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18 October 2008

Staying in Sync

Since coming on staff at the church I've accumulated more than my share of files - and in multiple places. This happened in part because I allowed it to, but also because I don't just have one computer.

I have a desktop with two monitors (a necessity when designing/coding for long periods of time) and a laptop (a necessity to maintain my connection to work and the world in general). But the problem with this scenario is that I save files in two places.

Don't get me wrong, we have an awesome IT Department that set things up correctly. The "My Documents" folder on each computer syncs with the staff server. But what I was finding is that I have the following types of files:

  • Work Files (secured): Work files that require backup (typically Word Docs, spreadsheets, budget information, process docs, stats, etc.)
  • Work Files (non-secured): Work files that do not require backup or are so big that we make life difficult for the rest of the staff trying to use the server :) (typically video, graphics, stock photography, etc.)
  • Personal Files: The stuff I put on my computers that has nothing to do with work (Zune Music, website files from freelance projects, personal pictures, AVCHD video, etc.)
Once I realized the three types of files I had on my computer I was able to find a sync/backup system that worked for me. So here it is:
  • Work Files (secured): These files are saved in "My Documents." They are backed up to the server and no matter what computer I'm on I have access to the same version of the file every time - slick!
  • Work Files (non-secured): This stuff is typically on my desktop and consists of video, graphics, stock photography, etc. It usually ends up being assets for larger projects I complete, and though there is no reason to keep a lot of it I do just in case. Better safe than sorry. My solution for this stuff is to back it up nightly to a Western Digital External HD. Using SyncToy 2.0 and Windows Vista Task Scheduler I'm able to keep this entire folder structure backed up without lifting a finger.
  • Personal Files: I picked the laptop to be my primary computer for personal files. I created a folder structure to house all these files and then created the exact folder structure on a Western Digital Passport (pictured above). Using SyncToy 2.0 I can keep the personal files on my laptop synced with the portable external hard drive. It won't sync in real time, but after a long period of work on the laptop I simply plug in the Passport, open SyncToy and hit "Run." In 15-30 seconds you're done. This allows me to plug the Passport into my desktop and be looking at the same files I was working on the night before on the laptop. I don't sync personal files to the desktop - I simply work off the Passport. Its fast and you'd never know the difference. Also, my backup is still complete because the files are in two places (laptop and the Passport).
In Summary
Not sure why I picked Western Digital but I have three of them (350GB My Book, 500GB My Book World II and the 350GB Passport). I think some if it has to do with knowing how often WD hard drives are used in the PC's we buy. The other thing is the track record for me. No problems so far so I'm sticking with them. Of course I must admit I format them the minute I get them. The software they ship with is clunky at best and just makes using them harder.

One thing to remember: Even though the personal files are backed up (in two places) that doesn't mean you're safe. Example: I carry my laptop and the Passport in the same backpack. Lose the backpack and it doesn't matter that you had your files backed up :)

So now that I've explained my thought process on syncing and backing up my files, are there other solutions out there? I'm always willing to learn. Let me know!