It may be our most repeated and most ignored advice: always back up your files. Just do it! All drives and discs eventually fail, and backup service CrashPlan is specifically designed with that in mind.
CrashPlan was developed by Code42, which was founded in 2001 as an IT consultancy but has since shifted to both consumer and enterprise software. At the helm as CEO is Matthew Dornquast, who co-founded the company and continues to run it. We spoke with Matthew to learn about his work habits and the challenges his team has faced in developing CrashPlan.
And yes, 42 is a reference to what you think.
Location: Minneapolis, aka "Silicon Prairie" Current Gig: Co-founder, CEO of Code42 Software One word that best describes how you work: Om Current mobile device: iPhone 6, 64GB, which I have set to show up as "iPhone 7" via Bluetooth because it's funny. Current computer: I use several. If I have to pick one, it's a late issue 15-inch MacBook Retina. In my home office, I have a cylindrical MacPro hooked up to a 55-inch 4K TV as a monitor. I also use three iPads — one for work and two for home automation controls.
What apps/software/tools can't you live without?
Because time is so precious to me, I would say any application that enables me to behave as if I've planned ahead, which is something I love to avoid if I can. Apps in this category include Google Maps, OpenTable, MindBody Online, StubHub and so on. In the material world, I would say the giga-fine .001mm Sharpie. It hasn't actually been invented yet, but I'll be first in line when it is.
What's your workspace setup like?
The closest thing to a permanent workspace I have these days is my home office, which I usually frequent via VPN. My permanent workspace at work is a conference room — no aspect of it is unique to me. Since it's your typical conference room, others kick me out when they need it. When this happens, the engineering part of my brain that loves flexibility and efficiency releases a tidal wave of serotonin and I happily work in public spaces around Code42's campus.
What's your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
My favourite life hacks are principals I strive to embody — I am not claiming mastery:
- Physical: Create, don't consume.
- Mental: Don't confuse process as a form of creation; the median shelf life on process is less than that of milk.
- Spiritual: Forgive.
What's your favourite to-do list manager?
First I used a text file, then it was Evernote, which became unwieldy so I switched to "notes" by Apple. Now my favourite is something I can't talk about yet! Hopefully, you can see I'm a huge fan of keeping it simple. Paper gets lost, it isn't indexed, and it isn't always with me like my phone.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why?
Really, that's all I need. If you're going to make me choose something, then I'll say my cable modem, as a proxy to the internet.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What's your secret?
I'm not sure I'm better than everyone else at anything. I'm hugely optimistic, some might say unrealistically so, but isn't there always a way? I'm a pretty good engineer/product guy, but I made a number of sacrifices to be good at it. I'm an absolute embarrassment when it comes to sports trivia or pop culture.
What do you listen to while you work?
I've really grown to appreciate uninterrupted focus, which isn't the same thing as silence. For me, listening to music is a very active thing I do, which I only share with mundane tasks like driving, cleaning, or exercise. I have no favourite genre; however, "Nothing Was The Same" by Drake is my jam.
What are you currently reading?
I'm so curious about the real world, I rarely read fiction. I have allowed myself the luxury of listening to fiction on Audible over the last few years. I just finished "The Martian" by Andy Weir and LOVED IT. Before that, it was "Game of Thrones" - also great.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Maybe both.
I was a huge introvert. Over the years, my Myers Briggs test results show me migrating towards extroversion. I'm currently an ENTP. Myers Briggs is awesome — I love the idea that everyone is equally amazing while uniquely ascribable through a combination of broad categories.
What's your sleep routine like?
If someone had told me 15 years ago I'd be in a yoga studio by 6am, I would have laughed it off as highly improbable.
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see _________ answer these same questions.
Christian Bale or Elon Musk.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
Everyone is equally extraordinary, but in a uniquely individual way. It won't always be obvious, but if you take the time to learn, you'll find it.
Is there anything else you'd like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?
Most of life's obstacles are smaller than they appear in the rear-view mirror entitled experience.
Let's talk a bit about CrashPlan. Code42 didn't start as a consumer-focused software company — so how did CrashPlan come about?
It was a personal need. As technologists, we lead increasingly digital lives at work and at home. One can't lead a worry-free digital life unless the data on the device is safe and protected. For us, it was a technology that freed us from worry.
What are some of the biggest challenges your team faced in developing CrashPlan?
How do you store every version, of every file, forever, in a secure way that guarantees wherever it's stored, personal privacy is protected? And if we're responsible for storing their data without knowing what's actually there, how can we be sure it's really there — working — healthy? That turned out to be really hard.
In terms of reliability and security, do you think cloud backups have reached the point at which local backups are no longer necessary?
No. As you become increasingly dependent on technology in your life, the time without it becomes increasingly expensive. On-premises backups have the advantage of immediacy of restore, especially for large data sets. That being said, they are also the most at-risk form of failure. From the beginning, our product has supported storing data in multiple locations; on-premises, near offsite and far offsite. If you could only do one strategy, far offsite is the most secure, but the most expensive in terms of recovery.
Is there any else regarding CrashPlan that you'd like to add?
The reason I trust my personal data to CrashPlan (I use the free product) is because it has been built upon the premise that everything fails. Computers, memory, hard drives, networks — they all break eventually. CrashPlan was steeped in this reality so things don't silently fail, ever. That's the fundamental issue with backup — sure it's backed up — but can you get it back? This is something that must be continually tested in order for the answer to be "yes". Still today, I think we're the only ones that continually verify this fact for our users. It's what I love most about CrashPlan.
We've asked a handful of heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Every week we'll feature a new guest and the gadgets, apps, tips and tricks that keep them going. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.