I thought I'd share my pain in the hope that it might spur some of you out there to take action while you still can.
I had a complete system melt down a couple weeks ago. Had been out all day and returned to the blue screen of death around 7pm. The computer hadn't even been used since 9am that day.
2 attempts to recover data on the hard drive - 100% failure.
I have a "set and forget" backup that runs but it had been giving me pop-up error messages that I hadn't attended to - too busy to check on that. I also use Carbonite to backup to the cloud.
I was able to do a quick restore of critical files from the cloud to a temporary machine so I could continue to do work (as in what buy groceries with ) . Some relief from state of panic.
Ordered and received a new machine in about a week - crunch time - what's going to work, what's not?
Successfully restored all of my work files from the cloud so incoming groceries are assured for the foreseeable future. Searching the cloud backup I realize that very important personal files are missing, everything that was zipped (ie backups of important files) and it appears anything that was in a sub-folder under program files are not there, also missing and due to limitations of Carbonite all my downloaded program files, plug-ins, etc are all vapour.
Attempt to restore from USB drive using my "set and forget" which is a program called Backup4all - won't recognize the file, won't open the catalog and therefore won't unzip the backups. After a very long weekend I decide to download the newest version of that software and try it again. Success at restoring the very important personal files!
Okay, now it's time for the photography library (mine and DW's). Memory is fuzzy on this but I seem to recall the library is something in the range of 34,000 files if you include all the sidecar files for Camera Raw and around 150GB of data. Restoring via Backup4all fails about 50% of the way through, I had mistakenly only set this as an incremental backup and hadn't done occasional full backups. One or more of the incremental files was damaged, corrupted or missing. I'm now having to restore 50-70GB of data from the cloud. YOU DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS.
One other thing about Carbonite, it stores versions of files and folders which is an excellent thing for accidental deletion of files, not so great if I had to do a full restore because it's storing huge amounts of data that are no longer relevant. One example is the fact that when I download images from my camera, they dump into a folder by year/month/day. I then purge the obvious junk but I rename the folder to include a quick reference to what is in the folder ie. I add the word "abstracts".
Oh yeah, and it stripped all of the metadata from my files - no keywords, no ratings - all gone, big zero, nadda.
So happy story - minimal data loss, in fact no data at all (other than the metadata in my images) but I did lose all my downloaded programs and plug-ins so that will take time to restore via download, reinstall, etc. - you realize very quickly how important it is to have a file with your registration keys when this happens to you.
So, for those of you out there that don't do regular backups or rely entirely on cloud backup - please reassess. Had I relied entirely on one backup, or even one backup approach my loss would have been significant. I was very lucky and fortunate that the what failed on one backup worked on the other.
So, time to rethink backup strategies. I'm going to add a NAS to my home network for backups, change cloud backup to include those vital files that Carbonite missed and have two backups of my photography library that are on hardware and NOT in the cloud. Ensure that I run full backups at least once per month, with incremental backup in between, test a restore at least once or twice a year from hardware.
I hope someone benefits from the lessons I learned.