My Evolving Backup Strategy needs some work

dreamstimefree_594I wrote about my backup strategy a couple of days ago, describing the tools I am currently using to back everything up on my laptop.

Once I’d written it down it initially appeared quite comprehensive, and I was quite pleased with myself. I soon realised that there are holes, though, because not every tool is used to back everything up.

Each tool is used for one or more types of data, and only a few types of data are covered by more than one tool. For example:

  • Email
    • Mozy (automatically,daily)
    • external hard drives using GoodSync (when I think of it, every few days)
    • Gmail (automatically, not all accounts are picked up)
  • High use documents
    • Dropbox (automatically when document closed)
    • Mozy (automatically, daily)
    • netbook (when I think of it or when I get home)
    • external hard drives (when I think of it, every few days)
  • Regular use documents –
    • Mozy (automatically,daily)
    • netbook (when I think of it or when I get home)
    • external hard drives (when I think of it, every few days)
  • Business documents –
    • Mozy (automatically,daily)
    • netbook (when I think of it or when I get home)
    • external hard drives (when I think of it, every few days)
    • Dropbox (for sharing with clients at the end of the project)
  • Photos (other than family history, which are stored with the documents)
    • External hard drives
    • a very few photos are in web albums on FacebookPicasa and Flickr.
    • my sister has a lot of them but I wouldn’t count on her in a crisis. She is not one of Nature’s Techos.
  • Music
    • External hard drives
    • MP3 player
    • the original CDs
  • Social media
    • Blogs backed up by WordPress plugin and sent by email
    • Facebook and Twitter not backed up at all!!!

It may be apparent to you, as it is to me, that my photos and music are at risk here. There is 30-40 GB of pictures and 20-30GB of music, so online backups are not the answer. They had to be evicted from my laptop when it ran out of space. As I said, I bought another external hard drive but I’m still not comfortable. If I lost my music I would have to spend hours ripping it back off the CDs, which would be a pain but could be done. I probably wouldn’t do as many if I had to do it all again.

If I lost the photos, though, I’d be devastated. The earlier ones were scanned from prints or negatives and I still have those, but later ones…

My social media needs some work, too.

So I still have some work to do. I’ll have another look at Backupify and perhaps I’ll make greater use of Flickr.

Any suggestions?

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 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?

What time zone is that?

I have finally solved my inability to calculate international time zones.

We are increasingly becoming more global. Social media allows us to communicate and collaborate with people from all over the world, in real time. This means that we can chat with people and take part in live video-conferences and video-streams from around the world when they actually happen.

An essential requirement is knowing what time something is going to happen. It is no good deciding to watch a video telecast at 6:00 PM US Pacific Time when I have no idea what time that is in Sydney.

I’ve needed to be aware of time zones most of my life. When my Dad moved back to Fiji and I was old enough to call him I needed to know that Fiji is two hours ahead of Sydney, or one hour when we have Daylight Savings Time. If I called too late in the morning he would have left the house, and too late at night he would be in bed. Unfortunately the knowledge wasn’t reciprocated, and he has quite often woken me on Sunday mornings because he’s been up for hours!

Later my good friend moved to the US, and I needed to know when she was likely to be home. She used to tell me that all I had to remember was that Florida was 14 hours behind Sydney. Subtract 24 hours and then add 10. Unless one or other of us had changed to or from Daylight Savings Time this worked, but unless you do it often, as she did because her family is here, it becomes a bit of a nightmare and the easy option is to just not make the call.

More recently I took part in the first ProGen Study Group. A choice of times for group chats was much restricted by most of them being either in the middle of the night or the middle of the day for me, so I began by running the blog-only group. The personal interaction was important, though, and one by one my members left to join other groups, and in the end so did I. I joined a group that met on Wednesday nights, which was the middle of Thursday here in Sydney. No sooner would I have finally worked out that I was was supposed to be there at 1pm than one of us would change to or from Daylight Savings, and I would have to rethink the time. I don’t know why time zone calculations are so much more difficult than the simple addition or subtraction would suggest, but they are.

My Google homepageI use iGoogle as my homepage, which allows me to install gadgets to give me the functionality I need. One of my gadgets was something called ‘World Clocks’, which gave me two analogue clocks showing the time zones of my choice. This worked when I just needed to know Florida time, but now that I need other zones the two zones are not enough, and they are a hassle to change every time I need another time zone. My friend has since moved back to Australia, and I had stopped using the gadget.

My new phone, an HTC Legend, gives me a choice of time zones to display as many as I want and is ideal. I do not need a calculator so much as a display of the current time. Problem solved! But no, my phone is not always at my side, especially at home.

Surely, I thought, a similar gadget must be available on iGoogle?

I tried two and selected one – PolyClock.

PolyClockIt gives a list of cities from around the world that you can choose from. Unfortunately Salt Lake City wasn’t on the list so I had to find a map of US time zones to find a city in the same time zone, and I found Phoenix, which is close enough. I also like that it shows the cities where it is still yesterday in red – this is important in Australia as we are ahead of everyone except New Zealand and Pacific Islands such as Fiji.

Now it’s easy. I hope to attend many more chats and watch more conference streams than I have in the past.

Another, similar problem I have is that a lot of people in the US give the name of the time zone, for example 1pm Mountain Standard Time. When I am trying to find out the current time I am usually presented with a list of cities, and I don’t know which cities are in which time zone.

I don’t think there is a quick solution for this other than to learn the US time zones and some basic US geography. There are only four mainland time zones and once you know that they are, from left to right, Pacific, Mountain, Central and Eastern, you are on your way. I know there are the Rocky Mountains over towards the Pacific coast so I can usually not confuse Mountain and Central.

So on the list I’ve chosen for PolyClock I just have to remember that Los Angeles is on Pacific Time, New York is on Eastern Time, and Phoenix is on Mountain Time, which is easy enough.

See you in cyberspace!