The DailyDigi

Avoiding Disaster: My Rainy Day Backup Plan

CREDITS: I Like It When It Rains by Little Butterfly Wings; Font: WZ You Are Scribbled by Studio Wendy.

If you've been around a while, you know that I'm obsessed with backups. Way back in the 90s, when we had our very first, 1 megapixel digital camera, we ended up losing our photos. As a memory keeper, it was a terrible loss. I like to think I learned a few things from that experience.

1) Backup everything. At least two copies, on two types of media, in at least two physical locations. (Three is even better. I've heard stories of people losing their original and their backup at the same time.) and...

2) Make sure your scrapbook pages are created in a way you can export to a universal file format. (I still have my scrapbook pages from back then, but they are in a format I can no longer open.) But that's a topic for another day. Back to #1. Backup!

My Crashplan subscription was expiring. I've been a big proponent of Crashplan in the past because it's the only service I found that met all of my very picky criteria.

  1. Allows deleted files to be saved forever. Most services remove deleted files after 30 days. I can't count the number of times I've deleted something by mistake, or on purpose, but needed it back. And of course, it's always past 30 days by the time I discover it.
  2. Allows me to backup external hard drives that are constantly disconnected and reconnected. As a laptop user, I am often disconnected from my EHDs. And, since I have a small SSD (only 512gb), I cannot keep everything I need on my laptop directly. Crashplan was the only service that would not try to delete my backups if I wasn't connected. Very important for laptop users!

Crashplan served me well for many years, but in the past year, they did away with their 4-year pre-paid family plan which was the most affordable option. And, if I was going to have spend $60 a year for my backup services, I decided to research other options.

That led me to Amazon Cloud Drive and GoodSync. Amazon now offers an unlimited cloud storage solution at the same price point as Crashplan. The GoodSync software is an extra one-time expense ($30), but will allow me to control what gets backed up, and encrypt it. GoodSync can do either a backup (1-way process) or a Sync (2-way process where one location will match the other location). It can even do both side by side, if you want it to. It will backup to a variety of cloud services, networked drives and more. It's robust, but a little confusing to get set up. So, I'll walk you through it below. I'm only a couple days in, but so far so good. The only downside is the upload speed. I'm going to have to give it some time before I know if it's a realistic approach. Once I get a good backup, it gets easy. I just need to make sure it keeps up with changes on my computer itself and that shouldn't take too much time. The biggest problem is going to be getting my 3TB, 2TB and 1TB drives also backed up. But, once it's in the cloud and encrypted, I'll feel pretty safe about it all again.

And, the good news is that Amazon is not likely to go anywhere. Hopefully they don't decide based on my uploads alone that unlimited isn't a good idea!

So, if you're interested in how to set up GoodSync and Amazon Cloud, read on. If not, you're free to go scrap now. :) I just ask that you, pretty please, put a backup solution in place! Losing your photos and scrapbook pages is a devastating loss. Don't let it happen to you!

Setting Up Amazon Cloud Drive

Amazon offers a free 3-month trial and it's as easy as clicking sign-up, and entering your email address and password. Then your computer will download the computer app which allows you to manually copy files from your computer to the cloud. Just remember that files uploaded this way are not encrypted. So, it's great for things like music, but not so much for for personal photos or documents. That's where GoodSync comes up.

  1. Go to Amazon Cloud Drive.


  2. Click Start your 3-month trial under Unlimited Everything, and sign in with your Amazon account. You are giving it permission to charge you in 90 days. So if you are not sure about keeping it, add a calendar event to remind you to cancel it before you are charged.


  3. The app will download and install. Launch it.
  4. You will be prompted to do an initial backup. If you plan to use GoodSync, I recommend skipping this step.
  5. You'll be brought the main window where you can see your uploads, your available downloads, create new folders and change your preferences. Amazon may have already created several folders for you. If you do want to upload manually, you can simply click a folder and choose upload.


  6. Now you're ready to move on to GoodSync.

Setting Up GoodSync

GoodSync offers a free 14-day trial. Signing up is also easy, as is connecting your Amazon account. Setting up your backup jobs is a little trickier, but once you know how to do it, it's not so bad! And, you can even duplicate a job, with it's settings, and simply change the location. Perfect for customizing your backup jobs and prioritizing certain files over other. Let's get started.

  1. Go to GoodSync, click download trial and install the app (the regular one, not the ToGo version).
  2. Launch the app and you'll be prompted to set up your computer. Choose the "Connect my computers using GoodSync Connect" and uncheck the option underneath it. Press Next.



  3. You'll be prompted to create a new job. Select that option.



  4. Give your job a name. I usually choose the name of the folder I'm backing up. I recommend setting up several smaller jobs instead of trying to backup your entire computer at once. For example, by creating a Photos job, a Layouts Job, a Documents Job, and a Music job, I can control the priority of those backups, as well as choose to encrypt some files and not others. (Encryption takes longer and my music is not super important. I can always re-rip my CDs or download songs again.) Since we are focusing on Backup, choose that option and click OK.


