A Cure for Your Online Backup Bulimia with XP Tactics

Does this sound familiar? You have data on your computer that you want to save. Online backup is getting cheaper by the day, with more gigabytes for your buck than ever before. So you copy your files, your photos, your videos and the rest over the net to your online storage provider for safekeeping. Some of the files still on your PC are then altered, become outdated, are replaced or added to. So you back up again. Online backup space is still getting cheaper. You back up again. And again. And again. And your online backups grow and grow. Sure, your files are safe. Safely buried in a data bloat that is now an order of magnitude bigger than the ‘master’ data on your computer.

When All You Can Eat Leads to Over-Eating

Just like those restaurant buffets, ‘unlimited’ offers for online storage and backup can lead to excessive consumption. If there is no limit on what you can store, you’ll be tempted to stash away everything and keep it – just in case. This is human nature and IT at work together. As an example, huge increases in main memory over the years have led to sloppy programming because the pressure is no longer on to make best use of just 64 kilobytes (this used to be a big deal! – but today’s PCs have about 100 million times more). And now it’s happening again with online data storage.

History Repeating?

Backups are a good idea. Using online backup facilities can be smart too, because they solve a number of issues that affect local data storage. They store your data in a different physical location and you can access your data from different devices (and sync across them too). Online backup itself isn’t the problem, any more than normal eating. But rewind to computer programming about 15 years ago and the start of eXtreme Programming or XP for short, not to be confused with the Microsoft Windows OS. XP was invented with the goal of focusing on the good practices in programming (taking them to ‘extremes’) and leaving the rest to one side. There may be lessons in here for those trying to trim down their online backup data masses.

eXtreme Programming – a Crash Course

XP is designed to improve quality and remain responsive to changing requirements. In programming terms, it recommends short cycles of activity with frequent checkpoints that what is being done is aligned with current requirements. Further characteristics include testing from the beginning (and not leaving it till the end), using simplicity and clarity in structure and organization, and not putting things in now just because you think you might need them in the future. The process of ‘refactoring’ features prominently: this is the constant reviewing and refining of code to improve it.

Welcome to XOB – eXtreme Online Backup!

Expressed like this, extreme programming techniques sound remarkably like a cure for online backup bulimia too. Online backup solutions are often about frequently making copies of data. But now add in the checkpoints to ensure your backups relate to what is truly important to you – and delete the rest. Test your backups from the moment you make them. Data bloat is bad enough, but to find out that none of the terabytes of data you stored can actually be used is galling, to say the least. ‘Refactor’ your online backups by checking online folders and file versions for quality and usefulness. If it’s just too heart-wrenching to let go of data all at once, try a versioning system that stores your current backup, plus the last ‘N’ versions, and automatically deletes the oldest backup when you store a new one.

A Little YAGNI to Help Beat Online Backup Bloat?

And YAGNI? It stands for ‘You Ain’t Gonna Need It’, and it helps extreme programmers to avoid the temptation of building stuff in advance for the future, ‘just in case’. Some YAGNI on your online backups could help slim things down, remove useless stuff that’s in there ‘just in case’, and even make it easier for you to find data again that you really need.