Archive for the ‘Backup’ Category

I’m changing one of the backup tools in my “bag”

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Depending upon the situation, I’ve been using either Microsoft’s SyncToy, 2BrightSparks’s SyncBack, or Cobian Backup. However, I’ve encountered what I consider a serious deficiency in SyncToy. If anything changes with the backup drive (e.g. the drive letter changes), you cannot change it within SyncToy. Instead, you must create a new folder pair.

I generally preferred SyncToy over the free version of SyncBack as it wouldn’t spontaneously add new folders which were under a folder tree not being backed up. SyncBack would usually be my alternate in the event SyncToy wouldn’t install for some reason (usually this would be on computers which I was going to be reformatting and needed to extract the existing data). However, SyncBackSE (currently $34.95 as of this writing) is extremely configurable with a great amount of flexibility in the backup set. It’s probably the only backup software I’d buy for most entry-level uses.

Cobian is an awesome backup for people who have a desktop computer with a permanently attached backup drive. It’s nearly commercial in its capabilities and interface.

So, I went on a search for a replacement for SyncToy and came across FreeFileSync by way of It’s a little quirky (but what software isn’t?), but so far seems to be a much more workable replacement for SyncToy than SyncBack was. Some things to consider, if you’re trying to configure a consistent backup routine, make sure to right-click on an object (either a file or directory) and select “Exclude via filter” so that object is not backed up in the future.

So, it looks like my repertoire will consist of FreeFileSync, SyncBack, and Cobian Backup, depending upon the situation at hand.

Another place where backup is important

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

There’s been a great amount of impetus toward putting our computer lives in “the cloud.” While it has many advantages (such as being able to access our stuff from anywhere on any device), what happens if your access to the cloud is interrupted or, worse, completely erased?

One person found this out as reported here. He had an image on his Google account of questionable legality. He was notified his entire account had been disabled due to the nature of this image. No one asked for an explanation. There was no one to call. He had a great deal of information, bookmarks, saved articles, etc. tied to this account and it was completely obliterated.

While he was able to recover his account (and remove the image which caused the problem), he has since learned to not rely on one cloud service for everything.

What can you do? I would keep a local copy of everything. I learned this myself the hard way when my blog was hacked. Every time I update the WordPress installation, I also download the entirety of the site so I can maintain a local copy in the event another such hacking occurs. You can also use multiple services to keep copies of bookmarks and the like. Even with Facebook, you have the option to download everything you’ve ever posted.

As long as you have more than one copy, regardless of how you do it, you have a backup. If you have only one copy, it’s at risk of being erased due to accident, failure, or a malicious act.

Getting worried about your own data? I have a special where I set up a backup and follow it up later to make sure it’s working. You can order it here: (offer good for local clients).

An odd reason to need to backup

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Not like you should need a reason as you should be backing up anyway.

The FBI apparently confiscated several servers at a hosting company in an effort to, well, find something. Unfortunately, the FBI isn’t saying what. The end result was that the web sites of several companies went down.

While this is an extremely rare occurrence, it just goes to show you the value of a backup. Regardless of the situation, you really need a second copy of your data or a second machine to mimic the one you have. For most people, just the data are fine. Backup hardware is usually more important to companies (and this usually grows in importance as the size of the company grows).

I keep local copies of my web site so that if my hosting provider were to disappear, I could reconstruct everything at a new company. I’d only be down long enough to notice and find a new host (which is difficult since there’s so much to like about Dreamhost).

So, be sure to keep a second copy of your data somewhere. Without a second copy, you have no insurance against failure.

Bringing e-mail home

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

I often recommend that people use an e-mail service separate from their internet providers so that a change of internet provider doesn’t require a change of e-mail address.  I’ve had clients maintain their AOL accounts because this is the e-mail address that everyone knows.  Since you can keep your AOL e-mail address forever for free, I count them among the many free e-mail services you could potentially use.  (As an aside, I saw a client today who continues to use AOL because she doesn’t want to change her e-mail address.  I understand this and support it, but she had a client of hers tell her to move on.)

I also recommend using a program on your computer to access your e-mail rather than using the mail provider’s web site.  This isn’t always possible or is made particularly difficult (e.g. Yahoo e-mail requires you pay a fee if you want to access your mail via POP, but I’ve found workarounds you can use without having to pay, but they aren’t easy or reliable).  Google’s GMail and AOL’s e-mail allow you to use a program on your computer to get your mail without paying a fee.  Programs you can use include Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Live Mail, Apple, and Mozilla Thunderbird.  There are many more less known applications also.

One big reason to use a program on your computer is that it acts as a form of backup for your e-mail in the event that there’s a problem at your provider.  If you’re getting your e-mail for free, you can’t count on a great deal of support from the provider.  This article really points that out.  At the end of December, thousands of people using Microsoft’s Hotmail lost their mail.  While Microsoft claims to have recovered it, some have complained that they didn’t get theirs.  Not only that, it took days for it to be recovered.  If you have a business relying on access to these e-mails, it can be devastating.

The upshot is that you should have a backup of your free e-mail on your own computer.  Then you need to follow all the other advice I’ve given about backup and backup the data on your computer’s hard drive to another.  Go the extra mile and get still yet another copy located somewhere else or subscribe to a service that will backup your computer to the internet.

More details on the hack

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

I’d blogged previously about the hack that occurred on my site.  Frustrating since I’d not blogged for over a year and everything went fine for three weeks when BAM, I couldn’t do anything.  All the research I had done suggested that this particular hack wasn’t new and would have been fixed long ago (I had sporadically updated the WordPress installation, but hadn’t been too religious about it).

I’ve since found a little more information here and here.  The second link has more  links at the bottom of it for further research.

The long and short of the situation is another lesson as to why we need to keep our software updated.  There really isn’t any excuse to not keep free software updated since there won’t be any out of pocket costs for the software itself.  If your hosting provider makes the upgrade easy (and Dreamhost makes it easy for me), then excuses keep getting fewer.

The same is true for any software you have running on your computer.  From the operating system to your web browser, Flash plugin, Java, productivity software, etc.  Let’s not forget our anti-malware software, either.  It’s ertainly important enough to get its own mention.

Since I’m now blogging a lot more frequently than I had been, I will notice when my WordPress installation needs to be updated and act on it accordingly.  The upgrades are painless for me since I don’t monkey with the code.  Once done, I’ll then download the entire blog site to maintain a local backup in the event some other crazy hack floats around.  Uploading from a backup is easier than fixing a problem once it’s occurred.