Please backup

15Apr08

More and more of what I deal with on a daily basis is digital. I’m predominately communicating with emails, I get my financial statements online, my music collection has mostly been digitalize, I record my videos on my media PC and playback on my TV, and finally, I stopped using film a few years back and have been only taking digital photos since.

With a lot of my personal and financial data stored on my computer, the cost of losing this data is huge. It’s absolute essential for me to backup my data. Not backing up my data is like living in Seattle or Portland without an umbrella. It’s not a matter of if the hard drive or the hard drive controller will fail, it’s a matter of when they’ll fail. Just as it’s not a matter of whether it’ll rain around these parts, it’s a matter of when. I suppose a raincoat would do too, but you get my gist.

Bird Inn next to an Inn
A bird house next to an inn somewhere in Vermont

Local Backup

A long time back, on a recommendation from a good friend, I started backing up my hard drive with a software from 2BrightSparks called SyncBack. I liked it so much, I paid for the SE edition. With a simple setup that took all of 30 minutes or less, my backup now runs everyday at 6pm and my external hard drive stores 3 previous versions of every file it backed up, just in case I need to revert back to one of them. SyncBackSE has so many features, such as sync’ing across machines and across the internet, but all I need it for is backing up and versioning, which isn’t available in the freeware. That alone is worth the US$30 asking price.

Even if you choose not to pay for the non-freeware version, there’s no reason not to use the freeware version. It doesn’t cost you anything but a few minutes of setup time.

Offsite Backup

Recently, I’ve also incorporated an offsite backup scheme to my backup solution, in case my house burns down and takes out all my hard drives. This is through an online service called Mozy. Mozy is owned by EMC, a global storage solutions company, so I know the company is well backed and shouldn’t be going out of business any time soon. For a fixed cost of $5 a month per computer, you can backup an unlimited amount of data. Since I keep all my data on one machine, I’m only paying a nominal fee of $60 a year to have all of my over 200GB of data backed up online. It’s slow going uploading 200GB of data, even with my 2Mb/s FIOS internet connection, but when you’ve finally completed your first backup, my took over a week, subsequent backups are incremental and much faster. It’s not a online storage system, so you can’t use it for storing files, but that’s not its purpose. It has an easy retrieval system, where you just need to use the software (or online), indicate the files you wish to restore, and in a few minutes, Mozy will email you to inform you that the restore is ready to download. Easy. Unfortunately it doesn’t keep previous versions of backed up files, but what do I expect for $60 a year? That’s why I have SyncBackSE.

That’s pretty much sums up what I have set up to ensure my data isn’t lost to hardware failure.

Rainclouds Ahead

If you haven’t already started thinking about a backup solution, you should start thinking about what it’ll be like when you do lose all your data — all your digital photos, all your music, all your videos. If that sounds like a disaster, maybe you should get an umbrella, or a raincoat, or both.

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6 Responses to “Please backup”

  1. 1 forkboy1965

    It is always good to see someone else talking about this very topic. Last year I purchased a backup external Iomega hard drive with Retrospect Express software (also from EMC). I do a simple file backup anytime I transfer new image files to my PC. In addition I regularly burn to DVD all my files and send them to my father as my off-site storage solution.

    I’m actually contemplating building a PC specifically for my ametuer photography needs. I’m thinking of a machine using four swappable hard drives in either a RAID 1+0 (or is it 1+0?) setup for both greater speed and data redundancy. While there is so much other digital information on my computer that is important, non of it is such that it’s loss would be that horrible. While being a part of the modern digital age I very much recognize the inherent dangers that come with having so much important information upon a computer.

  2. 2 TopL

    Hi forkboy1965. A RAID is great if one of the hard drives in the RAID fails, you have a backup with the other drive(s). However, it doesn’t help if you accidentally deleted your photo or if the hardware fails and corrupts the data. If your RAID is to replace your existing backup, then I think you should keep your simple backup, otherwise, nevermind what I said :-).


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