PSA: Avoiding Catastrophic Failure

The back story

I recently had the misfortune of being the victim of theft. As a frequent traveller, I keep many of my most important items (technology, travel documents, iPhone charger, breath mints) close at hand in a single bag. At a moments notice I can be out the door and on a plane to help my favorite portal customer. This particular theft reminded me that no matter how much I back up important documents, it doesn't stop someone from stealing the physical backup media.

Years of experience (i.e. viruses, windows crashes, drive failures, drink spilling, and fumbles) have taught me to always backup. I carry an external harddrive along with my laptop that has a backup of my most important personal and professional documents. For the critical items, I also have a solid state media (flash drive) just to be sure. To make travel easier, I usually have said backup devices parked right alongside my laptop for easy access.

GASP!!! You could hear a pin-drop when I realized someone had decided my bag was much better looking in his/her possession. My immediate disgust wasn't because of the $2,000+ worth of electronics I would have to replace, but the information on those devices. Countless hours of design, development, and documentation work were suddenly gone.

A Public Service Announcement from your friendly Function1 Consultants

As good netizens, we decided to offer some alternative solutions to this problem in the hopes that our beloved clients don't have to feel the sting of regret.

X marks the spot to find your laptop
Prey: They can run but they can't hide

I was amazed by how little the police could do to retrieve my laptop and web stats like "97% of stolen laptops are never recovered" doesn't make me feel any better. Prey is an open source initiative that installs a small application on your laptop. You activate the application via a web interface if your laptop happens to go missing. Once activated, Prey will send you screenshots, IP information, and (if you have a webcam) a picture of the user. If the laptop has wifi in use, Prey will also try to geo-locate your laptop by triangulating wifi access points. Best of all, its FREE!

Sugarsync Logo
Backup: You can't steal the Internet

As high-speed internet and cloud computing have grown, online backup has become a realistic solution for joe consumer (i.e. me). I found a ton of information on solutions to online backup, but as a tech geek I wanted the coolest of the cool (and cheap too).

It took me a while to find an online backup solution that could meet all my needs as a tech-geek, gadgeteer, and professional IT type. I wanted sync tools, "set-and-forget", lots of gigabytes, and maybe a cool iPhone app. Sugar sync covers virtually all of the features I could cook up in a backup solution, then throws in some neat utilities. The interface is extremely straight forward and I was up and running within a couple of minutes. Compared to other backup solutions, sugarsync wasn't the lowest price per gb; but it has by far the most features.


  • Choose any folder on your PC to sync with the "cloud"
  • Sync the same files with up to 5 different computers.
  • Real-time sync when you're online
  • Version history
  • File resume, so you don't have to wait for a sync to finish before powering down.
  • Online edit mode lets you edit from your personal sugarsync website
  • iPhone app gives you access to your files anywhere
  • 256bit encryption


  • Not the cheapest per gigabyte of storage. Microsoft Skydrive at $0 for 25gb was the largest free storage solution. Carbonite was a close second at around $55 for unlimited space.
  • Cannot sync with a local external harddrive. I was hoping I could sync my files with the "cloud" and also update a local copy for backup.

(I also checked out Microsoft Skydrive, DropboxMozy, Box.Net, and Carbonite before deciding where to drop my $$$. Each had its short-comings and benefits.)

There are a lot of things I WISH I had done, so I hope my experience prompts our clients to keep all that hard work and sensitive information within reach no matter the circumstances.

The More You Know


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