New Year’s Resolution – Backups

no-backupMy recurring New Year’s Resolution is to do a better job on my backups. And it doesn’t matter how well (or badly) I did last year – I can do better!

I have my home environment well protected  thanks in part to a cloud based service called CrashPlan.  Read about that here.

But my corporate notebook always provides a challenge.  Copying private corporate data to a public cloud such as CrashPlan  – probably not the brightest idea. And the corporate provided solution is meant for “regular users” that have a few GB’s – not the “power users” with 100’s of GB’s of data.

My goal is simply to backup my data. I assume that, if required,  the installation of the OS and any applications will be done by a corporate imaging process, or even manually with a DVD or an ISO.

Here is my solution – a bit old school – but it gets the job done. 

The target for my backups is an external USB disk. Any disk will do – as long as it is big enough. Doesn’t have to be particularly fast or even portable.

truecryptFirst step is encryption. Yes – ENCRYPTION!!  Stuff happens. I might lose the disk in transit. It might be stolen. I can’t leave myself vulnerable to having sensitive data end up in the wrong hands. My tool of choice for that is TrueCrypt. I created an encrypted volume on the USB disk and I mount it as required during the backups. There is a Beginner’s Tutorial on TrueCrypt’s website that has all the details needed to get started. 

teracopyThe next step is seeding that first backup. Windows File Copy is fine for a few files and directories, but when I am copying 100’s of GB’s, I need something better. The tool I use for this copy is Teracopy. Teracopy claims to be faster than Windows Copy (I never tested that), but more importantly, it provides the ability to start/stop/pause and recover from errors during the copy process. I actually use Teracopy ALL the time – not just for backups.

What data am I going to copy? For me, I backup the Documents Library. (I don’t bother with Pictures, Music and Video Libraries since I don’t have any such content on the work computer). I copy my Desktop, Downloads and Favorites folders as well. And I also copy my VMWare Workstation “Virtual Machines”.

synctoyTeraCopy is great for getting that initial copy. But you don’t want to manually do each of those steps every time. The last utility in my toolbox is the Microsoft SyncToy. This allows me to build “folder pairs” – a source folder and a target folder. I setup a folder pair for each of the directories above.  Advanced options also allow me to determine what to do when I delete a file in the source folder. Do I want to keep it’s copy in the target folder? Or do I want to delete it there as well?

Once it’s all setup – I can run a backup with a couple of clicks!!

But can’t I automate it further?  Well – maybe… If the target location was mounted all the time, a simple “scheduled task” could take care of the backups. But because of the Encrypted Volume – which requires a password when it’s being mounted – this is not going to work. For now, I have a recurring Outlook reminder to start the backup a couple of times a week.

And what about Offsite? I have not gone that far – but there is no reason that I couldn’t rotate through a number of USB disks – and keep a copy on my desk at work, and one on my desk at the home. 

Your turn – tell me how you’ve solved your backup dilemas.