I haven’t talked tools on this blog in a while, but with the continuing saga of privacy issues, lost Facebook pages, Gmail accounts being locked out, Tweets disappearing into the ether on occasion, and everything else – it was time. Social media has been around for years, but now that it’s dressed up a little more in prettier and easier to use tools, more people and businesses are using it. As with anything that begins to grow rapidly, problems can arise. Whether the problems are external (hackers, malware, viruses) or internal (a service unable to keep up with the load, or having technical issues like server crashes) the end result is lost data and frustration. To avoid that, you need a backup plan (literally).
So let’s talk backup tools for the social age, shall we? I’m just going to run down a few backup tools and strategies that are in my tool box here, and hope you put your favorites in the comments so we create an arsenal of helpful tools. One thing you’ll notice is how many different ways I try to back my stuff up. You never know when one of your backup methods might have an unavoidable glitch – be prepared as best you can.
I use Backupify to backup my social presences. It currently backs up: Twitter, Flickr, Delicious, Zoho, Google Docs, and Photobucket. It is in beta testing for backing up WordPress, Basecamp, Gmail, Facebook, Friendfeed, Blogger, Hotmail, Picassa, Google Contacts, and Google Calendar. It eventually will add YouTube, Xmarks, RSS Feed, Tumbler.
Pluses: it works flawlessly, it’s easy to set up new accounts, it’s reasonably priced, and the services not in beta are mostly useful to me (some of the ones in beta would be even more useful). Minuses: no great search feature.
This is a new service I’m tying and is in invite only private beta. (I gave my invites away already, sorry.) It has a bit of potential over Backupify for me because it catalogs your stored data, associates with your contacts in a smart way across networks, and makes it all searchable. If you ever actually lose your data, being able to search your archive while you sort it all out will be key.
It backs up Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Contacts, Highrise, Gmail, Google Apps Mail, IMAP and POP3 email, AOL mail, Hotmail, and Yahoo mail. I love the way it figures out who is who in my contacts, what their profiles are, and what I’m talking to them about everywhere. It claims to give you a 360° view of your contacts, and so far – it’s right. This one may be a keeper.
BatchBook by BatchBlue is not what most people think of as a backup plan. It’s a CRM tool that integrates social media, email, to-do lists, sales tools, contact info, notes, files/attachments and more into one big database that you can update on the fly. It easily syncs with Basecamp, Freshbooks and other tools I use, too, to give me one more place to store the things that keep my businesses running.
DropBox is a tool to share content with collaborators in the cloud. To this end, it works as an effective group backup system in addition to a way to effectively share the files you need for projects, and a way to access data when you move from machine to machine. If you have ever done a collaborative project you know how much stuff can be generated and how many people can get involved in the process – to have one folder only those who need access to can use is an amazing thing. We used DropBox and Basecamp to write Twitter for Dummies, for example, sharing data and proofs and screenshots between all of the authors, the publisher and editor. Since everyone involved lives in a different state, it made writing the book much easier.
Since I’m a Mac lover and my business runs on Apple products, I make full use of their time machine tool and a slim, light hard drive that easily pockets into my laptop bag to keep an ongoing backup of what’s on my actual machine. This is key, since I have gigabytes of music to keep track of in addition to my work info. I love the simple restore aspect of Time Machine as well as the other features.
This is one I use just for my music. I run a simple backup to the cloud using Amazon S3 and a simple, free FTP tool to send a backup of my music online. Can you tell music is as important to me as my businesses yet? 🙂 Amazon’s S3 service is simple to use and super cheap.
We can’t overlook Disqus, the social commenting and sharing plug in for blogs. Why is it on the backup list? They have a handy comment export system that allows you to back up the social comments on your blog periodically so you don’t lose them in an outage. Yes, comments are social, too. (For that matter: export your blog posts in a backup file regularly as well)
This is technically a synching tool for your bookmarks, but because it syncs your bookmarks to each browser (currently FireFox, Chrome for Mac – Dev Channel, and Safari for me) and also to their site, it works as a nice backup tool for my bookmarks as well. Of note, I also use Evernote for this type of backhanded backup of sites and bookmarks, though Evernotes other features put it in a different category than a simple backup for me.
