Monday, October 28, 2013

Backing Up With Carbonite

I have come up to my 18th post, and my 1st product review! The product I am going to review ties in with my previous blog about backing up your computer. There are already tons of reviews on how to backup with Windows Backup or the Mac Time machine, so I will just cover the software I use. My choice of cloud storage and online backup; Carbonite. 

I spent many months researching online storage, doing a trial if they allowed me. Anything that didn't offer a trial I simply skipped over. These days, the best products normally have a free trial time and online storage and backups are no different. After months of comparing prices, storage size, and backup capability I ended up with Carbonite.

Overall, this is a very simple set-up and forget backup solution. To use Carbonite you must install the software used to do their backups. The program that is installed is Carbonite InfoCenter, and is the main way you will interact with it (yes there are others, which will be covered later). The installation and initial setup took under 5 minutes, and you then get to the main screen:

As you can see from the main screen, it is currently backed up 85k+ files totaling in 567GB (0.5TB) in size. It also shows that it is currently backing up 873 files that are 157 GB of total size. There is also an easy switch to turn on or off the backups. You are also constantly able to see how long your subscription lasts in the top right corner of the program.

The next screen I am going to cover is the settings screen:

Here is where you are able to control, as a "master" setting, what is being backed up and how how often. On the right of the screen you can see what it automatically backs up; Desktop, Documents, Music, Pictures, and other files that you have created.  You are also able to right-click on any file, or folder, and tell Carbonite to back it up. 

The next screen is the bread and butter of the program, the Restore. 

This is going to be the overall window that you will be using with the program as this is the section you are able to restore your files. You have three options; search, browse, and full system restore. 

Search and Restore:

This is the main screen of the search and restore section. You can simply type in the name of the file you wish to restore, explore recently deleted files, or explore previous version of files. Overall, this is very simple of running a search on your computer. For example, If i wanted to recover one of my panorama photos I could simply search for Pano:

There are many results as I have had many different versions, and for this demo I actually deleted some of the files prior to the screenshots. The files in red are those, and it shows that I have a few months to restore them if I want before Carbonite deletes it from their servers. 

Browse Your Backup:

As you can see, this view is very similar to you navigating through your computer. You would navigate to where the file was located, and you will then be able to right-click on it and either choose to restore it (puts it back to the same location) or restore it to a different location.

The last screen is exactly what it sounds, it restores all your files. 

You are also able to access your files on your phone via a free app as well as from a web browser. This allows you to download files to your phone or share images via a private link you control. This didn't sway for or against the product, but it is a nice plus to have.

Lastly, they do have some pretty good videos and how to's on their site. This software is very simple, does exactly what it says. It did take about a week and a half to backup my whole computer initially, but only took 3 minutes to restore a 5GB folder of files.  I also have an unlimited storage limit and the price is very low for this.

Make sure you look at the difference between the plans and think about what it offers. Is the extra 40-60 dollars worth the courier service? If your computer goes down, can you wait days without your computer or do you want them to ship you the recovery?  

Want to check it out, here is a link that will benefit you as well as me (refer a friend link, and we both get something out of it). 

Check out Carbonite

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Backing It Up....Your Files

**Warning, Long Blog Ahead**

Photographs, accounting files, other documents, bookmarks, favorites, and saved game files. What would happen if you lost everything right this very moment? What would it do to you personally and financially if your computer was stolen, or if the hard drive failed?

These were the questions I was asking myself when I took my first wedding gig. What would happen if my computer would crash while I was editing the photos? Could I financially handle this type of a loss? What is the cost of getting a backup? Should I have multiple back-ups, onsite and offsite? How do I get started?

Well this blog is going to help you understand the importance of backing up your computer and/or your personal files.

Step 1:

Understanding what a backup is. Generally, backups have only two purposes. Recover data from accidental happenings (example: deleting the wrong file), or if your hard drive becomes corrupt, and the other is to recover data from a point earlier in time (example: if you made changes to a document and you clicked save, you could go back before the change).  Another thing to understand, backups generally (some can) do not restore your complete computer (such as the Operating system and program files) functionality.

