So how does this all work? The Doing…
Now that you’ve planned your backups, bought a new drive and maybe a new router, it’s time to actually get the backups working.
Setting Up Your Hardware
The first thing to do is to connect the external hard drive to either your router or a designated always on computer. You will need to set this drive up as a shared drive so that all your other computers and devices can see it over the network. If you’re more adventurous and have a NAS device, you will connect via ethernet or wifi but the concepts are the same.
First Things First
The first thing you should do is give the external hard drive a meaningful label so you can easily find it on your home network. I called mine “backup4tb”. To do this you’ll need to first plug the drive into a windows computer. Once the drive is recognized, open windows Explorer (or click my computer) to show the listing of all your drives and folders. Right click the external drive and you should see a menu item for label. Click it, and type your meaningful name. Click OK.
If you’re going to attach this to a router, read on. If you’re going to leave the external drive attached to this computer, skip the next section.
Connecting to a Router
Right click the drive again and click eject so that it becomes safe to unplug the drive.
Now you can plug the drive into router and continue configuring.
The only experience I have with this is on my ASUSrouter. Your menus will differ but the concept is the same. On this ASUS router, once you log in, navigate to the USB menu. The router will realize there is an external drive attached and will show you the name of it. (which is why we named it in the previous step.) There are other blogs out there describing how to set up a USB Network Share so I won’t go into that here.
The software you choose will make the difference between success and failure of your backup solution. For this to all work you need something that you can set up once that will run automatically on the schedule of your choice.
I am using software called Syncback Free from 2 Bright Sparks. The FREE one. I chose this software for a number of reasons:
- It can backup / mirror / synchronize to both local drives and the web via ftp. This is an essential part of the solution.
- You can choose whether to delete from the central storage or not when performing your backups;. You may want to mirror deletes on your backup that you make on your computers.
- It does not run as a windows service. It creates a task in Windows task scheduler that launches at the correct time whether or not you are logged in. This means it does not tie up any resources when it’s not running and it doesn’t leave yet another icon in the tray – this is good on low resource machines and a better implementation than others I’ve tried.
You will install this software on each computer you want to back up.
If you already use centralized storage, you should only install this software on one windows computer that will be always on so that it can execute the backups on the right schedule. In this case you won’t be backing up your computers, you’ll be backing up your NAS shares to … somewhere else. That will be a topic for the future.
Installation of Backup Software
Let’s pause here for a moment so you can think about how you want to back up. You will use the mirrored setting, but you need to decide whether to delete on the external storage or not.
Mirroring means that any changes you make on your computer will be reflected, or mirrored, on the backup drive. If you choose to mirror with delete, then anything you delete on your computer will also be deleted on the backup. This is great to keep an exact copy, but if someone accidentally deletes a folder it might get deleted from the backup before you realize it’s gone.
My preference is to mirror but not allow deletions in the automated process. You can create a separate manually executed process that will delete for you.
There are times when deleting in an mirror makes sense, such as when you are frequently renaming files. But most often a manual run whenever you remember should be sufficient to keep your backup fairly clean.
This post is not about all the individual settings that you should set in Syncback Free. There is a lot of information on their website that will help you dig into the individual settings. The most important, by far, is to choose the type of backup that suits your specific needs.
Install the software on each computer you want to back up, and set a schedule for the backup to happen. Test your settings thoroughly before you walk away and forget about – once it’s set up properly you CAN walk away and forget about it. That’s the beauty of this solution – it is set-and-forget but keeps you almost entirely backed up all the time.
What About Cell Phones, Tablets?
Here’s a brief sneak peek of an upcoming post sometime in the future… If you have an android, you’re in luck. I only have androids in the house so I know them. There is an app available on google play that I’m using to automatically back up my photos and video to local storage every couple of hours. If you prefer you can copy to a given computer as long as the folder is available on your network. Then, the nightly backup will copy to your local storage. If you’re taking photos at home, it has the ability to make a backup immediately.
The app is called Folder Sync. There is a free and paid version. It works flawlessly, and I highly recommend it for any android device you have. I’m sure there’s something similar for iphones as well, but I haven’t searched for it.