How much do you value your digital life?

15 Mar 2012

My natural distrust of cloud services may just have cost me £400 ($626.8 million).

Why? Because the external hard drive I use to back up my PCs and which contains files dating back to 1998 when I bought my first home computer has just gone pop.

I’ve just got back from dropping the device at a local data recovery firm, who said a rough guide to the cost of retrieving the information is between £300 and £400. That’s assuming they can actually rescue the data. Luckily, they don’t charge for making that assessment, and there’s no requirement for me to proceed with recovery once they work out the true cost.

Regardless, the experience has raised an interesting question regarding how much my – or anyone’s - digital life is worth? As mentioned, I don’t just back-up my current PCs onto this drive, there’s 14-years worth of articles, pictures, music and research on the disk. Maybe it’s an opportunity to have a bit of a clear out and start again – luckily I’ve saved most of the more memorable pictures on a memory stick, and I’m old fashioned so anything pre-98 is in print in a drawer.

But it has left me reviewing that reluctance to back everything up to a remote data center. My bugbear – like so many consumers – is the security of cloud storage. I really don’t want my digital life to be ‘out there’, which is part of the reason I quit Facebook almost exactly two years ago.

Friends who do use cloud services can’t recommend them enough. They say the security aspect is covered in much the same way as a credit card company guarantees to return fraudulent payments, and I guess when alls said and done it’s no less secure than if someone breaks into my house and steals my hard drive or computers (which, for any would-be burglars are very old, steam-powered, machines).

For the moment my inclination is that £400 is a pretty reasonable price to pay to rescue my data, but I’ll wait for the official assessment before jumping to any conclusions. If it can be recovered, my other thought is to back it all up on another remote hard drive and send that to a friend somewhere else in the country, just in case my house burns to the ground or those burglars don’t believe me about the age of my PCs.

Still, the whole experience has caused me to pause for thought regarding my distrust of cloud storage, while highlighting just how much the message about that technology is already pervading consumer’s consciousness. Marketing bods everywhere should take a bow.

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