#Winning on Friday the 13th

f13a_300.jpgToday is Fri­day the 13th. The only Fri­day the 13th of 2011 as it works out.

This spe­cif­ic date has spe­cial sig­ni­fic­ance for me — and it has noth­ing to do with movies.

Since Fri­day the 13ths occur so infre­quently, and are  some­what fam­ous, I use the day as a semi-ran­dom chance to get my digit­al ducks in a row.

Stop everything
My Fri­day the 13th routine starts with a quick review of all open pro­jects and work. I don’t actu­ally do any work on those pro­jects, rather I look over everything, review­ing all the details and mile­stones, and just make sure that nothing’s being missed.

Backup everything
Next, I check out my data backup soft­ware and pro­cesses. In the blo­go­sphere, the 13th of each month  has been pro­moted as Blog Backup Day, but really, pro­tect­ing your data is some­thing that every­one should do, be it through a highly-pro­tec­ted stor­age device like the Drobo-FS, or using a backup drive sys­tem like ClickFree’s, or some com­bin­a­tion of  the two.

Vac­cin­ate everything
Then, I make sure my anti-vir­us and fire­wall tech­no­logy is cur­rent — and run a manu­al scan over all my drives. Yes, time con­sum­ing but it also provides me peace of mind that everything’s clean.

Defrag everything
Finally, I run a drive defrag­ment­a­tion util­ity over all drives that can bene­fit from it. Some oper­at­ing sys­tems auto­ma­gic­ally handle drive frag­ment­a­tion and some don’t.

Data ducks in a row
And yes, that can be a lot of work, but at the end of it, I’ve got a good pic­ture of my work­load, and the state of my data on my com­puter sys­tems. I’ve turned a day that’s fam­ous for hor­ror stor­ies into a day of good. #Win­ning 🙂

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Have you backed up your data today?

backup.jpg

Today is World Backup Day, I’m told, but to be frank, every day you should be think­ing about the safety of your data, there’s just too much of it that’s irre­place­able.

So, today, I’m going to take a quick look at some of the backup sys­tems I use and have in place. Yes, I said sys­tems. No one backup sys­tem is infal­lible, so redund­ancy is import­ant.

And, of course, this is my think­ing on the sub­ject. You may have dif­fer­ing opin­ions, which is great, as long as you are back­ing up :smileyhappy:
Con­tin­ue read­ing “Have you backed up your data today?”

Fat lady sings. Winners announced soon.

Thus endith my first blog con­test. And a very cool ride it was.

My good friends at Click­free, a Cana­dian backup tech­no­logy com­pany, agreed to provide the prizes (Click­free Trans­former SE) for a blog con­test chal­len­ging folks to provide there best (or worst I guess) backup hor­ror story.

I’ve received some rather good entries. Check out the com­ments in the ori­gin­al post for the entire list, but here’s a couple of excerpts to give you the idea:

In a multi-developer game devel­op­ment envir­on­ment:

We updated our loc­al SVN repos and tried to work with the new changes that we were all mak­ing (plus unknow­ingly the changes this oth­er guy made)… only the game ended up crash­ing. It worked fine before this latest update and no one was sup­posed to have made any changes that would cause this prob­lem, and yet, here it was, the game was crash­ing. Franticly we looked at all the changes “we” had made for the prob­lem (remem­ber we did not know this guy had checked any­thing in) and argue­ments rose over who was at fault of this issue (oddly no one fingered the par­tic­u­lar pro­gram­mer in ques­tion since we didn’t know he had com­mit­ted any­thing, plus it was 4am and no one was think­ing straight).

Stolen Grad-stu­dent Thes­is data:

I got a frantic call from a grad stu­dent once, say­ing that someone had broken in and stolen his com­puter with all his thes­is data and his 34 fin­ished draft thes­is — two years of data col­lec­tion research and writ­ing gone!

Win­ners?

In the next week or so I’ll be review­ing the entries and noti­fy­ing the win­ners. And yes, there will be a blog post about it. Stay tuned!

How to backup files across a network easily

Before I start, a friendly remind­er that you only have a day left to enter the con­test for a free Click­free Trans­former backup sys­tem. Tell me a backup hor­ror story.

It’s one thing to backup the files on your loc­al com­puter and anoth­er to backup files stored on oth­er com­puters on your net­work, or Net­work Attached Stor­age drives or serv­ers.

