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April 15, 2005


I make fun of friends who haven't bothered to backup their data and have somehow managed to lose files through either hardware failure or even loss of a laptop. My job as a system admistrator means I need to devise and monitor backup strategies for whole companies. And yet, is my laptop backed up? I'm ashamed to admit that up until yesterday the answer was no, never, not once since I bought it nearly two years ago.

Inspired by this blog from Marc Wieczorek, and in general by the "getting things done" mentality, I decided to get my house in order.

Broadly seaking, things I need to backup include:

MP3 collection
Digital Photo collection
Email archive
My company data
General files and documents

I have digitised my entire CD collection, and am working on the vinyl, so my backup destination needed to be pretty large. Online backup to my shell account is not an option, as I only have a 1Gb limit there, and a bandwidth quota per month too. I might look at this option later for some important documents, but so far all I have is ZIP2 password protection, and I don't really want to send these files by ftp.

I could backup everything to another of my computers. That's always been a viable option, but I just never get round to it. Also, the disk space is all being used for other things, and some of them have OS reinstalls on a semi-regular basis.

So I decided to get an external hard drive. I wanted something with a large capacity, but small and light, and not requiring me to carry a power supply around. I found the Firelite from Smartdisk in John Lewis which fits the bill with 80Gb and powered USB2, so I bought it.

Mark recommended the freeware version of Syncback so I downloaded it and gave it a go. It's as easy as he says to set up, and within a few minutes I had created five profiles for the five categories of data I wanted to backup, and they are all on my drive now.

I decided that the music was already compressed enough and didn't need any password protecting, so it just gets copied straight across. This has the added benefit that I can actually play the tracks directly from the drive on another PC if I want to.

If the drive falls into the wrong hands, I want all my other data password protected, including my photos. Syncback doesn't add passwords unless you zip the files, so everything else is zipped and protected.

So all my important laptop data is now backed up. This is much better than before, but there are still issues. Both laptop and drive are sittng on my desk at work. Will they both be there after lunch? I can live without the MP3 files, they are ultimately all recreatable, and though it would take a lot of time to do that, it would not be a catastrophic loss. All my photos are already backed up to my Flickr account, which is a Pro account so the full size images are retained there. I could recover my photos from there. My email archive, and all my work and personal documents including my Quickbooks company information, is irreplacable. So I'm really going to have to work out an offsite option for at least some of these file. The SE edition of Syncback has proper encryption built in, and the price is only around £8, so rather than messing around with some freeware encryption tool that wouldn't integrate well, perhaps I should exercise my credit card and give some money to the developer of a very good little product.

Will update this when I've made any decisions.

Posted by se71 at April 15, 2005 11:04 AM

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