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A backup strategy I can live with…

March 07, 2006

Doing traditional compute backups suck unless thats really part of your job. For just backing up your laptop, or at least the most important stuff, it usually too much hassle…until everything disappears at which point you really wish you went through the hassle. I experienced this last week. My car got broken into AGAIN. This time, my bag was in the car. What was in the bag??? Two IBM Thinkpad T41 laptops, an IPod, a Pocket PC, and a digital camera.

Yeah, it sucks to lose electronics, but the really tough part is all the work that I lost. One laptop had a newer version of some training materials I have been working on, along with some other customization projects. Of course, I had no backup. Why? Because doing backups suck. But this experience forced me to find a better solution.

There are many solutions out there for doing backups. How do you choose one that works well? I first went to the list of 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities, hoping there would be a free solution. There wasn’t. But there was a link to a review of the best backup utilities. The winner was Genie Backup Manager. After trying a few other solutions, I decided that the Genie tool was definitely the best of the bunch. But it still didn’t solve the biggest problem with doing backups.

I didn’t want to have to think about CDs or tapes or network shares. Sometimes I am in the office in Vianen, sometimes I am at home in Amsterdam, in a couple of weeks I will be at the other end of a slow modem in Zagreb, a few weeks later it will be a slow modem in Portugal. I certainly don’t want to carry blank CDs or tapes with me when I travel so I need a solution that works with me. And I found one that works great.

So I use Genie Backup Manager to backup certain directories where I typically store docs I am working on and other important resources. That creates a backup file in a directory I have called LaptopBackup (I am creative that way). Then I made that folder into a FolderShare Library. So FolderShare is a way of synchronizing folder contents onto different machines that you or your colleagues own. What makes this really great is that I don’t have to think about synchronizing…it just happens. I also have FolderShare on a couple of machines at home. So now when GBM makes a backup and saves it to LaptopBackup, within a few minutes a copy of that backup exists on two home machines as well. Now, unless a thief (or fire or natural disaster) hits my home and my work at the same time, my data is safe.

FolderShare is more than just a great tool for synching backups. I have a FolderShare folder in my IE Favorites folder. As soon as I add a favorite to one machine, it appears on the other two machines too. The Sales Engineers at Captaris also share a FolderShare. As soon as there is an update to one of our big demo VPCs, all of the SEs in the US, Europe, Asia, and Australia get it (These are big files so it takes a couple of days for us all to get the bits). I keep a FolderShare folder on my desktop of all my machines in case there is some other resource I need to access on another machine. The really great thing about this is that once I assign a library to a folder on a machine I no longer have to think about it. It just works.

So Genie Backup Manager and FolderShare work together to make a backup strategy I can really work with. This doesn’t make sense for everyone out there but if you do have multiple PCs that you work with, it might be worth looking into.

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