November 20, 2017

How to take control and backup your files without thinking about it?

Do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of information you have to manage?  Photos, documents, work, mp3s, media files, contracts, etc.  You probably have these information scattered across multiple devices like a smartphone, tablet and/or laptops.  If you haven't gotten around to organizing and staying on top of backing up your data, I hope this article can help you get going.

Objective:  To easily backup data safely, leverage cloud services on a limited basis.
Pre-requisite:  The system I designed requires a couple pieces of hardware at minimum; a laptop or computer that will serve as your primary information gateway and a dedicated NAS drive (you can proabably hookup a hardrive to your Router if you fancy to take that route).

A couple of thoughts before we dive in; 1). This may not be the best solution, but its something I find effective and helps me stay in control, you may be able to point out a lot of flaws in my design but my objective do something easy and so it promotes the idea of backing up my data on a regular and automated basis.  2). This system pre-supposes you have some kind of discipline in organizing your data on a day-to-day, for instance, labeling your files and folders in a logical manner; the point of this entry is to "backup" data, so it doesn't help on the issue of "organizing" your data.

This backup plan (as illustrated by yours truly) is centered around two types of backup locations; the cloud which is predominately Dropbox for me (you can choose other services of your liking).  Whatever file or important scanned documents I receive on my phone, I would file it in the Dropbox.  The beauty of it is that is auto-syncs with other devices or my laptop (the "mastermind") so I can access useful documents or references on the go.  For all the more sensitive documents, I store is locally on my laptop to keep it away from the cloud (I know this is proabably me being overly cautious), however I do use a free software called Syncback to setup periodic backup of my laptop's content (both sensitive local drive as well as the dropbox folder for added measure) to the NAS drive that is connect to my network.  Beacuse of the way Dropbox automatically syncs with other devices and saves on the cloud and because of my local drive is automatically backed up to the NAS drive, I have more or less designed a simple system to help me keep my files save in an almost autonomous manner.

So here is an example of what a day could look like:  Lets say you are working on a project, you snapped a couple of photos, by default, your Google or Apple account will back it up to their photo services.  If the photo is serving as an important project document, I would then save it to a location in my Dropbox folder (this is then auto-sync'd back to my laptop).  Lets say you scanned a document from a smartprinter; I again choose Dropbox as my destination and boom it goes to the cloud and all my sync'd devices.  Back at home, if I deemed certain documents in the dropbox to be of high sensitivity, I will pull it down and store it locally on the laptop's designated folders.  From there, Syncback software will grab all the content of my laptop (both Dropbox and sensitive data) and back it up once per week to my network drive.

Of course there are flaws in every system and here are some of the draw backs of my design:

1. Having a NAS Drive locally will not prevent from theft or damage in the event of fire or water; experts will recommend having another NAS drive off site to account for this situation.
2. Occasionally, Syncback software hangs because of something I did, so its prudent to double check it (maybe set a calendar reminder for yourself) to make sure things are backing up smoothly, once I noticed it didn't back up for 3 months, the thought alone gave me the chills
3. Some of the cloud services have expenses associated, I keep my documents lite so I am still using the free Dropbox account but I know Google, Apple and Microsoft also charges a couple hundred dollars per year for their cloud storage solution, so if you have a lot of files, that might be added expense

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