The SMART Guide to Back-ups: Online Data and Syncing

In Protect Your Data, we set-up the basic guidelines in making a back-up plan. In this section, we’ll cover a few more things you can do to keeping the your online data safe and synced.

The issues:

  • It’s definitely simpler to do back up when you only have one computer, but what if you have more? And what if you’re not the only user?
  • Plus, you probably have other data, on-line, that you want backed up as well.

So, this article will lay out the issues with multiple computers, multiple users and backing up your on-line data.

  1. A single user with one PC is the simplest scenario. Maybe two external hard-drives (one back-up is not enough!), a CD/DVD burner, and some high quality blank optical media should be good enough to start with. Pull on-line storage like Mozy, Dropbox and Carbonite into the mix, you can secure your data easily. Flash drives can be life-savers as well.
  2. Single user, many PCs/devices would require syncing software (Dropbox offers this with its online storage as well), a detailed schedule for back ups, and more thought as to what you need to back up, and where. RAID array, a home server, online storage? The speed of your internet connection will also affect upload and download times.
  3. Many users, one PC means also backing up various profiles and personal data. You have to hammer out agreements as to what will be backed up and when would the best time to do it for the people involved.
  4. Many users, many PCs would involve syncing, and centralizing shared media, as well as customizing information access and flow. For personal units, it would be best if each user takes responsibility for his or her own data and unit.

What are the important factors?

  1. The number of users and the number of PCs being used help define the parameters of how you can protect your data. With hard drive space, burners and optical media being cheap, and with the many online services (free or paid) available to store your data, there’s bound to be a reasonable solution to your back-up needs, and therefore no excuse to put it off.
  2. Your OS also dictates the software you can use to sync your data, as well as the types of devices you want synced. Multiple computers with different OS are a doozy to deal with. Not to mention if you favor a dual-boot system, or for the real hard-core, triple-booting.
  3. For backing up online, your data upload and download depends on speed and latency. Always on…isn’t. That’s why we back up online, off-line, off-site and on-site. Keep a good copy at hand when so you need it, you got it.
  4. Do you know where everything is? Make a master-list of which device holds what. If you’re synced, there shouldn’t be any problem. You can access your data anywhere, anyhow, and choose to have the changes radiate to the other devices in the system.
  5. Do you need everything synced? Backed up, sure. But do you expect to access everything you need on everything you use? Assess your tools and their functions. Maybe you can clear up and speed up the technological ecosystem –technosystem?– that supports you by eliminating duplicate and extraneous functions. Streamline to eliminate the clutter, and maybe even cut down on the bills.

What about syncing?
Well, 2BrightSparks offers the popular SyncBack Pro and Syncback SE, while SpiderOak (available for Windows, Mac and Linux) also touts its “zero-knowledge privacy policy” as well as a host of other features, including syncing to unlimited devices, as well as providing storage on-line. Dropbox is a multi-platform service that works on Linux, Windows and Mac OS X: Like Spideroak, Dropbox also allows the users to sync and share files online aside from offering storage services,.

For non-Windows users, Lifehacker also has a suggestion on backing up your data on Linux with luckyBackup. (Here’s an old article from Jemreport on syncing Linux laptops and desktops.) And again, we refer to Lifehacker’s 5 Best On-line Backup Tools and 5 Best Off-line Backup Tools.

NAS, or network-attached storage, is also a favored method for back-up purposes. For more in-depth information, tutorials and downloads on NAS visit NAS Central. With data on more than a dozen popular manufacturers brands of NAS units, there’s sure to be something to help you there.

On protecting your online data:
Social media allows you to keep in touch with your tribe across the miles. It can be a curse as well as a blessing — just think of the many cases of people being fired because there was proof of inappropriate and unprofessional behavior on Facebook.

The important factors:
– How much of yourself did you put out there and where is it? ( As an aside: Did you put it there? Will it bite you on the ass later?)
– How important is the data you put out there? Important enough for you to back it up?

  • Personal – videos, journal entries, blog, website, photographs, music, etc.
  • Business – your internet persona or brand – may include the popular blog, usually includes your professional website
  • E-mail accounts – from your very first Hotmail account to your very own email, plus the one you use only for subscriptions.

The following links offer good advice on managing the safety of your online data:

For keeping your favorite browser safe:

Caveat: The difference between backup and archiving.
Back up is for fresh data, archiving is for data that isn’t going to change –it’s information for preservation purposes. Photos, videos, songs, movies, these are data you can archive. Burn the family memories to DVD and send a copy to your parents, your brother, your aunt in Tallahassee, you have off-site back-ups, just advise them to keep the copies safe.

Back up is recovery. It’s also insurance. It’s protects, not against losing data — which is inevitable due to hardware factors, accidents, human error, malicious attacks (worms, trojans, viruses) — but against catastrophic interruption. The point of back up is recovery.

Special mention: Gazup
When paranoia drives you, Gazup helps. “The leading website for social file mirroring online,” Gazup is an online service that lets you upload your files to multiple hosts in one go. Upload a file to Gazup, and it will mirror your file to the following hosts: Rapidshare, Megaupload, Filefactory, zShare. Netload, and Badongo

Their best features:

  • You save bandwidth: it’s a one way upload, and they do the rest from their servers
  • They offer screenshots for video uploads
  • You can check for and repair broken mirrors easily.
  • 100% free membership — with a few strings.

Helpful links:

Other helpful links via Appstorm:
5 Creative Uses for Dropbox
15 Awesome Dropbox Tips and Tricks
10 [More] Killer Dropbox Tips and Tricks
15 Amazing Apps for File Storage in the Cloud
Share and Store Photos with Picasa Web Albums

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