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Short & Long Term PC Backup

A person who relies on their laptop, pc, notebook etc. for many aspects of their life must have a solid data backup plan. As some of you might be able to attest from experience, regardless of how reliable your hardware is, IT WILL break sooner or later and most likely when you don”t expect it.

After experimenting with various backup solutions and strategies I have personally discovered that I needed two types of backups.
1) a real time synchronizing type of backup, and 2) Long term not-so-real-time backup with some kind redundancy. Don”t worry here”s what I mean by each type.

Real Time Backup. A real time backup to me is the type of backup that is constantly monitoring my day to day computing activities keeping an eye on any data file changes. If I open up a Word document make some minor changes to it and close it, I want this Word file to be immediately backed up somewhere safe with the latest copy.

Long Term Backup.This backup would be considered more an archive than a backup. A good example for an archive would be your family pictures from so many years back as well as the latest ones, or you kids’ videos of their first walk. and or copies of various documents that you”d like to keep for reference. Long term backup also monitors you filing activities not in a constant fashion but at regular intervals. Then it determines if there are any new, deleted or changed files and folders and back them up accordingly. These types of backups are generally slower than the real time backup as they attempt to be as unobtrusive to your CPU and your bandwidth as possible in order not to slow you down. These backups are also generally less expensive than the “Real Time” solutions.

Use Case Scenario for Real Time Backup. As you go through the day, you edit, open, close, delete and create a variety of files and folders. These files are maintained in the equivalent of the “My Documents” library if you use a Windows based machine. This library is considered a dynamic library as it is never the same from one day to the next. For this type of backup I went through an evaluation process of the various cloud/online backup services such as Spideroak, Sugarsync, and Dropbox. I had 5 primary criteria during the evaluation:
Backup must occur in real time- All three products offered this functionality and all seem to have similar update speeds, which is truly gated by your internet speed.
It must allow file and folder synchronization to another machine. Again, all three offered this function, however, Dropbox uses a different approach, whereas you are limited to the specific “Dropbox” drive like space on your PC.
File backup must be encrypted prior to leaving my machine so it is stored encrypted on the vendors’ storage servers. Another term for this is “Zero Knowledge” backup. On this one, only Spideroak office the simplest most straightforward functionality. The other two may or may not officer it and if they did it is not evident and I did not notice it in their product detail.
It must allow flexible file and folder selection of what to backup. At the time I did my evaluation both Spideroak and Sugarsync offiered this function, and to me Spideroak was the more straightforward approach in their local application. Dropbox’s approach is to create a dedicated “Dropbox” space on your drive which you could use as a place to drop your files or folverders that you want backed up and synchronized.
Cost per gigabyte. At the time of my evaluation again all three were very close contenders when it came to price structure. Sugarsync offered a lower priced starting plan however their per/Gigabyte prices were very close.

As you can see from the above all three are good choices however Spideroak won me over primarily with their “Zero Knowledge” offering and secondly the file/folder selection flexibility, which to me was easier to implement and manage than Sugarsync. I hope you find this brief analysis helpful as you make your decision. Feel free to post your comments or questions on this blog. I’d love to hear from you whether it is a question, an addition or a disagreement. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Backup Solution topic when I will cover “Long Term Backup” strategy.

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