Thursday, August 30, 2012

Shopping for a back-up program

In my latest blogs I have been describing how I have been exploring a way to back up my over 50,000 files to an off-site service so they will be secure in case my laptop and my local external backups are destroyed.  I explained why I chose Online Storage Solution (OLS-CS) to use for this off-site storage of my backed-up files.  I also explained why I needed a back-up program to handle the backups.  Copying files to the OLS-CS servers wasn't a satisfactory solution because later changes, additions, and deletions needed to be tracked and managed.  For that, you need a back-up program.

I had tried FoldersSynchronizer by softoBe and Personal Backup by Intego, but was having problems because when the connection was lost between my computer and the Network Drive on the OLS-CS servers, the backup just stopped, and I had to start the backup from the beginning over and over.

So I went out on the internet to see if there were any back-up programs that advertised their ability to maintain a connection or resume the backup after a connection is restored.

There are A LOT of backup programs out there.  Here is a list of a few that I looked at and a brief comment on each.

SmartBackup - $15 - Advertises itself as a fast and lightweight backup application for OSX, ready for Mountain Lion.  It appeared to be too simple for what I needed.  The program assumes it knows what you want when you are setting up the back-up parameters, leaving fewer things that you can change.

File Synchronization - starts at $15 - Appears designed to do synchronization only, not backups.

xTwin - $99.99 - Though expensive, this looks like a very good program.  It has gotten a couple really bad reviews, but those were for earlier versions.

Carbon Copy Cloner - $30 - Good reputation.

IBackup - Monthly fee based on amount of storage - This is a total on-line back-up service which includes storage and sharing of files. Not what I was looking for.

Mathusalem by softonic - No longer supported

SilverKeeper by LaCie - No longer supported

Of all the programs I looked at, the name I was most familiar with was Carbon Copy Cloner.  It has received glowing reviews for the past several years.  Being a contrarian, I had resisted getting it, but I decided that it was time to see if it lived up to the hype.  There is a 30-day free trial period.  After that it costs $39.95.

I thought I would start with backing up my Desktop folder.  There are only about 5500 files in that folder, and I thought it would be a good test of Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC).

This is a very comprehensive program with lots of options.  During the trial period, a window opens when you launch the program that reminds you of when the trial expires and gives you the option of continuing to use the trial or purchasing the program.

The main window allows you to select the source and the destination.  You can either choose to copy an entire disk to the destination or a particular folder.  The destination can either be a disk or a folder on a disk.  Since I was copying the Desktop folder, which resides inside the "bgmason" folder, which resides inside "Users" folder on my hard drive, I have the same folder structure created on the Network Drive.  I created a "Users" folder on the Network Drive, and then inside that I created a "bgmason" folder.  At this point, because of the previous work I had done making a backup of my files (see previous blogs), I had a "Desktop" folder and a "Documents" folder inside the "bgmason" folder on the Network Drive.

Once you make those selections, you have the ability to deselect files and folders that you don't want copied.  Even though they are small files, it doesn't make a lot of sense to copy all of the .DS_Store files, for example.  By deselecting them, there are that many fewer files to copy and it will somewhat reduce the time involved in making the backup.

On the destination side, you let CCC know what kind of media your backup will be made to.  You also are given options about whether or not to delete files on the destination that don't exist on the source or to save those files in an archive.

Finally, there is a button for further customizing the settings concerning data that already exists on the destination.  This includes a button called "Advanced settings..."  This is where I ran into trouble.  One of the selections is for removing files "on the destination that I have excluded from the backup".  It goes on to explain, "If an item exists on the destination (e.g. from a previous backup), and you have deselected that item from the list of items to be copied, that item will be removed from the destination."  Since I was deselecting some files, including the .DS_Store files, I thought I should select this.  That way, even though they currently existed on the destination because of my previous efforts to copy my files using FTP and the Finder, they would be removed.

All of these settings are remembered by the program so that the next time you select the same source and destination, you will not have to remember your previous settings.

So I started CCC off on its project to copy all the files and folders in my Desktop folder to the Network Drive.  This was taking some time, as I expected it would, and I proceeded to do other things on my laptop as the backup was proceeding.  But I glanced up at one point, and noticed that all of the files and folders in my Documents folder on the Network Drive were disappearing!  All that copying it had taken me days to accomplish using FTP and the Finder was being flushed down the drain!  I stopped CCC and assessed the damage.  I still had all the folders inside the Documents folder whose names started with A-C.  But the folders with names starting with D-Z were gone from the Network Drive.

In analyzing why this happened, I finally realized that when I said to remove files on the destination that I excluded from the backup, that this did not refer to the files and folders inside the "Desktop" folder, but rather the files and folders inside the "bgmason" folder.  Since I hadn't told CCC to copy the "Documents" folder, it commenced deleting it.

Needless to say, I was very discouraged at this point at decided to quit for the day. I would reconsider my approach, and then tackle the problem after I'd collected my thoughts.

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