Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Preparing for a Disaster, Part 1: Backing up your computer

One of my biggest nightmares is the thought of losing my computer files, especially the thousands of photos I've taken over the years, and MOST especially, the ones of my daughter.  I know that it is inevitable that, one day, I will lose my files or they will be corrupted and irretrievable.  For that reason, I am making preparations to be able to retrieve my photos and files.

When we first bought our iMac two years ago, my husband also bought a Time Capsule (external hard disk drive) to be used to back up my computer files.  (You can read how to set it up here.)  It's been working great, for the most part. However, about a year ago, it had a problem where it couldn't find the backup files (gave me a heart attack!) and I had to make it start a brand-new backup on the Time Capsule.  It has very recently been telling me that it is running out of room and has been deleting the oldest backups.  What I plan to do is to reformat the drive and start over with a fresh backup of the computer.  Before I can do that, I need to have an online backup of my computer files.

I know what you're thinking!  "Shouldn't the external hard drive be enough?  Won't an online backup be overkill?"  Remember, I collect photos like some old ladies collect cats.  Also, if you are a mother, you know how precious photos of your children are to you.  Besides that, what if we have a fire and the Time Capsule is lost forever?  What if someone breaks into our home and steals my computer and even the Time Capsule?  There are far too many frightening scenarios to think about that warrant the extra backup.

A few weeks ago, I began a trial run with Carbonite.  It offers behind-the-scenes backup of not only your computer, but your smartphone as well.  You do not have to have a paid account with Carbonite to use the smartphone app.  It is a free app!  There are several different levels of service from which you can choose to backup your computer.  I had one day left of my trial left when I started to upgrade to the paid service.  I was || this close to closing the deal when I discovered that, for some reason, it did not let me choose the Home Plus option which I wanted so that I could also back up an older external hard drive that I used to use with our PC laptop.  I found out from their customer service chat line that the Home Plus and Home Premier services are only available for PC/Windows-based computers, not Macs.  Not only that, but if you change your mind mid-year, they will not issue a refund.  Scratch that and back to square 1.

Through some searching of reviews (including recommendations from fellow photographers), I found out about BackBlaze.  It, too, offers a trial period, and is more economical than Carbonite.  It is a great service, and allows you to back up your external hard drives as part of the service (for PCs and for Macs).  You may add on additional computers for an additional $5/month per computer.  I just upgraded to the paid service ($95 for two years) and am still waiting for the initial backup to be completed.  Once the initial backup is completed, I will feel secure enough to reformat my Time Capsule and begin that anew.  I could also start backing up my older external hard drive -- and probably should -- but I want to reorganize the files on it first.

Summary of my Recommendations to You:

1.  Get an external hard drive to use as an on-site backup of your important files.  Backup often.  If you're really paranoid concerned, get two external hard drives and alternate backing up to them, keeping one of them offsite (in the care of a trusted friend or family member).

2.  Use an online backup service such as Carbonite or BackBlaze.  Carbonite has a free app that you can use to back up your iPhone.

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