OT: Deja vu works again

I have always believed in redundancy when it comes to fragile systems with a single point of failure. During the portion of my life when I had a day job, there was a fire in a Manhattan telephone CO which affected phones for months as close as a block from my office. From then on, I made sure to have at least one phone line from a different central office installed in my office. This was generally used for my fax and credit card lines, but when my main central office was incinerated on 9/11, I at leastt had a couple of lines working.

On a professional level, I designed disaster recovery data centers and network connections for my customers, but that’s a bit ambitious for a retired guy, so I store complete system-wide backups in a local bank’s safe deposit vault and keep a second PC prepped to take the data drives from my main PC and it’s off to the races.

In the context of safe deposit boxes, I keep them in two different local banks (with the paperwork in one documenting the valuables in the other.

So last week I received a letter from one of the banks stating that I had 30 days to clear out because they were discontinuing offering the boxes. I was lucky enough to find another of equivalent size about a mile away (after telephoning over 50 banks - many of whom did not offer them and the rest had waiting lists of over a year, but this one was a recycled HSBC branch just reopened by Citizens Bank which took over their retail business and was starting from scratch).

I had a contingency plan of buying a home-style fireproof safe and rearranging things to move the paperwork to home and leave my wife’s nick knacks and the backup disks in the bank vault, but was saved the hassle.

The key takeaway though is that, if I didn’t have the redundancy of using two different banks, I would have been caught between a rock and a hard place. For similar reasons, I invest with more than one broker and in a number of currencies.

Sure, there is additional cost and complexity to doing everything twice, but in the long run it can prevent total loss.



Thanks for sharing the good ideas.

When I had our walk-in closet remodeled (a project which is exciting for gals even if guys don’t understand the thrill) I had a mop closet built with a secret compartment behind it. The secret compartment can only be opened by removing the floor molding on the side of the closet which is pressure-fitted but not nailed. Inside the secret compartment is 3 shelves. A fireproof safe is bolted (from the inside) to one of the shelves.

I also keep a safe deposit box in a bank. I back up my files onto a flash drive. I have two of these which I alternate between the safe deposit box and my desk so I can keep current backups.

I need more advice on backing up hard drives, including the programs as well as the files. I have old tax programs I want to keep.



I need more advice on backing up hard drives, including the programs as well as the files. I have old tax programs I want to keep.

I do a couple things, some of which might not be feasible for many people. I have an external hard drive (WD Paassport) that automatically backs up my PC hard drive every day. I have a subscription to Microsoft Office (which I need) which comes with 1 TB cloud storage, including some encrypted storage. I believe the basic MS Office comes with some cloud storage for free, I can’t remember how much though. I’ve set important folders to back up continuously to the cloud through the Onedrive feature.

I need more advice on backing up hard drives, including the programs as well as the files. I have old tax programs I want to keep.

For programs, I favor backing up the installers rather than the programs - that is, unless the installers are busy downloading a bunch of stuff from the internet while showing you a bunch of ads. (I’ve seen installers that were bigger than the program being installed, in spite of not containing any part of that program - the installer has to download it all, while also downloading ads - and not giving any choice of optional components to download or not, so there’s no reason the installer couldn’t have included the program. I HATE that.)

If you’re in the situation where you need to back up installed programs, then you want an image backup. The catch is, you really don’t want an image backup to include all your user data - the stuff that frequently changes - or all the empty space, and the default Windows installation puts everything in one partition which is approximately as large as it possibly can be. The image backup is, by definition, of the whole partition (if not the whole device) including all the empty space. (There are a few image-backup programs that are smart enough to find out what sectors are actually occupied, and “back up” a solid block of zeroes - extremely compressible - for the ones currently vacant.)

Me, being a retired computer geek, I’m not dealing with Windows much anymore. I have the installer for even my OS (Linux Mint). I don’t bother with image backups. And I have my OS and my user data on separate partitions anyway.

(Also, the fact that I’m running Linux is why I’m not recommending any specific backup software to you. I could, but the stuff I use doesn’t run on Windows so would do YOU no good.)

