Yet Another Backup Story

by JL Beeken on 9-10-2010

So, the big question is: Did my files survive the computer crash? How well did my file backup serve me?¬† Because we just love to hear those stories of utter devastation, don’t we? The pictures of towers burnt to a crisp. Melted hard-drives. Wisps of charcoal where wires used to be.

I had done my last full backup 20 minutes before, so the answer is Yes, my files did survive. Except for my blog subscriptions, already mentioned, and possibly one mind map I was working on when I got side-tracked to my email.

In my email I found a blog comment awaiting approval. I was logging into my website when the monitors were suddenly taken over by multi-colored vertical stripes and the whole system froze.

That’s how fast these things can happen. You’d have more time to think if something heavy was falling off the roof and aiming for your head.

The blog subscriptions I can get back; it’s just a matter of time. The burning question in my mind is, Did I save the mind map? I’m going to have to wait another two weeks to find out.

For ease of backing up files to other devices, I use Syncback where I have profiles created from [Source] to [Destination]. This covers everything in My Documents, as well as Firefox and Thunderbird profiles and my Legacy installation. Everything goes to two external HD’s, because they don’t all fit on one. I just purchased a 640 GB Western Digital, which arrived yesterday, so things are a-changin’ there. It takes a few seconds or a few minutes several times a day to run the profiles. Very, very simple.

I also carry 3 flash-drives everywhere I go.

(T) has the entire ANCESTORS folder on it, as well as a backup of Legacy. The other half, DESCENDANTS, is burned to disk about once a year and sent to my sisters. That way they have all the updated IPTC-info and I have the comfort of thinking the photos are safer.

(I) has PC TOOLS; installers and other computer-specific stuff.

(P) has all my financial and health data, my calendar and address books, my passwords, all the READ ME files, a copy of My Dropbox, and all my website files, including weekly backups … and a bunch of other stuff.

My Dropbox has PortableApps installed in it, comprised of about 60 programs as well as my ActionOutline outlines and Portable EverNote 2 with all the database backups. I thought I had put the FreeMind mind maps in there already but apparently I hadn’t. I’d only gotten as far as thinking that’s where they belong.

“Everything” is also backed up to Carbonite. Except that Carbonite was 18GB behind and moving at snail’s pace when my computer crashed so I don’t like to entirely depend on it. Also it doesn’t automatically back up videos, exe’s and other things, so I spend a lot of time picking through hundreds of folders telling it what to back up. Not what I consider to be my best shot at being file-safe. It’s very quiet and unobtrusive though.

I think the concept of online backup can’t be beat but the execution of it could use some improvement. I used Mozy for two years and found it way too ‘in my face’. It would take over all system resources for about 20 minutes every time it was situating itself to start up. I slept erratic hours so I couldn’t set a backup schedule. So I switched to Carbonite. When that subscription finishes I’ll probably go back to Mozy. Now that I have an actual bedtime (a survival tactic due to upstairs neighbours waking me up early) I can run Mozy at night.

I also have tons of stuff on DVD but that’s not terribly helpful because they’re usually out-of-date.

This is overkill …..

One external hard-drive with everything on it, unplugged and tossed in my pocket on the way out the door, is enough. Everything on the computer, everything on a hard-drive somewhere else …..
Worst case scenario, they could both die at the same time. OK, so one other complete backup. One computer, two external HD’s with everything on them …..
Plus upcoming netbook with all files synced to it …..
Plus online backup ($50/yr) in case the house with computers, me and externals HD’s go down together due to mudslide, volcanic eruption, hurricane, tornado, pestilence, war, terrorism, alien invasion, falling meteors or flash flood …..
Done!

Oh, and of course, I really should give that flash-drive with all my legal info on it to my legal rep someday.

My Western Digital WD Elements 640 GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive cost $100.73 CDN plus tax, free shipping. It’s 5 x 3 x 0.6 inches and weighs 7 ounces. That’s about $87 USD. For you coffee-drinkers out there, a week at Starbuck’s?

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