March 12, 2013
Joe Kissell recently wrote a solid article on third-party disk utilities at Macworld.com. In "Do you need a third-party disk utility", he does, I think, a great job of laying out the pros and cons of that line of software, and he has some good points. You don't need them as much as you used to. I always keep a current copy of Disk Warrior, but then, I'm an IT person, and I see things the average person won't in terms of disk problems. That's not because of some weird work my users are doing, but scale. The average person only deals with a few hard drives at most. I deal with a few hundred, and my compatriots deal with a few thousand. That kind of scale introduces you to edge cases more often than most people.
However, he glosses over one of the things that I think make the need for disk utilities, at least in the home, much less than it used to be: backups. Joe does mention it, but I think the change in backing up over the last decade or so, especially in the home/SOHO arena is astounding.
Look at the state of backup a decade ago. Time Machine was still four years away, and backing up, to be honest, sucked. Cloud backup wasn't a real option for most, and the other options sucked just as much if not more. The applications for doing backups were either misapplied business applications, or "scaled down" business applications that made the mistake of assuming a poorly-done UI was okay, because backups are important. People backed up to CDs and DVDs, or worse for the home market, tape. Ugh. Don't get me wrong, tape is awesome, but it can be slow, it's not cheap, and the software to use it is not easy.
But then a few things changed. Like Time Machine, and things like Crash Plan, Dropbox, Google Docs, and a host of other services that made keeping important data in multiple places really easy. I don't exactly live in HIGH BANDWIDTH CENTRAL, (Tallahassee is not Silicon Valley by any means), and yet, i realized the other day that were my laptop to be say, dropped in a pool, it would suck for exactly one reason: Apple doesn't make 17" MacBook Pros anymore. That's it. In terms of data, between Time Machine, CrashPlan Pro, and a host of other things, I'm probably backed up better than when I was sending boxes of DLTs to iron mountain every month, and the software is sure as hell easy to use.
So I think a huge reason why people don't worry about dedicated disk utilities anymore is that backing up has become such a literally thoughtless process, a hard drive crash is no longer the horrifying event it used to be.
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