In the first case, odds are you simply drag and drop files and folders that are import­ant to you to a blank CD or DVD and burn your backup.

In the lat­ter, well, usu­ally a much more com­plex pro­cess with ded­ic­ated backup soft­ware is required.

Recently I grabbed a Click­free Trans­former SE to do some simple backup work on my desktop and laptop com­puters. Basic­ally, the Click­free Trans­former plugs into a USB port. Then you plug a USB Hard Drive into the Trans­former SE.

And the magic begins. The soft­ware quickly scans your loc­al sys­tem and cop­ies import­ant doc­u­ments, pho­tos, media and oth­er files to the USB drive attached to the Trans­former SE.

But back to the theme of this post, ‘back­ing up files across a net­work eas­ily’. Basic­ally there’s two things you need to do.

Map­ping your net­work drives

First, you have to have ‘mapped’ the net­work drives con­tain­ing files to be backed up. Map­ping the drive is a simple pro­cess that tells your loc­al Win­dows oper­at­ing sys­tem to treat the net­work drive as if it is a loc­al drive — even assign­ing a drive let­ter to the net­work drive.

Microsoft has a pretty good walk­through on map­ping drives in Win­dows XP. The pro­cess for Vista and Win­dows 7 is very sim­il­ar.

Con­fig­ur­ing the Click­free Trans­former SE
And this pro­cess is pretty simple. First, you have to get to the Click­free backup con­fig­ur­a­tion screens.

If you’ve seen a backup run, then you know there’s a count­down pri­or to the pro­cess begin­ning. When you can­cel that count­down, you abort the cur­rent backup. But you also now have the abil­ity to con­fig­ure your backup by select­ing which drives (loc­al or mapped net­work) and file types you want to back up.

This is import­ant because it’s pos­sible, when back­ing up mapped net­work drives, to try and backup more files than you have drive space avail­able for…should  you try and backup your entire photo, video, and music lib­rar­ies to one drive, for example. If this hap­pens, then the backup also fails to the con­fig­ur­a­tion screens, allow­ing you to tweak the con­fig so you can fit the backup on the drive.

Ready to roll?
And that’s all there is to it. The next time your backup runs, either manu­ally or auto­mat­ic­ally, files on those mapped net­work drives will be backed up along with the ones on your loc­al com­puter drives. Of course, depend­ing on how much you’re back­ing up, you may need to split the backup across a couple of drives 🙂

Monthly Backups: Have you started yours?

Before I start, a friendly remind­er that you only have 2.5 days left to enter the con­test for a free Click­free Trans­former backup sys­tem. Tell me a backup hor­ror story.

One thing I like to do is, at the end of every month, veri­fy that I’ve got a full backup of what I like to call my ‘for­got­ten data’, the data on my desktop or laptop —  data stored on the machines I work on day-to-day.

Once you set up a pro­cess to back up your serv­ers or NAS devices, it’s easy to get com­pla­cent and for­get that some of the things that could be import­ant to you are actu­ally stored on your loc­al com­puter not on the net­work; things like game pro­gress saves, edits to pho­tos, videos or pod­casts you’ve downloaded..etc.

So near the end of each month, I look at that stuff, determ­ine if it’s really import­ant to me or not, then copy it to a place on my net­work that will be backed up (using one of my oth­er backup sys­tems).

How ’bout you? Are you reg­u­larly back­ing up this ‘for­got­ten data’?

Spring’s on its way. Backup now — before you’re too busy.

I’ve writ­ten a lot about back­ing up your data over the years. But even though backups are import­ant, some­how they’re always 2nd or 3rd on the pri­or­ity list. ‘Some­thing to do when I get time’. And as Spring approaches, time is one thing that there’s going to be less of as pri­or­it­ies shift from inside activ­it­ies to out­side — yard cleanup, redis­cov­er­ing loc­al parks with the dogs, etc.

But back to backups. The key to keep­ing your data safely backed up is to make your data backup pro­cess so simple you can for­get about it, until you need it, of course.

In the past I’ve writ­ten about online backup as a solu­tion, but recently I’ve star­ted to use that as a sec­ond­ary backup sys­tem. My primary backup sys­tem is cur­rently loc­al hard­ware based, works flaw­lessly so far, and is simple.

