Brent Ashley reminds us all that backups are essential to peace of mind. Which reminds me… I’ve been living off my laptop for more than a year since my last workstation went up in flames (gawd, I hate computers) and I really need to back it up to an external drive like, right now.
Michael Oâ€™Connor Clarkeâ€™s recent brush with near-data-death had a happy ending, and he credits my backup advice with helping to save the day. I figure now is as good a time as any to make that advice more widely known.
The ONLY successful backup strategy is one that actually gets your system backed up regularly. This means taking it out of the hands of the procrastinator and into the hands of the automator.
In my opinion the only truly workable restore strategy is to have a disk image to restore. If you have to spend untold hours loading your OS and programs, searching for license keys and farting around with settings, passwords, adding users etc etc, just to get to the point where you can restore your backed-up data, you are wasting time and money.
A regularly scheduled disk-image backup will save your otherwise very sorry ass many many times.
I use Acronis True Image to back up my laptop. The Home version suits my needs, but the Workstation and Server products are stellar as well for a business environment.
Acronis makes a compressed image of selected partitions on your hard drive. It does this in the background while you are still using your computer. You can schedule it to happen regularly so you donâ€™t even have to think about it.
With Acronis you can:
- Make a full image of your drive
- Make multiple incremental images against a full image
- Save the image locally or over the network, split to multiple files or CDs/DVDs
- Access the images for read or restore
- Mount any full or incremental image to access a snapshot of your drive via a drive letter
- Restore your machine from any full or incremental state via disk, cd, network
- Restore your machine from bare metal with a rescue boot CD
- Schedule backups
- Automate backups so you donâ€™t have to think about them
- Define pre and post commands to run
Those are the basics you need. Beyond that you can use the rescue CD to back up and restore non-windows partitions, too – Linux and BSD for instance. There are many other features too.
I have a scheduled task set up to back up my laptop every Monday and Thursday at 2am to my home server. If my laptop is plugged into my network at home at those times, it will save a full disk image to the server. If the target directory already contains a full image, it will build an incremental image.
At the start of each month, I delete the contents of my LastMonth directory and move the current image and incrementals there. I should really write a batch to invoke pre-task to do this automatically, since this is the only thing I still have to remember to do.
Iâ€™m pretty serious about my backups. On my server, I have two 250Gb hard drives that I synchronize daily using rsync. I also copy certain critical files off to a NAS device thatâ€™s at the other end of the house and take sporadic file backups to a USB drive to take offsite. You donâ€™t have to get that crazy about it, but for the sake of your long-term sanity, by all means set up a regular image backup of your main machines.