Why Don't Users Backup Their Data?

In a previous article we pointed out how many computer users would not hesitate to purchase an extended warranty or service plan for their computer; however, many of these same users refuse to spend a few dollars a month to backup their data even when the data is more valuable than the computer. Why is this? I have a few ideas.

Data builds up quickly.
The average computer is used for several years. The amount of data that builds up on the system during this time is amazing. Usernames, passwords, photos, and other miscellaneous data can build up at a rate that most users simply do not appreciate. The average user has no idea of the amount of time it takes to recover from data loss due the fact that the computer contains data from several years of use.

Users do not place any real value on their data.
Ask the normal user what they use their computer for and what is stored on it an many times they will minimize the importance of their activities. Common responses I have heard are, "I only use it to surf the web, play games or do my taxes once a year." When users do not value the activities that they are using the computer for, they do not value the data that is stored on the computer. As a result of this attitude, there is no basic desire to backup their data until it is too late.

Users do not understand that computers require periodic maintenance.
In a previous article, I wrote about the need to periodically replace hard drives before they go bad. When I am working with users I try to use the example that hard drives need to be replaced just like the tires on automobiles. (and about as often) Unfortunately, users have no way looking at their hard drives and tell that the "tread is getting low," and the tires (hard drive) need to be replaced. You don't wait for your tires to blow-out and you should not wait for the hard drive to fail.

There are no "Idiot Lights" on computers.
Automotive manufactures learned this lesson decades ago... put a bright red light on the dash where the driver cannot ignore it. When one of these lights come on, the driver instinctually knows that something is wrong. This concept of "idiot lights" does not exist on computers. Microsoft tried a variation on this idea with their "Balloon" notices. Unfortunately, most of the messages that are displayed are informational in nature so the users soon begin to "tune them out" and ignore them. Many Dell systems have a series of small multi-colored LED's on the back of the computer to indicate the status of the internal components; however, the fact that the lights are on the back does not help the average user. Besides what does an amber LED light actually mean to the user even if they do notice it.

Users can "touch" a computer but cannot "touch" their data.

Many, many , many users cannot wrap their heads around the fact that there is data on their computer that needs to be preserved. Since they can't touch it, the concept that data is there is difficult for them to appreciate. I guess there is some psychology working here. The old adage that, "I will believe in a ghost when I see one" seems strangely appropriate. I honestly think that it would be better if the computer could get heavier as more data is saved. At least this way the user could pick up their computer periodically and tell that the data stored on it was increasing... maybe make the mouse heavier? Impossible, I know, but it would provide some tactile feedback that the computer was changing over time and that the data was there and increasing.

Users are not informed that backups are the Life Insurance Policies for their data.
Today any person can justify having a life insurance policy or disability policy, they understand the importance to them and their families. They would would never leave their family vulnerable to an untimely death or accident but they will leave their data vulnerable. As computers continue to penetrate our daily lives and more critical data is stored on them it is irresponsible for any computer user not to insure there data by backing it up. External hard drives are cheap, online backup services are free or cost a few dollars a month, there is no excuse not to have a data insurance policy.

Users are well intentioned but forgetful.

We are busy with our daily lives. We are very busy, and we simply forget about making backups. Since there is no "idiot lights" on the computer we simply forget to make the backups, or we setup an automated backup job and then never check on it, assuming that everything is fine and the backups are running correctly.

All of these issues are easily overcome by information and education. We, as technologists, have to educate users about the importance of their data. (even when they don't think its important) Eventually, computers will be so advanced that all data on the computer will be protected and will inform us when they are not running correctly or that a drive is going to fail. Until that day we have to work with users to help them change their misconceptions and ignorance about the importance of backing up their data, backing up their lives.

Agree? Disagree? Let us hear from you.

1 comment:

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