Clones, Backups and Syncs

I hope you didn’t think this was a post about Star Wars. However, it may include discussion of the cloud.

You need to have a backup of the important data on your computer. Most of you have this already and I am very proud of you. The ideal strategy is a 3-2-1 backup plan (popularized by Peter Krogh, “The DAM Book”). You have THREE copies of your key data, including the original on your hard drive. You should be using TWO different kinds of media, for example and external hard drive and a cloud backup. ONE of those backups should be offsite. So for example, if you had two external hard drives in your home or office — that can be really helpful. You should keep using them, but this setup doesn’t really follow the 3-2-1 rule. In that scenario you would still need the off-site backup.

Backup Types and Common Examples

Clone: An exact replica of what is on your hard drive. All data is copied verbatim onto external drive. You can then restore from that clone and your computer will appear exactly as it did at the time of the last clone backup. Windows software (that I am familiar with): Acronis True Image and Macrium Reflect (not a Mac program). Mac software: Carbon Copy Cloner and Super Duper.

The key distinction between a good clone and a backup is that a clone is BOOTABLE (ideally). That means in an emergency, you should be able to boot from that external hard drive as if it were your computer’s internal hard drive. Backups of a whole computer often put the files into an image, which can only be extract when doing a full restore. You can search through all the files on a clone, easily, as if it was your internal hard drive. For some of you who cannot have ANY downtime this is crucial. The rest of you may just want a backup. The backup may be of your whole computer or just important folders like Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos. The backups may be made to an external hard drive or online to a cloud based service. Windows software (that I am familiar with): System Image Backup, built into Windows. It works very well in Windows 7. Unfortunately, this feature is still available but not as useful in Windows 8.1. Other Windows software that I support: Drive Image XML. Online subscription backup services: Carbonite (also offers local backup to a hard drive), Crash Plan (also offers local backup to a hard drive). Mac: The built in Time Machine software is a fantastic backup solution. I think all of my Mac clients use it. Windows 8.1 customers — we thought that Microsoft’s new File History would be great. It is actually — TERRIBLE. If you are using it to back up to your external and not using one of the other solutions mentioned in this e-mail, let’s talk. I don’t want you to lose data.

Sync: Some of think of one of these services as a backup, but sync they are truly sync tools I need to mention them in this category. Syncing could be one way or two way, but it implies an automated process. Example: You save files in a folder on your computer and they automatically get copied to a folder in the cloud somewhere or on your external drive. This isn’t a whole computer backup, but a sync of key folders and files. You can make changes to the file from another device — like a tablet or smart phone or another computer and then they are synced back, as long as that other device it configured for the syncing mechanism. Software for your Mac or PC that will sync to an external hard drive that I support: Good Sync. This may be a hard drive that you take back and forth to work or move between many computers. Online cloud sync services that I support: Mac / PC: Dropbox, One Drive (Microsoft), Google Drive. All of these have a free tier which is great for basic needs. I am also familiar with Sugar Sync. It is not free, but may be more appropriate than the other solutions for some of you computer students.

Clone, backup, and sync — you should be doing at least one of them, if not two or all three. If you really care about your data, you will follow the 3-2-1 rule.