Scott Boms

Backup On The Brain

Given the last few posts here, backing up data and important files has obviously been on my mind. It’s coincidental more than anything, but I’ve continuously had problems with the primary removable Firewire drive I had bought to store my daily and weekly backups. So much so that it’s now in many pieces in the garbage with the disk platters more or less obliterated. It’s definitely unrecoverable and I feel much better given how much time was wasted repairing the drive and trying to get good successful backups.

What I’m really interested in here, and the main point of this post is this: How are you backing up your important files?

In particular, this is for the web developer folks. How are you backing up your design files (Illustrator, Photoshop, Fireworks) and your code files (HTML, PHP, Rails, MySQL). Perhaps the real first question is: Are you backing up? If so, how often? And to what form of media? If not, why not?

Once you’ve completed a project and it goes live, what then? Do you make a full backup of all the project files? Do you keep data available “online” (on disk) so that it’s easy to make changes down the road? Are you using a version control system such as CVS or Subversion? Do you develop using a local environment such as is available on Mac OS X? Do you clone your backups and keep a second copy offsite somewhere?

I’m pondering how I want to proceed with backups since my experiences with a certain brand of Firewire hard disks has left me with an extremely low opinion of their hardware and service technicians. The immediacy and economical value of using hard disks as opposed to tape has become more apparent in recent years as disks have grown larger and the cost per GB has decreased.

Tape is a good longer-term archival medium, but in my experience I often have to retrieve files for old projects quickly to make minor changes. Being able to mount a hard disk, grab the file and make the changes is just so much more efficient than finding the right tape, un-archiving the file off tape, making the change and then re-archiving the file.

Perhaps it makes sense to use both. Tapes for archival purposes. Once a week, perform a full backup to tape as well as archive completed work. And do daily backups to hard disk. I guess it ultimately depends on needs and practicality.

What do you think? What do you do?

So say you…

I’m paranoid about losing data (can you tell I used to be a Windows user?). Currently I backup:

  • ‘Personal Data & Settings’ (about 75MB) to iDisk once a week;
  • my ‘Home’ folder (excluding my iTunes and iPhoto libraries) to my external drive once a week;
  • my iPhoto library and ‘Personal Data & Settings’ to a DVD-RW once a week and to an archival DVD-R once a month;
  • ‘Personal Data & Settings’ and a few other odds and sods to my iPod whenever it’s connected.

All of those are automated apart from the iPod backup so it’s easy to keep track of. I keep about half my iTunes library on my iPod but don’t bother backing up the rest - I have only about 20 tunes (out of about 3000) of which I don’t own the CD of, too.

I’ve also got a 256MB USB pendrive containing scans of my birth certificates, driving licence, bank details and anything I might need (all encrypted) should I lose everything stored in a family member’s fire-proof safe.

It pays to be safe!

Timmargh Timmargh October 10, 2005

I do a daily backup of all my import files to both my external firewire drive (160 GB IOGear) as well as an incremental daily backup to my Strongspace account. I also do a daily backup of my webserver to both of these locations as well.

Jeff Smith Jeff Smith October 10, 2005

I’ve had some bad experiences as of late which has made me finally get a backup plan together.

Right now I’m backing up my “Sites” folder with Backup 3 to an external hard drive every night and then archiving it on a DVD once a month. I’m also backing up other non related web stuff to my iDisk once a week.

I’m keeping all of my projects on my local hard drive so that If changes ever need to be made, I don’t have to go grab the DVD. Eventually I will start taking off old projects to save disk space.

This may not be the best backup solution, but it sure beats doing nothing. I’m always looking to see how (smarter) people set up their backups.

Keegan Jones Keegan Jones October 11, 2005

Keegan, I think I’m pretty much in the same boat except that I keep all my docs on a secondary internal drive that way I can wipe the OS if necessary and not lose any real work. I haven’t lost anything yet (knock on wood), but would prefer not too either…

I’m using symlinks to the data on the secondary drive in order to be able to use the DAMP setup and without mucking about too much. When a project is complete, I can back everything up and move the data offline and just dump the symlink. Backups happen off the secondary drive where I also keep enough space to clone the system drive.

The one thing I need to investigate is if Backup can deal with the Unix side of things because if it can, I think I’ll have to throw together a Quick Pick to backup my Apache config as well as some other stuff. if it can, that would make me very happy.

Scott Scott October 11, 2005

I’m paranoid about losing data as well (that’s why I’m a MAC user!)

Here’s what I do to be safe.

  • Every other Sunday I make an image of my PowerBook’s harddrive on an external Firewire drive that I keep @ home in a fireproof safe. That takes no more than 2 hours max and it is everything.
  • Everytime I boot my PowerBook (which is about once a day) I have a script that runs and copies…
  • Several ‘important’ system and config files (httpd.conf, hosts, my NNW OPML file, etc…)
  • .sql files of each mySQL database (structure and data) that are generated with the mysqldump command. Since I am doing development work, there is not a ton of data so the files are small in size.
  • A .tar.gz file of my most important documents which I keep in one specific folder.
  • A .tar.gz file of my WebServer’s root directory.

That takes about one trip to the coffee pot, the bathroom and a little H2O cooler chatter which is about 15 minutes total.

Finally, when I reach a milestone for a client I copy everything relating to the project to a DVD which gets sent to the mine where my company stores documents, tapes, etc…

It all works well for me and it covers all of my bases. It’s not perfect, but it does the job.

Jason Jason October 11, 2005

I make use of .Mac for the small things like Keychain settings and application preferences, and I have a generic FireWire hard drive for larger projects. I don’t have a set backup schedule, but I try to go no longer than two weeks. Often, I’ll back up projects whever I discover something or complete a big feature. I store a few other items on my iPod Shuffle inside an encrypted sparse disk image, as well.

Collin Allen Collin Allen October 12, 2005