by Gina Trapani
When was the last time you backed up the important files on your computer? Last year when your best friend called in tears after the Blue Screen of Death ate her thesis?
Yeah, I thought so.
Hard drives fail. It's a fact of computing life. It's not a matter of whether or not your computer's disk will fry, it's a matter of when. The question is how much it will disrupt your life.
Don't expect yourself to remember to back up your data, or stack your closet full of burned CD's or DVD's. Today we're going to set up automated nightly, weekly, monthly local and off-site backups for your PC using free software. Once you get this up and running, you'll never have to worry about losing data again.
What you'll need:
Here's how to get your backups up and running.
Wash, rinse and repeat twice for Weekly Local Backup and Monthly Local Backup profiles, but point them at the appropriate directories and also set the schedule to, um, weekly and monthly, respectively. Once you're all set up, you can run each job as a test (it'll take a long time, depending on how much data you've got), or just leave things to run on their own. Once all 3 profiles have run, you'll have 3 copies of your most important data on your external drive getting updated every night, week and month. If something goes wrong and the backups fail, you get an email notification letting you know.
This means if your hard drive fries? The most data you'll lose is a day's worth. If you overwrote an important file? Recover last week's or last month's copy.
UPDATE: Reader Patrick points out that if you make bad changes the last day of the week AND month, those changes will replicate to your backups and you can lose data. One way to avoid that is to schedule bi-monthly (every other month) backup as well. Thanks, Patrick!
Now, our backup plan doesn't stop there. If your computer's hard drive buys the farm, you're covered, but what if your house burns down or gets burglarized? You want your most important data somewhere OFF site as well. This is where your FTP server comes in. Create a last SyncBack profile called "Nightly Remote Backup" that sends all your important data over the wire from, say, your hard drive in New York to your FTP server in Atlanta. If you don't like the idea of your data on someone else's server, check out the compression tab: you can have your files zipped up and passworded before they get FTP'ed for a little extra security.
Update: An astute reader points out that compression is not enabled for FTP backup. So, create a profile that compresses and passwords your files and set it to run BEFORE your FTP profile which transfers the zips. Thanks, Ralph!
That's it! Once your automated backup system is up and running you can rest easy knowing that if Something Bad happens, chances are your data will be safe.
Backup geeks and the curious should be sure to paw through all of SyncBack's tabs and options, there's tons of them. For example, in the "Autoclose" tab, set SyncBack to shut down any programs with a word you specify in the title bar before it runs a backup job. The "Programs" tab lets you set commands to run before and after backup happens - handy for database or source repository dumps, exporting your Instiki wiki to HTML and anything else you want to move or mash before you back up.
There are a million and one programs and ways to backup your hard drive, and this is just one of them. How do you ensure your data's security and redundancy? Do tell in the comments or at tips at lifehacker.com.
Gina Trapani, the editor of Lifehacker, wishes the world automated, worry-free, continually-running backups. Her semi-weekly feature, Geek to Live, appears every Wednesday and Friday on Lifehacker. Subscribe to the Geek to Live feed to get new installments in your newsreader.2 77Reply 77Discuss