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Three backup tips to save you from data desolation

Wednesday, 13 March 2013 | By Linnet Hunter

Last week my laptop was removed from my bag and is gone.


We all know that gut-clenching feeling we get when something is not where it should be but, strange to say, I didn’t feel that when I saw my empty bag. I just had a surreal sense that there had been a terrible mistake.


It wasn’t until several hours and a good straight whisky later that my brain began to churn like a supercharged scanner over every file, photo, email and song I owned, began to trawl mentally through everything I had browsed, saved, listened to, written, created enjoyed, taken pictures of and shared in the last four years. Every one of them was on that computer.


The happy ending is that I was able to restore all my bytes of belongings just a few hours ago, so I guess you know what I am going to say.


Backup! Backup! Backup! Even though I may sound like a demented real estate agent.


But it is the backups I had done, plus the ones I hadn’t, that kept me awake till 2am that night, and on successive nights, wondering. So I thought I would share a little of what has worked for me. Easy to say, backup (even three times) but what does that mean exactly?


Backup one


Being a writer, it is often in my contracts that excuses about lost files and crashes won’t cut it, so about three years ago I purchased a Time Capsule. Once set up, it automatically backs up everything, every hour unless told otherwise. This is a great stress reliever.


A colleague of mine highly recommends Carbonite cloud backup. For $US59 per year per computer you get unlimited off-site backup capacity.


The best part is that once it's set up, it's completely automatic and invisible. It just runs quietly in the background and incrementally backs up each file immediately a change is made.


It also encrypts and compresses your file in your computer before sending it to their server farm: worst case; you lose two minutes of work. Restoring files from either system is very easy.


I needed network and Time Capsule passwords to unlock my data so another key hint (which I know you have heard before!) is to keep your passwords private and separate from the actual computer, and that goes for the physical backup disc as well. No use if they are in the same room.


Backup two


My most recent projects were saved on Dropbox.


This was a fantastic thing, because deadlines have to be met no matter what the circumstances. All the photo files, latest drafts, contracts and hours of writing were safely ensconced in their little shared folders – something I take for granted during a busy working day but did not on this occasion!


Backup three


Automatic syncing meant that music, photos and email were also in the cloud and accessible from another device. We may not think of this as backup but it proved to be the difference between heartache and peace of mind for me.


On the afternoon before my dear old laptop – with its Great Ocean Road sticker and its little dent near the apple – went missing, I spent four hours cleaning it up: deleting old files and archiving others. That will all have to be done again.


But that is far better than the alternative of losing all my work, my life and my livelihood in one moment. Don’t let it happen to you – back up now!