One question that I get pretty regularly is how do I manage my home systems in regards to backups. Generally speaking I am the geekiest or most up to date on tech stuff when I’m hanging out with other designers. In the many years I have been working with computers I have never lost a file. Granted, I came very close once when I had a WD Harddrive die on me. I did end up recovering the files a few months later though. Well, here is a detailed plan on how I do backups. Its easy, simple to setup, and then I never worry about a thing. I think thats the first priority of doing any sort of maintenance. It should require no effort. It should be timed and work on a schedule. The only time you get involved is if there is a problem.
My existing computer setup
I have 2 desktops at home, 1 at work, and 3 laptops. Two of those are physically at home the other is on campus. I also have a camera and a phone that I want to keep constantly backed up. I have lost my phone about 8 times to date and still havent lost any of the files or pictures I have taken with it.
The process all starts with Hardware
I use one piece of software and one online service that is free. I also will note that the software can be interchanged for a free alternative that works pretty well. So the expense of this process is in hardware.
The first thing you need to do is buy a RAID 1 Harddrive. The RAID 1 part is important because that is a pair of harddrives in one container that mirror onto each other. When you write a file to it, it then copies the same exact file onto the other drive. So if you buy a 1 TB RAID 1 Enclosure, you will only get 500 Gigs of space. The other thing to note is that because it is writing to both drives, they are rather slow.
Here is one of the drives that I bought from Newegg. It is a 1 TB RAID external HD that was $209.99, so it only effectively has 500 gigs of space. It has Firewire and SATA, which is much faster than USB, and it just connects to your computer.
So, what I did was connect that external HD to one of my home systems, I’ll call it Home System 1 because I am creative. That is going to be my base system that will collect all the files from everywhere else and process them and send them to the Backup Drive. I picked my gaming system, because I am rarely on it but its still rather fast. My home ‘work’ system, Home System 2, is much faster, but I use it more and dont want it to slow down while I am doing things at home.
How to start in a cloud
The first part of my process is using Live Mesh which is a free service from Microsoft that offers syncronization and cloud storage for 5 gigs.
So what you do is set Live Mesh up and organize it with a few folders. I use a folder for Mobile, to keep each of my laptops up to date, and a folder for work. I use all sorts of other smaller folders as well, but those are the big ones. Now each of your systems has the same folders on it. So, then all you need to do is copy the files into the folders at a specific time.
Copying the Files
I use a piece of software called Second Copy which I think is around $29.00. Second Copy is a great little utility because it knows what it does, and thats all it does. It copies files from one place to another with many other little features in it. You can automatically zip them, rename them by date, use small scripts, and other tidbits if you want. I like its simplicity. I also like that fact that it keeps copies of deleted files, if you happen to delete them or if you overwrite them with a new version, it will keep up to 25 copies of it in a seperate folder. Thats great if you happen to delete a big layer in a photoshop file and save it on accident. There will always be a copy of it somewhere. With second copy you set up profiles of what to copy and where to copy it to, but the most important thing is scheduling the processes so they happen while you are in bed.
Live Mesh doesnt use a schedule, so you run Second Copy in front of it. Then as soon as Second Copy delivers the files to your Live Mesh folder, it instantly updates all the other computers on your account. This is important because if you update any file or folder in Mesh it will bog down your connection trying to send it all over to your other systems.
Let’s break it down
Our first mission is to get files from where they sit normally to Live Mesh if they are outside of the house, either work or mobile, but on a schedule. So I set up Second Copy profiles on each computer to pull files from my working folders and put them into Live Mesh. I schedule them to go at a time when I am away from the system.
After all of the files are assembled onto Home System 1, then its just time for a late night copy session. I just copy everything over and let Second Copy deal with any deletions. If you deleted something, it will move it to the deleted folder and let it sit. Nothing gets lost.
Mobiles and portables will sync whenever they are connected. Those folders are all under the umbrella folder of being copied over to the main system as well. Then when its time, everything is copied over to the RAID drive. It’s like a team of ants all marching to the RAID drive one jump at a time.
Some Cool Benefits:
True Cloud Computing : Having everything synced allows me to turn off my laptop at any given time and not have to open it to grab a file. Everything is on all of my systems. I can write on my laptop, then shut it down and continue writing on my home systems. If you go to work and your system is down for whatever reason, you can jump on any other system and get your files from Live Mesh. It always has a copy of your files in the cloud. Your files will follow you.
This drive from Newegg, the 2 TB Studio Edition is pretty slick. The reason it is called the Studio Edition, and costs more than the other same size drive is because it also has Firewire which is faster and meant more for Designers.
The alternative to Second Copy is Cobian Backup, which is freeware and open source as well. I have used this several times and can tell you it works very well. I like a lot of the features of it. I also like how it isnt bogged down with unneeded items that may confuse someone just getting into using Second Copy. The author refuses to put anything into the program that may delete something, so it is a pure backup solution.
If there are any questions about this, just give me a shout.