Back it up...
The reason I’m bringing this up is because last weekend my son’s hard drive started failing. He let the chkdsk run over night only to find out in the morning it had sort of “erased or otherwise made inaccessible hal.dll”. That is a rather important file for getting windows to start. He was a little bummed as his schoolwork was on there (yes, he backed it up – onto a pendrive, which he could not find – back to that “it is the ability to recover” comment. Further, the backup was out of date).
So, I took the disk into work and borrowed an external USB enclosure for the little IDE drive. Fortunately we were able to get the homework and some other data off of there. Now he too has a 300GB drive as do I (well, I have more than one) and my wife. He’ll be backing up more often to a drive that is just too large to “lose”.
Anyway, I’m always looking at how I backup. I’ve written before about Unison, a freeware tool I’ve been using for a long time. With that, I backup my really important stuff to three different machines – two at home and one at work. In a true disaster (I’m on the road and lose my slides) I can always pull from one of those sources assuming I can get on the network.
With the addition of the 300 GB hard disk though, I’ve added another layer. The disk I bought came with “bounce back express” which was adequate (I upgraded to “professional” to get some more options). That does a full disk scheduled backup and can do disk synchronization in a manner similar to Unison (but nothing has done the synchronization as well as Unison so far…)
Over the last couple of days – I started playing with something else all together though. A more real time sort of solution from NTI that permits versioning as well (you have to like that price until the end of December). As I open and close files – this runs in the background and makes a copy to the external disk. As someone who writes a lot – I think I’m going to like this (especially the versioning ability). How many times have I had Word refuse to open my file – having the last 10 saves of it would be a life saver at times. And since my laptop only has an 80 GB hard drive – the 300 GB should be able to hold multiple versions of many files.
So, now the routine will look something like this… When I’m at home at my desk, I’ll virtually be mirroring my laptop in real time. I’ll still use Unison to sync up between the three external machines from time to time (like right before I unplug from home to go on the road). When I come back from being on the road – bounce back professional will sync the laptop drive with the external disk and the NTI software will keep me in sync from then on out.
I’m sure it will be a function of how you work as to whether some like the above could work for you. For example, if I actually ran a database on my laptop – that would probably not work so well (the NTI software). But when I’m at home, I run the database on one of my two linux servers – at work on some server there. On the road, I keep my virtual machines on external USB drives (better performance having a drive for the OS and a drive for the database) and back them up manually (just copy the VM’s onto my laptop as a last ditch backup). So, for me it looks like this will work.
At the very least, the NTI software is a fairly neat idea – you can point it at only certain directories if you wanted, I’m doing the entire machine right now.