Of note: I use the paid version of any service not in a free beta. That means I pay for all but one of the services above (well, Time Machine is technically free as well, but I had to buy a Mac with OS X to get it and a hard drive to use it). I don’t think “free” and “data backup” are necessarily two things meant to go together. On the other hand, money is a subject I take seriously so I look for good value. Each of the services above offer plans that work out to $20 or less a month.
Here’s a little secret from me to you regarding mobile social media and networking: if it is too frustrating or time consuming for people to access social content from handheld devices, they will simply stop trying.
I’m a Blackberry user. You might even say that I am a Crackberry addict. I won’t say it, because that means I have admitted that I have a problem, and experts tell me such admittance must preclude a recovery of some sort. But for better or worse, you might say my life revolves around the shiny little Blackberry Curve Sunset that never escapes my person.
Though I’ve said almost incessantly that social media will, in the very near future, start migrating as a whole to mobile devices, it is always nice to see a little evidence to back that theory up. iSuppli, an analyst group focused on interpreting trends in electronics, claims that the massive adoption of smartphones and internet-friendly handsets in 2009 will force businesses to radically revamp their business models to address the new mobile social phenomenon. With many social business startups gaining support in the mobile platform arena, iSuppli estimates that the scope of this shift to mobile social media could surpass the current impact of the technology, media and telecommunication industries, which currently control approximately 5% of the gross global domestic product (estimated at $3 trillion dollars).
Information Week claims that the adoption of smartphones like the iPhone is the catalyst for the market’s shift towards mobile-based social platforms. I agree with that opinion whole-heartedly, but there are a few very large roadblocks standing in the way of widespread adoption of social mobile platforms.
First, many consumers just aren’t ready to spend money on data transfer plans with mobile carriers because either the handsets that properly execute internet are too pricy, or the plan rates are outrageously priced. The U.S. carrier market is preying on consumers; while other countries have high-speed networks and advanced handsets available at competitive rates, the U.S. market is exploiting customers while the getting is good. For the U.S. market to truly adopt mobile social media, plans and handset prices will need to become truly competitive — what a novel concept!
Second, handsets will need to be powerful enough to operate mobile social platforms full-time without putting a huge strain on battery life, system performance or any other aspect of mobile communication. Apple isn’t allowing mobile social platforms to run constantly in the background on the iPhone for fear of system slowdown and drained battery life. Though that is a legitimate concern, by not allowing social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to run as background processes, the iPhone (which is the most popular touchscreen handset on the market) is stunting the growth of mobile social media. If the industry is truly going in the direction iSuppli predicts, Apple and other manufacturers will have to bulk up their handsets to compensate for the shift towards proper mobile social networking.
iSuppli also estimates that the cost of basic mobile social packages will be an average of $15.30 monthly. I have to say that I disagree with this analysis, and here’s why: the entire point of social networking is to share and communicate with friends, family and new people. Sharing, by definition, implies no cost. Do you think social networking and media would have become so successful if there were monthly price tags on every platform? That obviously won’t stop carriers from attempting to tag social packages with price tags. However, you can bet that people will choose to pay standard data rates and use free social platforms instead of opting into any carrier-exclusive for-pay mobile platform. If carriers can’t see that simple fact now, they’re wasting time by building or purchasing mobile social platforms they intend to charge users for.
It is likely that, like many other things in the mobile world, the U.S. will be stuck quite a few large steps behind other markets, simply because carriers aren’t willing to sacrifice a few pennies in the name of progress. Though other markets might see a drastic shift towards mobile social networking by next year, our nickel-and-diming U.S. carriers probably won’t have any problem shooting up the party here.