In Backups – Part 1 we covered making backups of your entire system, and the steps required to restore all or portions of the backed up image. Here in part 2, we’ll cover backing up individual files and folders.
Backing up your files and folders can be done any number of ways, using any number of different freely available and commercially available applications. What’s important isn’t necessarily the tool or method you use, but the fact that your bases are covered when a restore is necessary.
There are two types of backups you should be doing to safeguard your data; local and off-site. Local backups refer to any copy of your data residing at the same location as the source data. Backing up your pictures to another harddrive either internal or external, burning them to CD or DVD, or mirroring them to another computer on your LAN are all considered local backups.
Off-site backups are copies of your data stored somewhere else. A burned CD or DVD sent to a relatives house for example would be an off-site backup. A safety deposit box at the bank would be another example. I suggest both types of backups be kept up-to-date on a regular basis to ensure your information is totally safe.
For local backups, I suggest a well known and widely used tool called Syncback. Made freely available by 2BrightSparks, Synback; the freeware version of Syncback SE, can handle any just about any backup task you throw its way. It can backup files to a harddrive, a CD or DVD, a flash drive, a network drive, or even an FTP site. It has both simple and advanced modes and contains a plethora of options relating to how to handle things such as newer file versions existing in the destination, etc.
For off-site backups, your options are either a burned CD or DVD taken or mailed somewhere, or files uploaded to a site hosted a significant distance (hopefully) from your home. While the safety deposit at the bank may be a convenient place to drop off burned discs, you have to consider how likely it is to be hit by the same disaster that could hit your home – earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, etc.
I use two separate off-site locations for backups, Fotki and Amazon. There are many photo sites available, each with different capabilities, but I’ve found Fotki to be above and beyond the others for a few reasons. For starters, they are more than a simple photo site. You can store links (favorites) there, maintain your own user forums, keep a guestbook, link to videos, and also create a journal (blog) there. Photo storage extras include tagging, mapping, unlimited storage for paid accounts ($30/year), public, private, and password protected folders/albums, printing and selling of photos, 10 distinct upload methods, and the ability to download your uploaded photos in their full resolution glory – one at a time, or in multiples via FTP. That last point is really the kicker. Many sites will allow me to upload all of my full resolution photos, but if I want to get them back (say in the case of a harddrive failure on my home computer) I have to pay for them to burn and mail me my photos on DVD. Some only offer prints as my way of getting my precious memories back.
My current Fotki statistics show that I’m storing 11886 photos in 895 albums and using a total of 21.91 GB. Not bad at all for the functionality I get out of Fotki.
Amazon has a service called Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Solution). Named somewhat innapropriately IMO, it’s anything but simple to use (without the right tool). They’ve created a storage solution, but it’s up to you to figure out how to actually use it. There are many tools available for interfacing with Amazon’s S3 service, but I’ve settled on S3 Drive. S3 Drive mounts a drive in Windows Explorer that looks like any other network mounted drive. I have mine mounted as drive S: (for S3) and simply copy files there when it’s time to back them up.
The important things to consider when deciding whether or not to use S3 are:
- Uploaded files can’t be edited, they have to be deleted and re-uploaded
- Not all S3 capable tools work in the same way, so a file uploaded with one may not be downloadable with another
- S3 storage is unlimited
- You pay only for what you use, there are no high monthly costs if your storage requirements suddenly go down
- There’s no contract to get out of if you decide it’s not for you
- Compared to other solutions, S3 is inexpensive – .15/G of storage and .20/G of data transferred
My Amazon backups contain not only my photos, but also my digital camera movies and other home movies as well. I sometimes use Fotki as a photo album for friends and relatives to view my photos, but I typically keep my Amazon S3 uploads private. While it is possible to expose my S3 uploads, I tend not to, as there’s no user interface already setup for people to peruse my files.
It’s important to note though, that S3 requires you to sign up (free) of course, and a credit card to be on file for billing. There isn’t really a free trial for Amazon S3, but you can rest assured that you won’t go broke trying the service out. At prices of .15G for data stored there, and .20G for transfers (up or down) the costs are low enough to feel it out for a month or two without breaking the bank.
In total, my photos are stored on two different physical drives on my home file server, mirrored to an external harddrive, uploaded to Fotki, and also stored on S3. Suffice to say, I don’t want to lose any pictures of my little ones. I wish I could same the same for my digital camera movies, but until Fotki allows me to upload those as well I’ll probably just use S3 as my off-site storage location for those.