Saturday, August 11, 2012

Continuing saga of trying to back up files off-site

If you have read my previous blogs you know that I have over 50,000 files totaling over 30 GB that I want to back up to an off-site location. Because of the large number of files, I decided that most of the back-up services offered out there would not suit my situation. Those services are good for handling collaborative projects or for backing up particular "important" files and folders. But they are not set up to work with large numbers of files. I learned that what I needed was a "file storage" service.

After settling on Online Storage Solution (OLS-CS) to be my file storage service, my next task was to get my files copied to their servers.

I found that I could use the Finder and drag and drop files and folders that are located on my computer's hard drive to the Network Drive opened when connecting to OLS-CS. Or I could use an FTP client software to copy the files. This took a long time to move all the files in my Documents folder. Working on and off, it took about 5 days.

But once I had done that I realized that whenever I made a change to a file, or added or deleted a file, I would have to remember what I had done so I could copy those files to the OLS-CS servers. That would require a lot of effort and would be prone to errors. I needed a back-up program that would identify those incremental changes to my files and folders and copy the changed items to the Network Drive.

If you read my blog of July 23, you know that I had originally tried to use the back-up programs I own to get the files copied over, and that I ended up using my FTP software, Fetch, and the Finder instead. But I now knew that I had to be able to use a back-up program. So I tried once again.

The backup program that I have been using the longest is FoldersSynchronizer by softoBe. It has been around a very long time and is very easy to use. When I tried to use it, however, I found that the connection to the Network Drive gets dropped every once in awhile. It may appear to be connected when you look at the Network Drive in the Finder. The Finder wouldn't change appearances if the drop was only momentary. FoldersSynchronizer, however, stops the backup. It apparently has no way of resuming the upload once the connection is broken. In my research on the Internet, apparently the technology exists for resuming downloads, but it is much more difficult to resume an upload.

Another thing I began to realize as I started trying to use a back-up program is that in order for the program to do an incremental backup, it has to keep track of what existed before it begins doing the backup. So the total time it will take to do the incremental backup depends on how long it takes to scan the files to see which ones were changed, which ones are new, and which ones are no longer there.

When I saw that my old stand-by, FoldersSynchronizer, wasn't going to work, I decided to try a program I bought more recently, Intego's Personal Backup. I tried using it for several days. It seemed to make progress, but then it would quit. Each time it scanned my files to build a database of the files it would need to change. That process took three hours. Then it would start copying files to the Network Drive until the connection was broken, at which time it would simply stop copying. There is no error message. You just have to look at the information being provided and notice that nothing is changing. Each time you restart, there are fewer total files to copy because in the meantime the vast majority of them have not changed. Gradually you will get it down to the point where everything has been copied, and the only thing that will need to be updated are the files that you actually added, modified, or deleted during the period since the last backup.

Since I had already copied all my files to the Network Drive using FTP and the Finder, I couldn't figure out why FoldersSynchronizer and Personal Backup were finding that the files had changed and they had to copy the files all over again despite my previous effort. I eventually noticed that the creation, modification, and last modified dates were all being changed! When these programs copied the files to the Network Drive, the old dates were not being retained! Instead all the files were being given the date they were copied to the Network Drive.

I fired off a quick email to Support for FoldersSynchronizer, but never received a reply. My research on the internet tells me that this is a common problem and it is pretty much a mystery as to why this happens.

In my next blog I decide to go shopping for a backup program that won't fail when the connection to the Network Drive breaks. Stay tuned.

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