A simple backup strategy

Today i scanned several of my university lecture notes into PDF format. The ScanSnap document scanner makes this a very fast and easy process, and it includes text recognition. This feels good: i can save physical space by throwing away my notes, but still have them usefully available to me, in searchable format! yay!

Now that i’ve scanned these, i want to be sure that i don’t lose them. I’ve never been much of a person for backups, to be honest. My idea of a backup is something i do just before i upgrade Linux! But i’ve started to think i’d like to get into at least semi-regular backing up.

With that in mind, i came across this article: What’s Your Backup Strategy? by Jeff Atwood. The proposed solution works on Linux! Funny, i always assumed rsync was a ruby library: turns out it’s a straightforward command line tool.

sudo rsync -vaxE --delete --ignore-errors /home/aimee /media/FREECOM\ HDD/

That was enough to get me a first backup onto an external hard drive. Now it’s just a case of running that periodically to keep it up to date.

I’m not particularly interested in having a cron job because my computer isn’t always on, and the external drive isn’t always plugged in. So i just made myself a simple executable file to sit on the desktop and remind me to click it and synchronise the backup every so often.


target=/media/FREECOM\ HDD/

echo Backing up $source to $target
read -p "Press enter to begin."
sudo rsync -vaxE --delete --ignore-errors "$source" "$target"
read -p "Press enter to close."

See, i said it was simple! But a simple solution is better than no backup solution at all, right? :) Now that i’ve started with something i can tweak it as i find necessary.

By the way, i love the quote of Jeff’s in that article: The universe tends toward maximum irony. Don’t push it.

10 comments on “A simple backup strategy

  1. This is what I need, really. I have 2 huge boxes full of college lecture notes and other important school work and I'm tired of having boxes sitting around taking up space and catching dust. This back up system seems simple enough. I wouldn't want to lose everything. Thanks for the help.

  2. I recently backed up about 10 years' worth of photos to a brand new, unused external hard drive, reformatted the drive they were on and re-installed the OS… went to put the photos back and discovered the drive was dead! It just makes a clicking noise and is unrecognisable as a drive in any computer. So unless I'm prepared to pay a few thousand for specialist recovery, it's bye bye to all my pics.Since this episode, I don't trust having important backups in just one place…

  3. I had a similar problem with 3 years of my photographs. I always said I would get around to backing them up on multiple hard drives. I just never seemed to find the time. I now lost a lot of precious memories along with an important business opportunity. Oh well, live and learn is what they say.

  4. I'd suggest you do backups with a product like Acronis True Image. It's nice because you can create a bootable CD / DVD or USB flash drive, boot with it, and then take a complete snapshot of your system's hard drive, whether formatted with a native Windows or Linux filesystem.After an initial backup, you can then perform quicker incremental backups routinely (say monthly) to keep your backup current, and in addition copy stuff to your external drive. I'm one to keep backups squirreled away in multiple locations, too, like a copy of my important stuff at home, another in my bank safety deposit box, and some on my USB keychain flash drive. Also I strongly recommend you TEST restoring your backups, to ensure they'll be there for you when you actually need them!

  5. Aimee, you should really look at doing some sort of versioning on your backups – checkout rdiff-backup, it's easy to use and works really well too. (I know this is months late!)

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