If you are like me, running backups of your important files and documents is something that you know is important, and something that you know you should do... but you are probably not doing it as regularly as you should!
Please note that I am talking here of backing up your personal files and folders on a home PC network and not web hosting files or company files, although if you are running a small business operation and do not have a formal backup system or process in place you will be able to use this as well.
I used to have an external hard disk drive on which to make backups, which I then stored off-site. This was a good idea in principle but in practice it tended not to happen often enough.
The solution that I am suggesting works completely automated and hands-off, once you have set it up, it runs by itself and you do not need to be concerned with remembering to make the backup yourself.
In order to set up this backup system you will need the following software and components:
1. Software to automate the backup process. I recommend that you download a free utility called Syncback. This utility will help you make backups of your files and folders automatically.
2. A place to store your files offsite. For this I recommend that you sign up for an account with Dropbox. This facility allows you to store files on their server. You will make use of their automatic synchronisation process to copy files automatically from your local PC to their server.
3. An uncapped ADSL account or an account with a generous bandwidth allowance. For people outside South Africa this is not an issue, in fact, you might ask what a 'capped' account is. Here in South Africa however, we have limited bandwidth allowances although recently (as in from about April/May 2010) uncapped accounts have become available. If you are in South Africa I recommend that you sign up for an account with Afrihost since it offers very good value for money.
How the process works is as follows:
In other words:
- You will use Syncback to schedule regular backups on your PC and copy folders with information to a central folder on your PC
- This folder is your 'DropBox' folder that you create when you sign up for a DropBox account.
- DropBox will take all the files from the DropBox folder and upload them to your DropBox account.
This means that your files are stored off-site and can be accessed from anywhere. You just need to log into your DropBox account. You can also give other people access to your account so that they have access to your backups. In fact, DropBox is actually used to synchronise files and work with files from various locations and various PCs. For example, if you are working on a project and you want to give a team of people access to a set of files and they are not located in your office, you can copy these files to your DropBox account and Dropbox will then automatically copy them to the PCs of the off-site team again. This is much more secure than depending on emails.
The step by step instructions for implementing this are as follows:
1. Sign up for a DropBox account
Go to http://www.dropbox.com/
Sign up for a free account. It is at this point that you need to decide how many files you want to backup. The free account has a limit of 2GB of storage space. If you want to backup more than this, you will have to sign up for a paid account. The first level paid account is around $10 per month and this gives you access to 50GB of space.
You will install DropBox on your PC. During the installation process, DropBox will suggest a folder to use as your synchronisation folder. Normally this falls into your 'MyDocuments' folder and is normally called 'My Dropbox'. Just ensure that this folder is located on a drive where you have lots of space. You can also move this folder to a drive of your choice, it does not need to be in the MyDocuments folder. Just be aware that you need to follow the DropBox utility for moving the folder, do not just move the folder using your file explorer, this will cause your DropBox installation to stop working!
2. Automating the backup process
In order to automate the process, you need to have some software that will run a backup for you on a regular basis. I am using the software Syncback. You can download a free copy from http://www.2brightsparks.com/freeware/. There is a free version and a PRO version, please be sure to download the free version!
Install the software on your PC and run it. You are going to create profiles to manage your backups. What you want to do is to create a profile to Backup.
Give your profile a name. I would recommend that you create one profile for each of your folders that you want to backup.
You need to create Source and Destination folders for each profile. The Source folder is the folder containing the files that you want to backup. The destination folder is your DropBox folder.
Once you have selected OK, Syncback will ask you to run a simulation, you can skip this step.
Click on the profile name in your Syncback interface. There is a button on the bottom right called 'Schedule'. Click on this button to set up a schedule for your backups. Click on the Schedule Tab and select a schedule, either Daily, Weekly, Monthly etc.
Click on OK.
Your backup process has now been set up!
Do test it to make sure that everything runs OK. After you have run a backup, you will see the DropBox icon in your Windows Status bar at the bottom change from a box with a green tick, to a box with a blue icon showing arrows going round and round. This is indicating that DropBox is copying your files to its server.
Also remember that both Syncbak and Dropbox will only backup and synchonise files if they are newer than the versions already existing, so this means that once the initial backup is done, only files that are newer will be copied to your backup server.
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