Monday, August 6, 2012

The latest update on my attempts to back up files off-site

If you read my last blog you know that I thought I had a solution for backing up my files off-site. But for the last couple weeks I have been trying to optimize the solution I found and get it to work the way I think it should. That is why I haven't posted anything since that last blog.

I want to recap to lay out where things stand as of now. (Sorry to repeat some stuff, but you may not want to go back and read my previous posts.)

How to move your back-up copies off-site

"Experts" agree, it is a good idea to have a backup of your files off-site so if your house or office is destroyed, you will still have a copy of your files. I suppose you could limit this off-site backup to just your "important" files, but what is "important" and what isn't? Making that decision could take more time than simply going ahead and making the copy.

There are several ways to create this off-site copy. If you are a business, it may be easier because you may own several locations, and you can just have copies on multiple hard drives in the various buildings you own. For a private individual, however, it isn't that easy.

If you are that private individual, you could make a copy of your computer's hard drive on an external hard drive and store that external drive somewhere like a relative's or a friend's home, or even put it in a safe deposit box. But then there is the problem of periodically retrieving the back-up hard drive from its off-site location so you can update it with the latest files.

I hadn't come up with a good, easy way to accomplish this goal of having an off-site backup. But then all this talk of the "Cloud" lead me to believe that I could back up my files to a server "out there".

As I said in my previous blog, for some time I have been using a service provided by Nomadesk. However, it was always a struggle using their service and I never was able to back up everything I wanted to. So I went looking for a better service.

What is being backed up

My situation is this. I have over 50,000 files on my MacBook Pro laptop totalling about 30 GB. My goal has been to copy all of that to an off-site server. I don't want a solution that provides automatic syncing of my files to the Cloud. Those types of solutions seem to be designed to sync those "important" or "essential" files. Apple's iCloud service, for example, is designed to sync your mail, music, photos, and iWork documents. It is not designed to sync documents you scan, or documents created in other applications like Microsoft Office or Photoshop, etc. Other services are designed for collaboration, so any files associated with a particular project would be backed up or synced to the service and then all of your collaborators on the project would have access to those documents.

I decided that the terminology for what I am trying to do is file storage. I want a service that will store copies of all my files on their servers and provide a way for me to recover those files if needed after some sort of disaster, or simply provide access to the files from my iDevices whenever I am away from my laptop.

As described in my previous blog, the service I found that I thought would provide what I was looking for is Online Storage Solution (OLS-CS). They provide unlimited storage for your files which you can access either through their web application which they call "File Manager", or by connecting to their server as a Network Drive which appears in the Finder on your Desktop, or on your iDevices through an App called "AjaXplorer". What I have been struggling with over the past couple weeks is how to copy the files from my laptop to the OLS-CS servers.

When I posted my last blog on July 23, I said I had been able to get all the files in my Documents folder copied. I accomplished this by using Fetch, my FTP client, and the Finder, simply dragging and dropping files from the list of files in the Documents folder on my hard drive to a Documents folder I created on the Network Drive.

Simply copying files is not the solution

This might seem to have accomplished my goal. I now had an off-site backup of my files.

However, there is one problem with this way of backing up your files. The minute you change, add, or delete a file, you need to go to your FTP software or the Finder and copy the files that were changed to the folder on the off-site server. 

You definitely don't want to do this manually. It would be just to difficult to keep track of what you worked on, created, changed, and deleted during the period since the last time you copied your files to the backup.  So you need a back-up program that is going to do this for you, a program that will do incremental backups based on what has changed in the source folder. So this is what I've been studying for the past week. What software is out there that will be able to do this for me given the large number of files involved and the fact that I'm trying to do my backup to a Network Drive.

In my next blog I will try to explain what I have learned.

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