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Home Office Reorganization – Future Tasks

August 6, 2008

The previous four posts in this series described what I was actually able to accomplish in my reorg-weekend.  This final post has a couple of things that I needed more time, or some money to get done, but are natural extensions of the reorganization.

My most glaring need is the pile of books that sits on the floor behind me.

Books on floor

A new thin bookshelf, would fit nicely there.  I have several of these around the house now, but they are (shockingly) covered in books already.   My wife and I have been on a steady household diet over the last few years, trying to fight back against the “save it for later because you never know when you’ll need it” instinct.  We are both voracious readers (her being an English teacher for 10 years hasn’t helped), and as a result have tended to collect a few books here and there.  Once we can prune that down a bit, and start relying on our local library for books-we-only-want-to-read-once-every-ten-years, at least one of those bookshelves should become available again.

The second thing that I still need to do isn’t nearly as obvious, but is many times more important – a good data backup system.

All of my work is stored on an external USB Hitachi hard drive.  It’s small, lightweight, whisper quiet, and has more than enough space (120GB) for everything that I do – both for software development and for fiction.

Hitachi HDD

I am paranoid about losing data, so I go to great lengths to make sure I have backups of everything.  As a result, I currently have two separate backup strategies in play.

The first uses SyncBack from 2BrightSparks to nightly copy my files (as well as the files off of my wife’s machine) to a file and print server that we have downstairs.  This provides a very quick and easy way to back up files, and makes retrieving them quite simple (just browse out to that server, and pull down the file you just accidentally overwrote).  I intended this process to get me back up and running in the event that my computer (or my hard drive) has a complete meltdown.

The second uses a combination of WinZip and Carbonite.  Using WinZip, and specifically the Command Line add-on for it, I created a batch file that compresses all of my files into a small number of encrypted ZIP files.  Then, I scheduled them for backup using Carbonite.  Carbonite backs the files up only when it notices that they’ve changed.  In this way, I have a secure off-site backup of all of my files in the event that the house burns down, taking my Hitachi hard drive and the backup server with it.

Carbonite is usually pretty reliable, although there have been a couple of times when the service isn’t available, and so I went days without a successful off-site backup.  Besides providing off-site storage, the advantage to Carbonite is that it will work as long as I have a broadband connection to the Internet.  That means even if I’m on the road in a hotel, I can back my files up.

The SyncBack method works well, so long as I’m home, and so long as I remember to keep the password up to date.  The scheduled tasks that I have running SyncBack rely on the username/password maintained by my company.  Their policy is to force me to change that every few weeks, which means I need to manually keep the passwords for the scheduled tasks in sync, otherwise they can’t connect to my file server.  I’ve gotten better at doing this over the last few months, but it’s still something I need to think about.

What I want is a reliable, don’t-have-to-think-about-it solution for backup.  I’m not sure such a solution exists, but I think I can move towards it if I can reduce the number of moving parts in the solution (thus making it simpler and less error-prone), and building in notifications when it fails (so I don’t go days or weeks without a successful backup before realizing it).

Oh well.  There’s always something to fix.  My N-T personality won’t let me see the world any other way.

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