Department of Redundancy Department

This is one of my “brass tacks” articles. Yes, it’s wonder to pontificate about plot and theme and whatnot, but you also have to pay the rent. And you can’t do that if you hard drive crashes and takes all your work with it. So let’s talk about where you keep your stuff, and why it had better be more than one place.

It’s trendy to talk about “the cloud” these days. Keep your stuff in “the cloud” and you can always get to it, forever and ever. Well, maybe, maybe not. It seems unthinkable now, but Google could go out of business and shut down Google Docs. Remember when AOL _was_ the internet for most people? I rest my case.

But keeping it just on your laptop’s hard drive is just as bad, if not worse. Hard drives crash. Yes, even that nifty all-flash-chip-no-enclosure-soldered-right-onto-the-motherboard drive in the new MacBook Airs can get corrupted. If you only have your data in one place, you have it nowhere.

A wise and popular theory making the rounds on the internets is called 3-2-1 Backup. In short:

* You should have at least 3 copies of your stuff
* In at least 2 physical locations
* And at least 1 of them should be off-site/cloud-based

And note that all of those include the words “at least.” More is better, assuming you can keep them all in sync. If you can’t, don’t try. Multiple inconsistent backups can be more confusing than helpful. But it’s really not that hard to have total piece of mind that your data is safe. Here’s how I do it.

First, I keep all of my files in [Dropbox]( If you haven’t heard of it, Dropbox is a service that keeps anything you put in your “dropbox” folder on your hard drive in sync with a copy on their servers. It’s encrypted, so you don’t have to worry about security. The really amazing thing about Dropbox is how flawlessly it works to keep multiple PCs in sync with each other. If I make a change to a file on my PC at work, that file will change on my PC at home almost instantly. Add that to how many of my iOS apps also work with Dropbox, and not only do I have access to the same files no matter which PC I’m on, but they’re also all redundant backups of each other. And in a pinch, you can always download a copy from So by itself, Dropbox satisfies 3-2-1 as soon as you sync it to two PCs in different locations (like home and work, assuming you don’t work at home).

But I’m more paranoid than that. So I also backup my home PC with [Carbonite]( This is straight up cloud based backup, not syncing like Dropbox. But it gives me unlimited storage to backup what ever I need from my home PC. I use it not only for my Dropbox content, but also my whole iTunes library of music, movies and TV shows.

Okay, so I’ve got my data on two PCs, various iOS apps,, and will have a third local copy when I buy the MacBook Air I’m drooling over. But wait! Still not done!

Microsoft makes a program they give away for free called [SyncToy]( The name is a little misleading. It was part of Microsoft’s Powertoys collection of unsupported utilities, but it’s been through many revisions and works like a champ. What it does is sync or backup any folder to any other folder. So I have it set to “echo” my Dropbox folder to a 4GB USB drive. Any changes I make to the Dropbox folder will be mirrored on the USB drive the next time I run SyncToy. So as long as run this regularly–I’m thinking weekly, but no more in case I need to restore something that has already been changed across the network–I have a third (or fourth) local copy of my data as well as the two copies in the cloud. And those copies exist on two (three) hard drives, a USB drive, two server farms from different companies and my iPhone. Short of a full-on apocalypse, my data is secure, and every file can be recovered no matter what bone head thing I do.

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