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BDD: Backup Driven Development

as documented here, I had some problems with my laptop and some of my backups due to the backup drive failing also.

What did I need to recover from backup? Work email. That's it. This is major progress compared to the last few times I had machine problems. Everything else was on one of:

  • a subversion repository
  • a mailing list
  • an external drive
  • a weblog
  • a wiki

In other words, I'm close to a point (maybe this year!) where I don't have to down tools and decide to back things up. Or have to remember to decide to back things up, which is the real problem ("Who has time for backups? I know, it's crazy!").

Once I can get all my mail accounts moved to IMAP*, I'll be close to zero backup. Yes that's weasel wording - clearly I'm backing up. But replacing the "stop, find what to backup, find where to backup, backup, wait, continue" with "send, checkin, upload", which is part of the software work cycle anyway, strikes me as progress. I guess/hope it'll be like Test Driven Development - like you do with testing, slice the backup steps finer and finer until they become indistinguishable from the work itself.

Reinstalling applications then is what will be left to do - everything else can be downloaded or checked out. Installing apps is a nuisance and can take a lot of time, even when you have a list. However give it a few years and we'll be running on VMWare/Xen with the core apps installed on an image. Which will be backed up.

Still, not everyone is a software developer so using stuff like wikis, mailing lists and source control systems is going to seem like so much tech nonsense. But applications can and should be doing more here. If amazon and the like are going to get into the utility data storage business,then desktop apps could get backup to the network automatically. Not just apps, media devices too. A camera or a phone could just stream the fotes up to Flickr or S3, or MyDataCenter.com. By the end of this decade, being asked to save a file could be a thing of the past.

* I have a Gmail account but don't really use it. Web mail never grew on me. That calendar stuff seeems pretty cool though.

April 14, 2006 03:54 PM


Ian Bicking
(April 14, 2006 10:46 PM #)

I forward a copy of everything I get to a gmail account, which is my backup.

(April 15, 2006 03:41 PM #)

A camera or a phone could just stream the fotes up to Flickr or S3, or MyDataCenter.com.

Could be some interesting ownership issues there, no? I'd also be worried that they might go up the spout and take your info with them. At least with your own hardware you're in control.

Bill de hOra
(April 16, 2006 08:28 PM #)

"At least with your own hardware you're in control."

Are you really? Who's realistically going to do the work to manage the hardware? Not consumers. It's definitely something you pay someone else to solve.

"I'd also be worried that they might go up the spout and take your info with them. "

That's the real issue, along with selling along your preferences (as might happen in a buyout). Some sites like del.icio.us and flickr let you download/export data - backdowns? This is why we need OSS variants of the main web2.0 tools.

(April 17, 2006 03:04 PM #)

"Not consumers."

Good point!

OSS variants - yup, that's the best plan. Vendor lock-in on your backups is doubly bad.

Andrew Hallam
(April 17, 2006 10:59 PM #)

Hi Bill,

I use FastMail, and Thunderbird, for IMAP email. They aren't based in Ireland (servers in a data centre on the east coast of the USA, IIRC), but the service has been great.

I blogged on my sign-up experience back in 2004.


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