I’ve often said it’s not a matter of if your hard drive will fail, but when, so following that logic, if your home computer has information that you don’t want to lose, it’s wise to back it up.
My first backup solution was to copy the files I wanted to save to my web server, which is backed up every night, but I can only store a limited amount of data there and I didn’t want to pay more for storage. I looked at online file services like XDrive, but I didn’t like the idea of having to pay every month for my backups, and the storage quotas were low enough that I’d have to pick and choose what I wanted to back up.
My second solution was to burn files to a CD every once in a while but that was no good because I would go months without backing things up and if the drive were to crash, I could have lost several months worth of files. It was also hard to remember what I had backed up and what I hadn’t and given that a CD can only hold around 700MB, I would run out of room very quickly.
Then I heard about network drives, which are hard drives that have a network interface and run an embedded operating system to allow them to be remotely accessed. It makes them ideal for storing files on a local network because they are easy to manage, but I couldn’t find any that were especially cheap and I wasn’t sure how well they would work with Linux.
Using rsync was a breeze on Linux and my plan was to mount the entire hard drive of the machine running Windows XP Home edition so I could just rsync my desktop machine and all would be well. I later found that XP home edition doesn’t let you share the Windows and Program Files directories, and it doesn’t even share the home directory by default (you have to share it explicitly, and then the share from the root can see it). I used rsync for the files I could mount via samba and then I did a complete backup of the entire hard drive using the backup utility on Windows XP (I had to install it off the Windows XP CD), writing the backup to a samba share on the file server.
It’s taken a little time to get everything working, but it’s comforting to know that either of the hard drives could fail and I wouldn’t lose any data.
My brother just e-mailed me this article about making backups from the New York Times. They must have read my mind.