The Value of Dropbox, iCloud & iTunes Match – A Tale of Clinton’s Hard Drive

The morning of Thursday, March 8th started for me like any other day really.  I was up at fifteen-to-six per the norm and since I was on the road traveling on business, I walked over to the desk where my Macbook Pro was sitting and hit the power button and walked away.  A few minutes later after getting a cup of coffee I went back to my Mac.

Grey screen with an Unavailable icon instead of the Apple logo.  Uh-oh.  Not good I said to myself.  Reboot.

Mac Hard Disk Logo

Same result.

After a year of wear and tear and over 150,000 miles of travel with me, my hard disk finally gave up.  Mind you, this was
not the first time I had experience a hard disk failure while on the road.  I had a similar experience several years ago before moving to a Mac.  It was painful.  Horrifically painful.  But as I sit here on Sunday afternoon, I can say that this hard disk failure has been a far more, shall we say, pleasant experience.  Part of it was my own preparedness for such a failure but some of it was in part due to the greatness that is iCloud and iTunes Match and Dropbox.  Not one single item lost.

As one who grew up in the early days of hard disks where reliability was wishful thinking, I have backed up my hard disk for as long as I can remember or at the very least important data.  I had learned my lesson early on after loosing a lengthy college term paper to a disk failure and swore to have multiple backups going forward.  As online backups became more available I tried them out and still use Carbonite as an absolutely last-ditch effort.  But those services take forever to restore from so a local backup is what is really needed when you need to get back up and running quickly.  I’ve been using Carbonite in conjunction with Time Machine since moving to my Mac which has been a good combination for me.

As cloud-based solutions has become more available I have been putting more of my content in the cloud.  For my corporate data, I use our internal cloud services which is based on Microsoft technologies to make sure that I have as little as possible on my hard disk.  For my personal content I use Dropbox.  After dropping in my new hard disk into my Macbook Pro, downloading the Dropbox client for Mac and getting my VPN setup for work, within an hour I had all of my data back on my new drive.  Fast and painless and not a single file lost.

The bigger challenge though prior to this hard disk failure was my iTunes content.  Before, like you, I had to copy my iTunes library to an external drive and hope that I had a recent backup (or rely on a slow restore from another online service).  But that changed last year when I signed up for the iTunes Match service and iCloud.  When Apple began offering the service I signed up mostly so I could get all of my ripped CDs into iTunes at a higher quality than what I had ripped them from, in some cases, years ago.  But the side benefit of iTunes Match is that every thing I have loaded into the service is available for me to download again straight into iTunes.  Sure it is slower than restoring from a back up drive like Time Machine but I get everything to me in higher quality than what is in Time Machine and I’m for sure not going to forget something.  The same thing is true for my movies and TV shows.  They are all in iCloud and ready for me to download to my Mac if I want.

Between these services having copies of all of my content, essentially my Time Machine backup has come down to one single file:  my Aperture library.  Because of its massive 158GB size I haven’t found a service that will allow me to upload that much data (although Carbonite backs it up for me daily).  If Photo Stream in iCloud could also store every thing in my Aperture library like iTunes Match, I would be absolutely set and for the first time, could actually go without a local hard disk storage of a backup file.  Stunning how far along things have come.

If you have not check out iTunes Match or have been hesitant to try Dropbox or iCloud, I hope my quick recovery from a hard drive failure gives you the courage to do so.  I went from being completely “dead in the water” to back up in running in less than 2 hours and had all of my iTunes content restored within 8.

As my son often says, I love living in the future.