Why you should keep multiple backups

I spent the weekend a) in Huntsville with the boys and b) in a fog of cold medication. In fact, I called in sick to work today, which is really unusual for me. A coworker e-mailed me to ask for a couple of documents I’d written, and when I saw her e-mail (I called in sick, not dead, so I was still checking e-mail), I couldn’t find the files in SkyDrive on my Surface Pro. “Oh,” I thought. “I must have checked them in to our SharePoint site.”


“Maybe they’re on my work desktop.” A quick RDP connection and… nope.

Now I was beginning to freak out a bit. I knew I had written these documents. I knew right where I’d left them. But they were nowhere to be found.

I went back to my MacBook Pro, which is sort-of my desktop now.… nope.

Then the fog lifted, oh so briefly, and I figured out what had happened.

For some reason, about a month ago, the SkyDrive client for OS X started pegging the CPU at random intervals. It was still syncing, most of the time, but when it started burning the CPU it would kick the MacBook Pro’s fans into turbo mode, so I started shutting the app off until I explicitly wanted it to sync. (This reminded me of the ancient technology known as Groove, but let us never speak of it again.) Eventually I got tired of this and started troubleshooting the problem. The easiest solution was to remove and reinstall the app, so I did. Before doing so, I made a backup copy of the entire SkyDrive folder, renamed it to “Old SkyDrive,” and let the newly installed app resync from the cloud. Then I deleted the old copy.

Fast-forward to today. I realized what had happened: the documents had been in the old SkyDrive folder, they never got synced, and now they were gone.

But wait! I do regular backups to Time Machine when I’m in Mountain View. I looked in Time Machine… nope.

“Oh, that’s right,” I muttered. “I created those files and ‘fixed’ SkyDrive last time I was in Huntsville.”

But wait! I also use CrashPlan! I fired up the app… nope.

Then I noticed the little “Show deleted files” checkbox. I checked it, typed in the name of the files I wanted, and in 90 seconds had all of them restored to my local disk.

So, the moral of the story is: a) make backups and then b) make backups of your backups. Oh, and go easy on the Benadryl.

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