I just watched Thomas’ webinar (available at Legacy webinars on CD) called Backing Up: Your Genealogy Data and if I didn’t already have a simple backup plan I still wouldn’t.
Although he gave reasons why we should back up our files and various backup resources, he didn’t show the backup process outside of using Dropbox. I’m a huge fan of Dropbox but maybe I’m not an average genealogist because I don’t get this thing where people are backing up their genealogy files to 2GB of free space. My files are way over that amount, around 50GB and I’ve hardly begun.
In a poll taken at the webinar, 42% of people were backing up their files less than once a week; 27% a month ago, 8% a year ago and 7% never. That’s a gargantuan number that are not taking backup seriously, and I think the only reason must be because there’s something about backing up our computer files that seems too difficult.
It isn’t difficult at all. I just showed my cousin, Sam, how to do this for her new laptop and, as ever, if Sam can do it so can anyone.
If you have files on your computer that you care about they also need to be regularly backed up to somewhere else. And a simple backup plan is within anyone’s reach. This is what you need to know:
1. what files to back up and where they are
2. backup devices
3. software to automate the backup process
What Files to Back Up and Where They Are
Where your files are is straightforward.
In Windows XP you’ll have My Documents with sub-folders of My Music, My Pictures, My Videos.
In Windows 7 you’ll have My Documents, My Music, My Pictures, My Videos as 4 separate main folders.
Everything else is a sub-folder so if you back up the main folder(s) you’ll catch everything else where your personal documents are concerned – unless you’re being an oddball and creating folders at random in obscure corners of your operating system.
Besides that, there’s your genealogy database. I do keep backups of the family file because that’s how the Legacy backup button works. But, instead of worrying about all the particulars, I also back up the entire installation which is at C:\Legacy.
And then there’s your bookmarks. In Firefox, go to Bookmarks/Organize Bookmarks:
which takes you to the Bookmarks Library. Click on ‘All Bookmarks’ and then Ctrl+A for Select All. Right above the highlighted list you’ll see ‘Import and Backup’. Click the Export button and save the bookmarks.html file somewhere in My Documents.
Do this on a regular basis. Like every time you add more bookmarks. I back up my bookmarks every day because it only takes 5 seconds.
I also regularly export my calendar and address book from Thunderbird. The other folders I back up regularly are my Firefox and Thunderbird profiles. And I do this because I’m lazy. The profiles contain my browser and email plugins and settings. During a re-installation or after a major screw up, I can use the backups to fix the situation immediately. The profile folders can be found under App Data in Windows 7 (or Application Data in Windows XP). A file-path similar to this:
Take a gander down Windows Explorer and see if I missed anything.
I favor external hard-drives because I have about 200GB of files to back up and they’re relatively inexpensive. I got two 600GB drives from Amazon for about $75 each.
My experience with discs and flash-drives is that they’re not as reliable, but they could be. You never know. That’s why it’s imperative to have more than one backup.
I back up everyday to one drive and I alternate the drives monthly. There’s a recurring reminder on my calendar for the 1st of every month. I also back up to two older drives mid-month but I don’t depend on them. The drive presently in use is taken out of the house with me whenever I leave so it’s not sitting next to the computer which has the exact same files on it. It’s not a perfect plan but it’s a simple one. If my house and I were to get in trouble on the same day while in different locations that would be stretching probabilities but it could happen.
To make my plan closer to perfect I also back up my files online to Carbonite. This is a simple installation and then it just runs. The only downside is that it doesn’t automatically back up every type of file so you have to take a few minutes to tell it to. And then it just carries on; you won’t even know it’s there.
If you have less for backup and/or you’re short on cash, you can use a combination of free online backup services. Just set up an account (username and password) on each and follow the instructions.
Syncback To Automate The Process (Backup to Discs & Drives)
Syncback is a no-brainer and the free version works just fine. The language used is ‘Source’ and ‘Destination’. In most cases, Source would mean your computer. And Destination could mean an external hard-drive, a flash-drive, a re-writable disc or even a home server. The general idea is to set up what’s called ‘profiles’ that tell Syncback to copy My Documents from the Source to My Documents on the Destination and My Music to My Music, My Pictures to My Pictures, and so on. You can break any of these into smaller profiles if you want to. I use Syncback several times a day.
I had to take some columns out of this to make the screenshot but this is the basic idea. From-to, from-to, from-to. This is very simple to do and you can save the profiles so you only have to create them once.
The month I have my ‘X’ drive plugged in, I run the (X) profiles. When I have the ‘Z’ drive plugged in, I run the (Z) profiles.
Use what you’ve got. Anything is better than nothing. If you’re willing to invest your time in using a computer, invest in protecting your investment by setting up and using a simple backup plan.