Backup vs Murphy’s Law – My Take

This blog post has been inspired by events, not to me, but to a colleague of mine. Our discussion, was interesting, funny and insightful, but I thought hey why not share my experiences and what I use to teach others how to live a safer, “backup” driven life.

I live on Murphy’s law, for those of you who do not know what it is, “If anything can go wrong, it will” and with extensions “At the most inopportune time” and my favorite “it will be all your fault, and everyone will know it”. Basically it means that whatever you do, the closer you get to success the greater the chance of failing terribly, at the last moment. Therefore successful people are those who plan for the inevitable or develop habits which reduce this possibility.

My first experience with disaster came as part of my first job, an internship with an IT company many years ago. I was given the task of entering 2 years worth of petty cash transactions into an Excel spreadsheet, which I was saving on a floppy drive (yes we used them at that time). Anyway I worked on the file for 3 weeks, and then just as I was done (at the most inopportune moment), the floppy drive crashed, yes beyond repair, it was a mechanical fault. Since then I have never lost another file again, and I would like to share what I do, it may be a little extreme, but hey I am paranoid.

Maintain Multiple File Versions

Seems simple, but when do you decide to make a new version. My rules for creating versions are simple:
- At each major change in structure or layout or content
- Each day

So many files, oh yes, I create an “Archive” directory in each folder I work in so that I move the older files in there, till I next need them. At times never. Also I name all my files the same way FileNameDDMMMYY for example BackupBlogPost11Jul12.txt (that I am working in now). Tomorrow I will create a new version of the file BackupBlogPost12Jul12.txt.

Email – Copy Yourself

Strange, why not keep it in Sent Items, no way, I always copy myself on each and every communication. Some people would argue that “Sent Items” in MS Outlook or web mail is good enough, but I think not.

The advantages are:
- Since I apply rules to file my emails and Labels in Gmail, I only focus on the Incoming mail and can empty Sent Items and Drafts as often as I need to.
- I can find all threads and timestamps for when I sent the communications (I had to retrieve a contract ammendment sent 3 years before in one case)
- Thanks to Gmail I do not have to delete any emails so its a permanent record

Backup

Yeap the same old story, its like washing my hands, nope really, but backups are over-rated and always forgotten because they are somewhat of a dark art. They have to be simple, reliable and automated. For personal use my backup options are:
- Dropbox seems like I have over 4GB now
- Google Docs becoming more interesting since I can edit the files using Docs and Spreadsheets
- Online Tools that suit the type of file at hand

File Storage – Magnetic vs Flash

I do not trust flash drives, and I believe Magnetic drives (HDDs) are more resilient but I am yet to have my mind corrected.

What do you do in your case? Please share your thoughts in comments.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by DRK on July 13, 2012 at 8:52 am

    One word: Time Capsule. Painless.

    Reply

    • From a cost and ease of use perspective, especially for low tech shops, how would you use it from day-to-day?

      Reply

      • Actually, Time Capsule is an absolute winner – if you have a good wi-fi environment. You barely think about what’s going on as the backup takes place. But, of course, you’ve got to have a hard disk elsewhere that you plug into your machine to do the usual backups as well!

        Reply

  2. Posted by JNKT on July 16, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Lesson learned. Painfully :-)

    Reply

  3. Posted by mmarion on July 17, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Stephen post is spot on as recently almost 2 years of data was lost in less than a few seconds n the “data and recovery site” had corrupt data… paranoia maybe… caution extreme; you can never go wrong.

    Reply

  4. Google Docs came to save the world alongside mailing a copy to yourself, however there are extremes of when you print out a copy: just incase………..

    Reply

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