Has the above ever happened to you? Probably not, unless you're prone to staging videos where you blow up your computer on purpose. But you've probably had a computer take a dump on you (or know someone who has) and know how harrowing it is, worrying about recovering all your important stuff. If you haven't, you're either extremely lucky or don't need to be reading this post, which somewhat relates to cards.
Because of a couple incidents I've heard about this year, most recently Dimwit's unfortunate power surge (which may or may not have looked like the above, as pieces of any potential witness are still making their way back to the ground), which fortunately had a fairly happy ending, I wanted to take a minute to make use of my experiences from my day job to try to help other bloggers prevent this kind of thing from happening to them (hopefully in the least condescending, least douchey way possible). So, to begin: you probably have a lot of stuff on your computer--pictures, music, videos, important documents, that kind of thing. Please stop reading this post for a moment and
BACK YOUR STUFF UP! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY BACK IT UP OR YOU WILL LOSE IT AND ROBOTS WILL COME TO STEAL YOUR PRESCRIPTIONS!
With that humorous bit out of the way, I want to stress that it's extremely easy to lose your files, and it can be very, very costly trying to recover them. I'm talking of thousands of times the cost of keeping them backed up.
|IT'S MY MONEY AND I NEED IT FOR CARDS!|
1. Back stuff up in multiple places whenever possible. Yes, it means more work for you and sometimes you have to worry about having differing copies of the same stuff, but it's a good way of covering your ass. I've seen a good number of external hard drives die, USB keys go missing, and laptops get stolen, so having only one backup is not really good enough.
2. Backing up stuff is probably cheaper than you think. Granted, if you're using physical media like internal/external hard drives or USB keys or paying for premium online services, there are some costs involved, but generally you have some very cheap, and often free, options:
External hard drives: This is the route to go with if your biggest concern is large capacity, so start here for your whole music and picture collections and videos. If you don't go the retail route, first of all, congratulations for being smart, and second, go with Newegg or I'll shun you so fast you'll think I'm Dwight Schrute.
· Fairly portable
· Large capacity for the money
· Should work on just about any computer you connect them to
· Expensive compared to other options
· Sometimes require carrying several cables (including power)
· Only one copy
· Physical media can break down over time
USB keys: These guys are physically much smaller than hard drives, but of course they don’t hold as much either, plus they’re easier to lose because of that (you know you’ve put one through the laundry before, admit it). Still, they’re fairly cheap and are good for backing up small collections of stuff and for use as a secondary backup. Plus, you probably got one in your cereal box this morning—they’re all over the place.
· Pretty cheap
· Very portable
· Should work on just about any computer you connect them to
· Not as much capacity
· Very easy to lose
· Can still wear out over time (although they generally last for a very, very long time)
· Did I mention they’re easy to lose?
Dropbox: (I’m not going into SugarSync, which I’ve also heard good things about, because I haven’t personally used it, but it’s a reasonable option) If you haven’t heard of DropBox, it’s basically your best online backup solution. The way it works is that you install the program on each of your computers, and it creates a folder on your hard drive. Anything you put in that folder gets synced over the internet to every other computer on which you’ve installed DropBox. Also, you can get to your files from any computer through a web page (which isn’t as pretty but works well in a pinch).
· Basic version is free
· Free version gives you 2GB—plenty for saving your most important stuff, but you can buy more
· Possible to share individual files/folders to anybody
· Accessible from anywhere you can get internet, even if you’re not on your own machine, even works with your phone
· Save whatever types of stuff you want
· When used correctly, essentially automatically backs up your stuff
· Nothing physical to blow up or lose
· If you want more space you’ll have to pay
· Requires internet access if you want everything synced
· Your data is sitting somewhere else and could disappear if something happens to the company (robots tired of stealing prescriptions target cloud computing?)
Picasa Web Albums: Picasa is a free Google program that manages your pictures. You can sort them, tag them, edit them, that kind of thing. You can also set it up to automatically upload your pictures to albums on the internet, which means they’re pretty much backed up.
· Automatically back up pictures
· Again, nothing physical to lose
· Access pictures from anywhere
· Helps manage large collections of pictures
· Works very well with BlogSpot
· If you need more space than the large amount Google gives you, you can buy more
· Requires a network connection for syncing
· Pictures only
3. My recommendations: I take a three-pronged approach.
- Hard drives: My main backups include all my major media and documents. This includes about 20 GB worth of MP3s, tons of pictures, some DVD rips (of my own movies that I legally bought, MPAA) and a good accumulation of years of documents. I use Microsoft's SyncToy (free) to schedule backups from my desktop's hard drive to another internal hard drive that's connected via a SATA hard drive dock (like-a so, which is cheap as hell) so it's easy to pop other drives in and out, which is exactly what I do. Remember how I said one backup wasn't enough?
I do frequent backups to one drive, then maybe once or twice a month do a backup to another drive that I store outside of my house, so it's safe in case the MPAA comes to burn down my house while taking a break from stealing children's candy and kicking puppies (because I said the words "Steelers" and "movie" in the same sentence and it came out to "I steal movies on a regular basis for fun and profit" when they tapped my phone).
With SyncToy all you do is create pairs of folders (one on each drive) and then tell it how you want them to be synced, which is something that can be scheduled (or you can manually do it by clicking one button).
This is a lot of data and I think this is a great way of backing it up, however, should you prefer the USB hard drive route, that's fine, but I still recommend two of them.
- DropBox: I've stuck with the free version because I'm cheap, so I don't have space to put every single thing on here. Still, I store all of my important documents and some pictures, and I still have space leftover to use for sharing pictures, music and movies out to my other computers (such as at work) or my friends. That's my recommendation: configure DropBox to store its folder on your local hard drive in a place you know you'll use, then work directly from that folder so you don't have to manually back stuff up. The next time you log in to one of your other computers where you've installed DropBox, it'll grab all your changes until its in sync too.
- Picasa/Picasa Web Albums: I wasn't using these when I first started my blog and now I'm kind of kicking myself for not knowing about the latter. Here's my process when I throw scans up on my blog, which sounds kind of complicated but isn't too difficult and makes backups brainless:
- Scan/edit/save pictures onto hard drive
- Open Picasa, which is already monitoring all my picture folders so they get imported whenever I open it
- Title and tag all pictures, which means they're easier to search for in Picasa and online
- Once they're in Picasa, they automatically upload to my Web Albums (which I configured in the application; they don't do this by default, so don't worry about other people seeing...you know...THOSE pictures). You can then make them public or private, which is nice
- Whenever I need to throw any of those pictures into a post, I use the picture button, then choose "From Picasa Web Albums" and grab whatever I need
- If I want to use a picture that's not in one of my albums but that I previously used in a different post, I can use the "From this blog" option
- I can also link directly to a picture in one of my albums instead of inserting it in the post
So here you can see how all of my blog-related pictures are always accessible and backed-up. That, plus it's really easy to throw pics onto a blog post at a moment's notice.
I hope that was informative (and non-douchey) for at least some of you and that y'all start backing up your stuff if you weren't before; while your blog stuff isn't life or death (and your other personal data and media aren't either) it can be really stressful and costly trying to get it back, if it's even possible at all, and if it isn't, you'll lose a ton of time trying to recreate or reacquire everything you can even remotely remember you had. Please feel free to send questions about this (or other computer troubleshooting-type things) my way and I'll be happy to try to help.
Update: I'm bumping this up from Ryan's comment because it has some great additional information relevant to the above stuff: