I recently watched a video podcast of two folks encouraging folks to backup. I thought I’d add to the discussion with my own thoughts. I hope to continue next year with a downloadable presentation on file organization and backups. —- Do you have a style towards maintaining your digital files? I know a lot of people couldn’t imagine reading anything more boring than a tome on file organization, but before you click-away from this, ask yourself this question: Are you confident that your digital media is all backed up and that your computer files are intelligently organized? Or, like so many folks, is your computer desktop littered with files and folders? So, this discussion is going to center around two things:
- File organization
I am going to start with backups: do them! I can hear someone in the back… what’s that you have to say?
I know it’s important to backup, but… what’s the best way to do it?
Backing up means making a copy of your file(s) on an external disk. This could include a flash drive, a network drive (server), a CD-R, DVD-R, or external hard disk. Backing up can be as simple as making a copy of your files to this external media, but it can also get more complex. There are backup strategies for every season, almost, including drive cloning, synchronization, and versioning. Let me cover some of the differences. A drive clone is an exact copy of your entire hard disk drive. These typically are bootable, meaning, if you hard drive goes south, the exact copy is ready to roll and go into service in seconds. Creating a cloned drive takes some time, so it’s not something everyone does. On the Mac, there are two applications I use to make cloned backups: CarbonCopy Cloner and SuperDuper!. Synchronization is where you make a copy of your files (this can be one folder, many, or the entire drive) that is similar to a clone. You can decide if deleted files get deleted, or held in an archive. I’ve used Chronosync to do file synchronizations. You can set the software to automatically do a magic sync overnight, or any regular interval. Versioning is where backup software keeps different versions of your documents. This allows you to “roll back” to an earlier version at a later date. Think of a wiki page–you can always go back and check the “history” of the document and roll back to an earlier edit. Apple’s TimeMachine in OS X Leopard is a versioning system. TimeMachine backs up every hour and keeps track of changes to your drive. So, let’s outline the pros/cons:
- CD-R is a nice medium for backing up a collection of items: sound files, images, etc., but they won’t last forever
- DVD-R are poor for backups; they don’t last very long at all some times, even though their larger capacity seems like a win-win
- Hard drive backups are a good way to go, with a lot of different options
- Flash drives, like CDs and DVDs may not hold everything, but also like CDs and DVDs, they may not be super reliable. If you copy to a flash drive, use a good brand, and don’t count on the same drive for daily use.
The ultimate backup solution:
- Would include cloned copies of your entire drive (say, once a month)
- Incremental backups (synchronized or simple copies) on a daily or weekly basis
- Keep CD copies of important collections if hard drive space is scarse