Home Backup Project - Part 1: Identify the Problem

This is the first post in a series about how I have implemented what I hope is a solid data backup strategy for myself. I may be completely off of my rocker, but I feel a lot more secure about where my data are, and to a geek, this is important!

A couple of months ago, I decided that I needed a better backup strategy. Too much of my data were in one of the following locations:

  1. On a primary OS hard drive, doomed to likely failure in the next 18-24 months
  2. On DVD
  3. On a generic removable drive that has, at times, decided it no longer wanted to be a hard drive

I set out to figure out how to remedy this in a reasonable and cost-effective way. I don't want to break the bank or waste my time with ridiculous backup systems that are more of a hassle than anything else.

Data Snapshot

Here's what I determined I had to worry about losing and where it was stored:

  • Documents and other archived files I need/want to keep - ~8 Gb
  • Digital Photos - ~16 Gb
  • Music - 200 Gb (I'm an avid collector!)
  • Digital Video and Movie backups - _?? Probably 2+ TB (yes, that's terabytes), recorded to DVD+/-R _
  • Non-CD Application Installers (Mac and PC) - ~18Gb
  • Installation Media - ??

Scope of Backup and Other Considerations

Obviously I couldn't plan to back up EVERYTHING properly. I'm not going to sit down and re-copy all 300ish DVDs of video just to make sure I don't lose anything. I put them on DVDs for the very reason that they're something I could technically afford to lose. I have renter's insurance to cover my purchases. Same goes for my music, but since I access that a LOT more, I'd rather have it backed up digitally somewhere so that in the event that p00p does indeed go down, I can still hear my favorite tunes.

Any regular backup system I came up with needed to be 100% transparent. I don't want to sit at my computer every morning and approve something, or check something, or audit something. This has a low WAF/PAF ratio.

There are also many files I only have in hard-copy that I should probably have a digital copy of somewhere, so that's something I'll need to build into a project plan.

Initial Project Sketch

This is what I came up with to begin this process:

  1. Do a quick backup to an external drive NOW just so I'm covered.
  2. Figure out the end game for my data as well as what are some acceptable "for now" options
  3. Figure out any intermediate steps or tasks to prepare my data to be backed up
  4. Assign a time line and any additional resources
  5. Budget for anything worth budgeting
  6. Implement!

Relevant Links

Each of these were inspiring or helpful in some what throughout this process:

In Part II, I'll get into what my "vision" is regarding my data. In addition, I'll set up a basic project plan for how I'll accomplish this new initiative.

Oct 12th, 2007

In which I pontificate about the importance of backups

In the past six months or so, a few events have made me realize that my home backup strategy plain stinks!

First, the fire alarm at my house went off... exactly once. It was a horrifically loud squelch, and I sprung out of bed and raced around the house to find the source of the alarm since there was no smoke, no heat and no ambient light. The backup batteries in the detectors probably needed replacing.

The alarm lasted only for a split second, but it was enough to scare me in thinking that if there had been a fire, I'm not sure I would have had the piece of mind (or time) to grab my DVD binders of movies, my iMac with all of my files on it, the external drive containing all of my music, or the subversion server in my basement with all of my downloaded applications and installation media.

Lucky for me... no fire, just panic... and really, my first thought should never be "grab my data!", but rather "grab my wife! and the cats!"

About two months later, a very sobering "data loss" happened. From middle school to when I graduated from Grad School, I've been archiving every document I wrote, work on every project I ever completed as well as any data from previous jobs I've held. I'm sure this is because I'm always wondering if I may at some point need "something". It could also be for the edification of my future offspring... or at least, it would have been.

I suddenly had this panicked feeling that I didn't know where my data were... so I started looking. And looking. And sure enough, they were totally gone. Ten years of work. Gone.

A moment of silence was had... then I started thinking - what I can do to prevent the sinking, terrible "your data are gone" feeling? The end result will be a a series of posts going through my analysis and implementation of the proper home backup strategy that I have implemented over the past months.

Incidently, I've since discovered that these data were actually not lost, but were so safely stored on my hard drive that even Spotlight had no idea where they were. I'll have to remember that ~/tmp is un-cataloged... which really, when you think about it, makes good sense.

Oct 10th, 2007

The Best of Intentions

Also known as the "post that tells everyone why you're here and is almost like a disclaimer without being legally binding." This site has, for about a year, been nothing more than a page telling the internets about one of the several Matt Shelton's out there. (I am not a Wide Receiver for the Patriots, for the record.) More recently, I have found a desire to record some of the technology-related things that I do in a format that makes repeating said actions easy. That's one of the reasons I reinstalled wordpress and am having at this blogging thing once again. I do not intend to:

  • Let this blog be a "personal" blog. This isn't livejournal. If you want personal details beyond what's in the about page, send me email.
  • Blog to people. If anyone besides me ever reads this site, that's fantastic, and you should see the previous line item about emailing me.
  • Allow comments, unless I know I have a content-oriented readership and am asking for an opinion about something I wrote. Again, this isn't a journal, nor is it a way for people to feign communication.
  • Blog every day. I've done this before... heck, I was averaging 2-3 PPD in a previous iteration of this site. Not. Healthy.

I do, however, intend to:

  • Blog about my geekery in any form, be it technology, productivity and life-hacking, building stuff in my basement or anything else about which one can geek. As I've come to discover, the ways in which one may geek are seemingly endless.
  • Blog about things I've done, not just things that are. Life happens, and living is an action. I will share geekery-related things I do here.
  • Strive for content, accuracy, proper speeling and grammer, etc. (Yes, each was intentional.)

Most of all, this will be a site where I collect my thoughts. I'm not posting for people, but if what I write is interesting, instructive or helpful to anyone via the almighty Google, then that is fantastic. You might even consider letting me know!

Oct 9th, 2007

Hello World!

Reaching out and touching the ether... It burns!

Oct 5th, 2007