The Hard­ware
In my case, it starts with the hard­ware. These days, USB drives are quite inex­pens­ive for their size, so I have three (500GB) units that I cycle through my backup routine. Each drive is naked — no fancy case — I use a Thermal­take BlacX dock­ing sta­tion to handle the SATA to USB con­nec­tion, which then lets me con­nect it to my com­puter. The drive simply rest in the unit and is then recog­nized by your com­puter as a USB stor­age device.

Which would be enough if I was to manu­ally drag and drop my files to the drive each time I wanted to back up, but remem­ber, I wanted it to be über easy. Which brings me to the next piece of hard­ware; the Click­free Trans­former SE USB inter­face.

This little hard­ware device sits between your USB drive (or dock, in my case) and one of  your computer’s USB ports. Once it’s plugged in and moun­ted by your sys­tem, it asks to install the Click­free backup soft­ware, and then launches a backup ses­sion (which you can abort and con­fig­ure) auto­ma­gic­ally. Remem­ber I said I like simple and reli­able.

The Pro­cess
So, now that I’m set up hard­ware wise, how does my backup routine work, you may ask. It works like this:

  1. Con­fig­ure, or recon­fig­ure the Click­free backup soft­ware to include new drives or folders (both on sys­tem and mapped to my sys­tem but moun­ted on my net­work)
  2. Veri­fy or reset the backup time and fre­quency if needed
  3. Ensure one of my 3 SATA drives are moun­ted in the drive dock
  4. Carry on about my reg­u­lar work — the backup will launch at the pre­de­ter­mined time and execute in back­ground
  5. Now it gets a bit tricky with 3 backup drives, but here’s how I do it:
  • When com­plete, remove the SATA drive ( I’ll call it Drive A) and take it to a safe off­s­ite stor­age loc­a­tion.
  • Pickup the drive (Drive B) cur­rently at the off­s­ite stor­age and bring it back to be used later.
  • Insert the third drive (Drive C) that I had on site, but not in use into the SATA drive dock. It’s now ready to be the backup drive at the next backup ses­sion.

That’s prob­ably the most com­plex part of this pro­cess. I like to keep two drives on site and one drive off­s­ite. The most recent backup is always off­s­ite and safe. The next-to-most-recent backup is onsite and avail­able if I need to recov­er a file or two I know have not changed since my last backup. And the old­est backup drive is ready to be used for the next backup ses­sion.

And that’s all there is to it. The Click­free backup pro­cess doesn’t encrypt or com­press the data, so should you need to recov­er a file or drive, it’s a very simple mat­ter to get at the files.

Want one?
Now here’s the cool part — your backup pro­cess can get back on track thanks to the fine folks at Click­free; they’ve giv­en me a few of the Click­free Trans­former SE units to use as prizes in a con­test.

If you want to get your backup pro­cess setup before Spring has sprung (and soaked up all your free time), either enter the con­test (tell me your data backup hor­ror story), or you can simply order a Trans­former SE dir­ect from Click­free — and yes, I have a dis­count code so you can even get a deal on part of your backup hard­ware. Use Grier10 when check­ing out to get a 15% dis­count on your order.

So what are you wait­ing for…Spring is on its way and you know it will eat up all your free time. Save your data now, whatever backup sys­tem you use.

Write a comment, win a prize!

I’ve been a fan of Click­free backup sys­tems for a while now. Drop­dead simple and effect­ive for most home usage. Well now the kind folks at Click­free have giv­en me the oppor­tun­ity to share the love, so to speak, in the form of a con­test, my first, in fact.

All the gory details are here, but the con­test is really simple:

To enter:
Take your worst / best backup hor­ror story and write-up a com­ment on the con­test page that describes a data loss hor­ror story that was aver­ted or would have been pre­ven­ted if you had a trusty recent backup. That simple.

But wait, there’s more!

Of course there is. If you’re not the writin’ type, you can still win —
Click­free has cre­ated a spe­cial code to get a 15% dis­count off your order through them. Simply enter Grier10 at the check­out and you’ll have 15% removed from the total.

Remem­ber, don’t com­ment below if you want the com­ment to be con­sidered an Entry — leave your com­ment HERE.

Again, full details on the con­test here, but I’m look­ing for­ward to this. It’s my first con­test, so be gentle with me please 😉