  5. You'll now be taken to the main GoodSync window. This is the window you'll normally see when you open the app. You can see here I forgot to name my job! No worries, I can right-click and rename it. The next step is to set my "Left" and "Right" locations. By default, left should be your computer and right should be your upload location, in this case, your amazon account. So, click "Please select folder" on the left side, Choose My Mac or equivalent and select the folder on your computer you want to backup. If I want to backup my photos, I'm going to select my Photos folder.


  6. Now, we need to set up the right side to copy to Amazon Cloud. Click "Please select folder" on the right side. Choose Amazon Cloud Drive on the left. Enter your email address in the User ID box. Click CONNECT.
  7. Enter you password and click Sign In. Then click Okay to give Amazon permission to share your credentials with GoodSync.


  8. Now you'll be brought back to the last window and can see your Amazon Cloud folders. Click Make New Folder and create a place to store your backups. I called mine GoodSync so I know this is where my backups will go, and allow me to use my other folders for direct upload from the Amazon Cloud app if I ever decide I want to do that. Click Choose once you've created the new folder.


  9. Highlight the new job in the list on the left and click the options button up top.
  10. Now we need to set our preferences for this job. Preferences here go with the job, so you can set them differently for different jobs. Here's what I chose.

GENERAL:

Backup, Left to Right (meaning from my computer to Amazon Cloud)

Propogate deletions unchecked (this means that if I delete something on my computer, it will still remain on Amazon. To delete something from Amazon, I'll have to go to Amazon Cloud services through the web browser and choose to delete it.).

Save deleted/replaced files, last version only or multiple versions: Your choice here. I elected to save multiple versions. Who knows if I'll one day be able to recover a PSD I accidentally saved over as a JPG. (Don't ask.)

I left the rest of the options as is.

AUTO:

This is where you can set how you want GoodSync to run. For my initial backup, I wanted to control when it uploads. After I get a good sync, I will set backups to run at a specific time. I left most of the options on the default, but I did make sure Conflict Resolution was set to rename files versus deleting them. Safety first, people!

FILTERS:

Here is where you can specifically include or exclude files from backing up. For example, I don't want my trash files backed up, so I added those words to the exclude list. I also chose to not backup system files or empty folders.

LEFT/RIGHT:



This is where we set encryption and it's a little confusing, so let me explain. If you are doing backup instead of sync, you are only ever backing up going from Left to Right. You want only the files on the Right encrypted. You want the files on the left, on your computer, to be left alone. Otherwise you cannot access them easily. Also, if you choose to restore and copy files from the right (Amazon) back to the left (your computer), you want the files decrypted, not encrypted. So, we are going to leave LEFT alone. So click RIGHT, and check Encrypt File Bodies. Then enter a very strong Encryption Password (I recommend 1Password for generating and storing secure passwords). You'll need this password to decrypt your files when you download them later. Why not also check Encrypt File Names? I learned this the hard way. If you do, your file names turn to gibberish, and you'll never know what files you need to download. Less secure if you keep important things in your filenames, but way easier to see the files if you are trying to access them from Amazon Cloud directly later.

11. Whew! That was a lot of work. Now it's time to Analyze and Save. Click Analyze. GoodSync will take a couple minutes and search for any applicable files (based on your filters) that it thinks it should backup.



You'll see a list appear before your very eyes, along with lots of data and some weird icons. You can see what all the icons mean here on the Goodsync site. But the important ones are the green arrows. They mean that they are scheduled to backup. The green equals means you successfully backed it up. You can also see the filesize and the date of the file. Great info! Now, to backup manually, just click the SYNC button. It's really a BACKUP button even though it says Sync, because we choose Backup in the job options. Now, sit back and watch your job backup.

ADVANCED:

ANALYZE: I turned on detect files and folder moves and renames. This means the software doesn't have to backup those files again and simply moves them. I also turned on disk space estimates. Although it shouldn't matter for an unlimited upload, if you are backing up to another drive, this is good info to know.

SYNC: I went ahead and left the defaults on. If you wonder what any of these mean, you can hover over them with your mouse for the pop up explanations.

12. Now, go ahead and create more jobs for other folders you wish to backup. You can drag and drop them up or down to assign priority. If you want to use the same settings, right+click and choose "Clone" to make a copy. Then simply click the "Left" file location (where it previously said Select a folder" and choose a different file folder to upload. Then, click the "Right" file location and create a new folder to put the new files in. I create one folder for each backup job to live in that GoodSync folder we created. You can see here I have several "jobs" set up on the left. The Desktop is finished uploading, with a green check to the left and the Resources is still in progress, but only 53 files to go!

Now you're up and going! And, you can always go back to your job options and edit the schedule so you can automate the backups. If you have other questions about GoodSync, check out their FAQs. I learned a lot from it!

So, how do YOU backup? What do you think of this new Amazon option? I'm cautiously optimistic about it, but it will all depend on how quickly it can actually manage the backup.

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