 88% of consumers who own multiple digital devices, 62% owning three or more and 20% owning five or more, according to a May McAfee survey.
Now 51% of consumers spend 15 hours or more on their digital devices for personal use each week, which equates to more than two hours per day. Most consumers or 72% are concerned with identity theft, monetary theft or fraud when they are online and 55% of people store digital assets on our devices that would be impossible to recreate, re-download or re-purchase.
On average globally, consumers have over $35,000 worth of assets stored their devices, the study showed.
Even though consumers rely on their devices heavily, nearly 15% of consumers globally don't have comprehensive security on any of their devices and 20% are unfamiliar with cyber risks and security dangers.
"Most people install home security systems after their homes are broken into," said Robert Siciliano, McAfee's online security expert. "Most people invest in identity theft protection after their identity is stolen. Backing up happens when people lose their data. Backing up requires an initial set up process that isn't exactly fun, but it's not complicated either."
He recommends that consumers back up twice on local drives and once in the cloud.
"If you aren't in the habit of backing up your data, you might assume that it's difficult or tedious," Siciliano said. "Nowadays, backing up is a complete no brainer."
Users have many backup options nowadays, he said. New computers often come bundled with backup options included in the "bloat ware." Microsoft Windows 7/8 comes with "Windows Restore/Back Up" accessible via the control panel and Macs offer a backup option called Time Machine. Users can also buy an external hard drive to copy your files to or invest in a remote backup service. Online backup generally costs $60 to $100 a year.
At a bare minimum, users should regularly backup any irreplaceable data such as photos, home movies or music libraries, said Geoff Bullard, senior software engineer for Support.com, which provides outsourced technology support services.
"Without proper precautions, data can be easily lost," he said. "Note that all computer data exists in a format that can be readily copied and stored for safekeeping. With the advent of inexpensive portable- and cloud-based backup solutions, there's no reason not to do it today."
One hindrance might be the fact that consumers do not want to pay another monthly or yearly subscription, said Anis Abdul, chief technology officer of CodeLathe, an Austin, Texas personal cloud products and services company. He suggests that companies bundle the service with internet or a mobile bill.
"Another hindrance is the plethora of devices other than PCs (smartphones, tablets, game boxes and others)," Abdul said. "The content is scattered everywhere and the complexity to understand it all is huge for a mainstream customer."
--Written by Ellen Chang for MainStreet