I have four regular backup jobs, going to two devices. Both of which are formatted with a file system that can be set to automatically compress everything that goes into a folder (NTFS also has this feature), and guess what, I have that turned on for the folders the backups go into.

Oh, and since I mentioned file systems, EVERY PC file system in common use, EXCEPT THE FAT FAMILY, fully supports a single file existing in multiple directories simultaneously. NTFS is definitely included in that “EVERY”. This is a huge benefit for backups - if a file is unchanged since yesterday, today’s backup of it can simply consist of a directory entry pointing at the file for yesterday’s backup. Which, if the file hasn’t changed in a while, might be the same file included in last Sunday’s backup, and the backup from the end of last month, and so on. Any decent backup program will take advantage of this, saving vast quantities of time and disk space. (And every snapshot will be a “full” backup - you can forget the old “incremental” and “differential” backups.)

#1 backup job runs 10 minutes after booting the computer, and hourly thereafter. It basically backs up the current state of the operating system. These backups go to an external hard drive (which is a half-terabyte SSD).

#2 runs every five minutes, and backs up only my writing (the most volatile stuff I care about) and a tiny selection of other stuff most of which is directly related to my writing. It goes to the same external hard drive. This job is basically protection against me having a fat-fingered-idiot moment.

#3 runs every night and backs up pretty much all my user files to, again, the same external hard drive.

#4 also runs every night and backs up rather more than #2 but quite a bit less than #3 - to a 64GB thumb drive. I have two identical thumb drives for this purpose; the one not currently in use is in my car, and I swap them weekly. So even if a disaster takes out my home and everything in it, I still have that. Some people use cloud storage for this; for various reasons I choose not to.

Note that if nothing within scope of a backup job has changed, the backup job does NOT bother creating a new snapshot.

Something sort of parallel but dissimilar, that I can recommend specific software on: file-syncing between devices. Don’t confuse this with backup software; in the context of a damaged file, it’s kind of the opposite - if the most recently modified version of a file is bad, it makes sure the copies on other devices are bad too. (So keep backups, using actual backup - not file-syncing - software.)

But sometimes it’s useful to have a file on multiple devices, and keep all copies of it in sync.

And the thing about file-syncing software is that, by its nature, it needs to have versions for multiple devices running different OSes.

SyncThing is the one I use, because it’s the first one I happened across. It’s available for most common operating systems, including Linux, Windows, OSX, and Android - but not iOS.

ResilioSync is extremely comparable and is also available for most common operating systems. Including iOS.

Neither relies on cloud storage, or on someone else’s server if the devices involved can see each other on the local network.

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Hi Wendy,

You may want to consider one of these → https://smile.amazon.com/Synology-DiskStation-DS220j-Diskles…

I recently replaced a Windows based desktop “server” with one of these units with 2 1TB Hard Drives.
This works like a charm!! ALL of our data files are stored on the NAS device.

This NAS device writes to both hard drives simultaneously to provide an immediate backup in the event the one of the drives crashes. If (when) that happens, you remove the failed drive, insert a new one, and the NAS device writes everything back to the new drive to make sure that both drives stay in sync. It’s quite a nice unit, and not too costly either.

It connects to our network, and with a small app on our phones and tablets, we can view all of the content on the device that we might be looking for. We have over 30 years of family videos, about 75 years of pictures, and tons of music digitized and stored on the NAS.

The NAS also runs apps and can run a Plex server (to serve up all of the multimedia content across our TV’s) and a backup app. I backup the NAS device to two separate Passport external drives and store one in my car and the other “off-site” in our tool shed in back of the house. (Don’t tell anybody).
The backups are encrypted so if anyone does steal the backup drive, the would need a password to unlock the data.

I’ve tested the backup and restore process on a set of files and this works nicely.

As far as programs go, I keep the latest version of the install files on the NAS device and if I ever need to re-install the app, I just copy it down from the NAS device and run the installer again on the client device. I find that it’s very difficult to backup all of the programs, configuration settings, etc. on a PC. I instead just re-install apps when / if needed - which is very rarely.

Hope this helps!!