Be sure you understand the language of your backup software. Backups that can fully restore your computer tend to reference this backup as a "Drive Image Backup". If the software only states it does file backups, assume it will only save your files and not the Operating System or programs on the computer. This also affect how much storage is needed for backups; Drive Image backups will result in much larger storage needs.

Step Two:

Understand the storage needs. The most important thing about a backup, is making sure you have the room to store them. If you plan on just doing file backups, not a Drive Image Backup, you can simply right click on the folder where the files are located and add up all of the file sizes. You can also select multiple folders by using pressing ctrl prior to each click, then right click on any of the folders and go to properties. It will give you the total amount of memory it is using.

Step Three:

Decide on storage location(s). This is almost as important as step two, as you can have all the space in the world but if you can't access the backups what good are they? You also need to decide are you going to have multiple locations of your backups and if you are going to have them offsite (different location than your computer, such as not being at your home or office). Generally, I support having both onsite and offsite backups. Online backup solutions are so inexpensive and so are onsite. Also, for onsite storage do you want to use an external hard drive? **Please note, backing up to a different partition is not the same as backing up to a different drive. If you partition a drive into four partitions (think of cutting a pie into 4 pieces), and your hard drive fails (think of your pie being thrown against the wall) all of the partitions will most likely fail with it. So you will want to save your backups to a different hard drive.  You can buy cheap internal hard drives that are easy to install in majority of your computers, use an external hard drive (though the writing speeds are normally slower) that connects directly to the computer, or use a Network Access Storage Device (NAS) that connects to your switch. Then there is also the cloud storage.

Internal Hard drive - You can normally take an old hard drive from one of your older computers and put it into your current computer. You can then use that specifically for backup purposes. Or you can purchase them new for around $65 for 1TB of storage.

External Hard Drives - For simplicity of this, you can purchase external drives for around $85 for 1TB of storage. If you have USB 3 ports on your computer, be sure to get a external drive that supports it. It will reduce your backup/restore time dramatically.

NAS- This is a bit more advanced than the other, and another huge area. For simplicity, they are generally the same as an External hard drive that connect to your switch via an ethernet cable. These generally cost $100 for 1TB of storage

Cloud (internet storage) - There are hundreds of companies that offer online storage, search around or read my blog about Carbonite (which is what I currently recommend for cloud storage).

Step Four:

Decide on your software(s). There are literally millions of titles out on the market to backup your files and computer as a whole. The price ranges can go from free-hundreds (some thousands) of dollars, depending on what you want to do.

In both operating systems, Mac and Windows, have built in back-up software. These are very basic, but very effective backup options. In Windows 7 it is called, "Back Up and Restore" and in Mac (Snow Leopard and up) it is called "Time Machine".

I personally use the Back Up and Restore along with Carbonite.

Step Five:

Put your backup plan into action.

Now that you have your files backed up, don't assume everything is good. Test your backups before trusting them. Understand how to use them before you actually need them. To do this, simply move one of your folders to another location and attempt to restore it. This way if the backups aren't working correctly, you didn't actually lose anything since you can just move the folder back.

My Current Backup set-up:

Currently, My computer is set to run backups every Tuesday and Friday with the windows backup utility. These backups are then saved on my second internal hard drive. Then on Saturday, windows backup utility backs up my second internal hard drive and saves that backup to a third internal hard drive. So, within my finger tips I have 3 locations of where the file can be found; My main hard drive, backups on the second hard drive, and a backup of the backup on my third drive.

I then use Carbonite as my off-site backups. Because the drives are all located in my apartment, you have to think of the worse. If my apartment would catch on fire, most likely all three drives are going to be worthless. To resolve that, I currently have Carbonite backing up all of my files, ALONG WITH doing a Drive Image Backup (or a mirror backup). Because of the way Carbonite works, with my Window Backups, I have 100% certainty that for over 1 month all of my files are safe and fully recoverable. I will be writing a review on Carbonite shortly.

The amount of data that I am backing up; 370 GB or .3TB of information. This does not include my operating system or program files.

Use this this link to Carbonite.