What You Can Learn About Data Backups From Metallica's Kirk Hammett

By Tom Pritchard on at

Backing up your data is important. Ridiculously important. But some people still haven't got the memo, including Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett. Back in 2012, Hammett recorded over 400 guitar licks on his iPhone, and now it's gone missing with 250 of the riffs remaining unused. Whoops!

Speaking with Jamey Jasta last week, Hammett admitted that he misplaced his phone around six months ago and hadn't backed up any of the data. Of the 250 missing ideas, he claims to only remember eight of them. Could one of them have been the next Enter Sandman, or For Whom the Bell Tolls? We may never know.

It's a sad day for Metallica fans. If only Kirk had remembered to Ride the Lightning (cable). But it didn't need to be this way, had Mr Hammett listened to the advice of tech bloggers and IT people everywhere by backing up the data on his phone. Here is how you can avoid the same album-wrecking fate.

Make Sure You Can Track it Online

Let's start off with the obvious. If you have an expensive smartphone, regardless of whether or not it's full of irreplaceable files, you should activate the built-in tracking systems. So make sure you head over to Find My iPhone, Android Device Manager, or Find My Windows Phone (depending on what handset you have) and set it up.

Follow the onscreen instructions, and if you then lose possession of your phone then you just need to head back to the respective site to track its location via GPS. If you know the general location, but still can't find it, you can activate the ringer. A bit like ringing your own number, but without the need for a second phone.

It doesn't take long to do, and it's incredibly useful. There are many a time I've lost track of my phone and had to use one of these services to find which sofa cushion it fell into. Plus if it gets stolen, you can lock your phone down and leave the thief a message demanding it be returned. Failing that you can wipe all of its data and prevent any personal information falling into someone else's hands.

Had Hammett taken the time to do this in advance, he would know what happened to his phone and could have taken the steps to ensure its safe return.

Actually Backup Your Stuff

Sadly the safe return of your phone is not guaranteed, and if it gets stolen it might end up being wiped ready for a new 'owner'. That's why backing up your data is equally important, and it doesn't even require much conscious effort on your part.

Most people will tell you that it's always better to manually back up your files to a separate drive, rather than the cloud, to ensure that their safety is guaranteed. But that's always a bit of a pain, and if you need to make sure you get into the habit of backing stuff then the easier it is the better. There are several cloud storage services you can use to achieve that. They're very no-frills services, and data that can't be backed up with an automatic service takes seconds to store in your online account.

Automatic mobile backups aren't quite the same as setting them up on your computer. On your home computer you can tell your cloud service of choice to automatically backup one or more folders, and it'll sync whenever something changes. Mobile cloud apps, on the other hand, don't have this as an option. Instead they focus on things like automatically backing up photos and app data.

That makes things tricky in a classification sense. Does recording guitar riffs on your device count as app data? You'll have to check to find out, because it's a bit of a grey area, on an app-by-app basis -- a simple voice memo recording will be classified differently than Garageband, for instance. It's better to be safe though, so you should make sure to remember to manually backup your new files everytime you make them. It might take a while to get into the habit, but it's better than losing everything. Heck, even a backing up once a week is better than not backing up at all.

How You Can Back Everything Up

Android devices come with a built-in backup that should be activated as default. If you want to double check, just head into the Setting menu, scroll down to the 'Personal' sub section and tap 'Backup & reset'. Make sure 'Back up my data' and 'Automatic restore' are activated.

Android users who are new to the world of cloud backups are better off using Google Drive to store individual files. Since you'll have a Google account anyway, you don't need to sign up for anything new. Head in, click the large '+' button followed by the upload icon. From there you can browse through your device's storage and upload everything you want to keep safe.

Windows Phone users can do back up in virtually the same way as Android users. Go into your apps list, find settings, and then go to backup. Windows Phone doesn't have a universal toggle for everything. Instead there are three different toggles for Apps & settings, text messages, and photos. To do that head into the three relevant subfolders and make sure the 'Backup' toggle is switched on.

Your files can be sorted with OneDrive, and you can sign in with your Microsoft account. Similar to Google Drive, just click the '+' button at the bottom of the screen and find the files that you want backed up.

iPhone users are in a bit of a pickle, because iCloud doesn't actually have an option for saving files. There is a backup option similar to Android and Windows Phone, and you can activate this by going into the Settings menu, finding iCloud, and then turning on the iCloud backup. This backup happens at the end of each day, and saves your purchase history, your photos and videos, texts and iMessages, app data, voicemails, settings, and your homescreen organisation.

If you want to backup individual files then you'll have to deal with one of the many alternatives available in the App Store, including MEGA, Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive. You'll need an extra account, but once you're set up you'll be able to upload and save individual files whenever you feel like it.

It might seem like a pain, but it's certainly a lot better than waking up one day and finding everything has vanished in the dead of night. You don't want to end up like Kirk Hammett and lose hours of irreplaceable work.

Who knows what the new Metallica album might have sounded like had Hammett listened to this sort of advice. Now we're faced with two possibilities; either those riffs are gone for good, or they'll end up published on a torrent site along with a bunch of fresh lawsuits from Lars Ulrich. Neither or them is particularly ideal, so don't follow this example and make sure you back your stuff up.

Featured image: Alberto Cabello/Flickr