Evolving Backup Strategy

dreamstimefree_594Joan at Luxgen has written a review of her backup strategy and reading it has prompted me to do the same. I try to remember to review my backup strategy on a regular basis because things change:

  • The data I want backed up changes
  • The methods I use may not be suitable for increasing amounts of data
  • I hear about new methods that might be better than what I use
  • Is the automatic backup working?
These are the tools I use for backup up:

External hard drive – I have two – a 1TB drive that I back up everything when I think of it. It’s in my office and my laptop moves between my office and the living room, so I have to consciously remember it. I also now have a 1TB portable drive, which I had to buy when I had to remove all my photos (except family history ones) from my 3 year old laptop for space reasons. Never rely on just one hard drive! I back everything up to it at the same time as the other one.

GoodSync is software that backs up or synchronises files. I use it to back up to the two external hard drives. I also use it to synchronise files between my laptop and my netbook, so my netbook acts as a backup, as well as allowing me to work seamlessly on documents when I’m out and about and have the changes appear when I synchronise them back to the laptop.

Dropbox I use Dropbox for things I am working on constantly. I tried using it for TMG (The Master Genealogist – family tree software) but it needed too much discipline, so I now use GoodSync for this. It’s better for Word documents, so I keep the courses and thesis I’m writing there, and can synchronise between my laptop and netbook. Files are also available to me online from anywhere, so I keep a backup of any presentations there too. I also use it to share files with clients and other volunteers at the Society. You can have a 2GB account for free, and pay for more space. If you introduce others to the service you are credited with an extra 250MB of free space, so if you sign up using the link I gave you you’ll be doing me a great favour!

Mozy – I’ve used Mozy for years and I wouldn’t be without it. It saved me once when my Outlook mailbox vanished one day, and I only lost about 12 hours worth of emails, instead of many years worth. I have to review the files I have selected to back up every once in a while, as new folders seem to be automatically included.

Backupify – This software backs up your Facebook and Twitter accounts. I played with it once but didn’t continue with it, for some reason that I can’t remember. I don’t back up the Facebook accounts and pages or Twitter accounts. I’m still not entirely sure of the need for it.

WordPress – I use the a WordPress plugin to schedule daily backups of my self-hosted blogs, and I have the backups of 5 different blogs emailed to me every day. It fills up my mailbox pretty quickly but it’s worth it. I delete old ones from my mailbox when I think of it. The blogs hosted by WordPress.org is not backed up, or at least not by me.

GmailI also have most of my emails picked up by Gmail, which is another backup of sorts. The ever-increasing amount of allocated space is ample for my needs!

Amazon – I recently read Dick Eastman’s discussion of the free 5GB made available by Amazon to back up files. When I went to Amazon my space was already available to me, as I have an Amazon account. You can increase the available space quite cheaply at $1 per GB per year, so 20GB is $20 per year, which is quite cheap really. As I thought about what I could put there that is less than 5GB I came across a problem, though. Actually, two problems:

  1. There doesn’t appear to be any synchronising software, so I have to remember to move new and changed files, and I have to remember which ones they are. That’s fine if you create new documents regularly and get into a routine. I don’t.
  2. The more online backups I do, the closer I get to my download limit for the month. I’m sure there is more scheduling I can do to get around this.

The decision I made about Amazon was to include more files in Mozy. I will have to do this progressively to avoid hitting my limit and putting up with appallingly slow speed for the rest of the month. I’ve added an extra 5GB worth of files and it’s almost finished uploading them! I will reconsider Amazon towards the end of the month, when I can see how my upload limit is faring.

So that’s my back up strategy, in its current phase of evolution. What’s yours?

My own mini-scanfests

When you come back home after a productive research trip to an archive or library do you often end up with a stack of photocopies?

Yes, me too.

I use my digital camera whenever I can but sometimes it just isn’t possible to take photos. Sometimes the repository doesn’t allow it, and other times the documents are folded up so well that it is just easier to get the experts to photocopy them. When I get home I tend to leave them for a while in the ‘filing’ pile, and the longer they stay there the harder it is to get around to dealing with them.

For me a major part of the post-research trip process is scanning the photocopies. A piece of paper is no good to me if it fades or gets tea spilled on it, or the laser toner sticks to something other than the paper, or it goes up in a bushfire.

To address the post-research filing issue I bought one of those multi-function printers. It prints in colour and black-and-while, it scans, it photocopies, and it faxes. It’s a marvel of modern technology. When I chose it I made sure of two things –

  1. it prints and scans both sides of the paper (duplex)
  2. it has a document feeder

The duplex requirement is fairly self-explanatory. The document feeder means I can put a stack of pages in the top, press some buttons to tell it to scan to my laptop, and away it goes. All I have to do is press the OK button on the laptop, and then I can get on with something else. If both sides of the page needs to be scanned I can select that option and the pages are scanned in the correct order.

Of course, at some stage I have to rename the files to something more meaningful than SCAN0001.jpg or whatever I’ve chosen as the default, but I can do that later, and sitting down.

My scanner is not much bigger than A4, so A3 photocopies are a problem. There are a couple of solutions – perhaps you have others?

  1. scan each half at a time, making two images that can then be joined together (or not!) in your photo software
  2. photocopy the A3 at a library or somewhere with a big photocopier, reducing it to A4, and then scan the A4 photocopy. Yes, some quality is lost, but it takes much less time and is more likely to result in a useable scan than option 1, which I rarely get around to doing.

Another important part of the process is to write the citation on the photocopy¬†before scanning it, if I hadn’t already done it at the time of the photocopying. If I’ve requested copies at State Records NSW I pay for them before I leave and so this labelling must be done at home, preferably the same day while the file is still fresh in my mind.

Then there’s the analysing, data entry, filing into my family binders, and all of the other tasks that give meaning to whatever I’ve found, but that’s another story.

What do you do with your photocopies when you get them home?

Sharing documents on the web

I’ve been playing with a couple of sites that allow you to share documents. Initially I had to find a way to share Powerpoint slides on a blog, and my solution was to use Slideshare, a free website that allows you to share Powerpoint slides.

Slideshare is simple to use and works well. You can upload presentations quickly and easily, and make them public or restricted access, by being given a URL that you then share with those you wish to have access to the presentation. Viewers can leave comments, although if your presentation is public these may be spam, a common hazard.

The winner, though, is Scribd.

My Scribd profile

With¬†Scribd I can share other kinds of documents, not just Powerpoint, so I can keep the slides and the handouts together. PDFs, Word, Excel, so far I haven’t found a format I can’t upload, although I admit I haven’t tried very hard. It does what I need so far.

Scribd upload

As you can see, you can import Google Docs and even create one from scratch by typing or cut-and-pasting into the text box. I haven’t tried either of these yet. I can see why sharing a Google Doc here would be easier for the people I know who inexplicably have trouble with Google Docs, particularly if you just want them to see it and not update it.

Others share documents, academic papers, even whole books on Scribd, and you can download the documents and follow the uploaders to see what else they come up with. You can also add documents of interest to collections so you can more easily find them again later, without having to download them.

You can also upload documents that you want to sell. I may do this in the future.

Have a look at Scribd and let me know what you think.