Back up problems solved

I have been running computers for over 20 years now and I have never had a hard-drive failure. I would like to think it is good management however it is likely good luck. I decided that I would I would practice good backup habits.

There are many different ways to back things up. You can use external drives, burn files to disk or usb sticks. It is good to keep backups at home and at another location. You can do all the backing up you want but if all of your backups are in one place they can be stolen or otherwise destroyed if there is a fire or something like that. Since I got an Apple TV, my investment in digital media has increased exponentially. I would really hate to lose everything. Plus, while Time Machine technically backs up your system, I have heard from others that the restoration may not be as complete as one would hope. I have taken a multi-pronged approach to backing up my main computer.

1. I have Time Machine running on Apple’s Time Capsule. It is a 1TB drive that backs up my iMac and my MacBook Pro wirelessly. I hope that if I ever accidentally delete something I will be able to get it from Time Machine. It would also form the basis of a restoration should I ever need it.

2. I have downloaded Carbon Copy Cloner that allows you to create a bootable carbon copy of your operating system so that if it goes down I can boot from that drive.

3. For my everyday documents I have chosen Dropbox. I came to Dropbox after my disastrous experience with iDisk and Mobile me. Dropbox is an internet program that allows you to sync your documents to storage in the cloud. You can then sync any number of computers to your files. As soon as changes are made to your files they are immediately uploaded and propagated to the other computers. Moreover, you can access your files from any computer with an internet connection. I can not say enough good things about Dropbox.* The best part about Dropbox is that it is free up to 2GB. I use Dropbox for all of my everyday documents for work and home. This way I have everything I need wherever I am. I love Dropbox!

4. I also have numerous external hard drives for backups. All of my iTunes content is backed up including content that I don’t have room for on my iMac. If I lose anything I can immediately get it from one of my external drives.

5. The final component of my backup plan is Mozy. Mozy is cloud storage for backup that is ridiculously cheap. You tell Mozy what you want to back up and Mozy keeps it backed up. After the initial backup which, depending on size, may take a long time to complete, Mozy will back up only files that have changes. In the event of a crash, you can then get your content back.

Everything I have read indicates that this kind of comprehensive backup plan will ensure that I will not lose my valuable data in the event of a crash. Like many computer users I have procrastinated about backing up my data. I feel better knowing that in the event of a problem I will not lose my data. If you have questions let me know in the comments.

*If you want to try Dropbox let me know and I will send you an invitation. The more peopleI get to sign up the more space I get for free!

Dropbox vs iDisk

When I first installed Mobile Me I did it for the iDisk feature. I was having trouble saving all of my documents on a USB stick plus I had over 2 gigs of docs I was transferring on a daily basis and it was getting to be too much. Apple’s iDisk seemed like the perfect solution. And, so it was for about 2 months. Shortly after my trial period ended, iDisk stopped syncing files completely. I did some searches and other users were having the same problem. Apple posted all of these silly and convoluted fixes for this problem that never worked for me. I even chatted with the Apple tech and it still won’t sync. So I was left looking for another solution as I need to make sure I have all of my files everywhere I am.
When I first installed iDisk it took a very long time to get all of my files uploaded from one computer and then downloaded to another. Several hours long. I also had to compress the files in order to upload to iDisk. When I went looking for another solution I chose Dropbox which is another file syncing program that allows you to store up to 2 gb of stuff for free. I cleaned out some of the stuff that I no longer needed, trimmed it down to about 1.7 gb and uploaded to Dropbox. Right away I was impressed with the speed in which Dropbox processed my files. The next step was to set up Dropbox on my other computers which was also amazingly simple. I was very pleased at the speed in which files transferred.
Any files saved in your Dropbox folder are immediately synced across all of your computers if they are on. When you start-up a computer that has been off, a little Dropbox message pops up telling you which files have been synchronized. The synchronization is much more stable and accurate than Apple’s iDisk. On several occasions I would need to email a file I had just saved to my iDisk. I would go to look for it and it would not be there. I would have to wait for a while to appear on the iDisk. This has never happened with Dropbox. All of my files are there immediately after saving and synced immediately.
The only draw back to Dropbox is that you have to pay if you want more than 2 gigs. The next step from 2 gigs is 50 gigs for about $100 per year. I doubt I will ever need 50 gb for my files. It would be great if they had a smaller increment and charge less for it. I think a 10 or 15 gb level would be great for people like me. In the meantime I am busy trying to get as much extra space as I can. Apparently, you can get up to 8 gb by getting everyone you know to sign up for Dropbox. If you are thinking Dropbox might be for you let me know and I will send you an invitation!
Edited to add: Today I worked from home. I needed to connect to the office network so that I could get the most up to date database. Using Back to my Mac (blog to come soon) I connected to my MacMini and navigated to the network and copied the file I needed. I then pasted it into Dropbox and immediately I had a notification that Dropbox was syncing the file with my home computer. Lightening fast and amazing!

Syncing Files

I have been using Mobile Me to synchronize my computer files between my 3 Macs. When you sign up with Mobile Me you get 20 gigs of storage in the ‘cloud.’ It also allows you to sync all things Mac – like the calendar, contacts, email etc. Everything had been going along fine until things just stopped syncing.

I noticed it first last week when I went to open a file I had created at home and shared to the iDisk. I was surprised to see that it was not there. I found the file when I came home, made sure it was on the iDisk drive and synced again. I also emailed it to myself in case it didn’t sync. When I got to the office the file was not there. On all of my computers, the Finder indicates that the iDisk is not synced.

Note how it says that the iDisk is not synced

I googled the issue and came to this Apple Support page that gives you great instructions about how to get your iDisk to sync. I go through every one of them. I worked through all the steps in the document – still won’t sync. I then chatted with an Apple Rep and we went through some other things like logging out and then logging back in with a fake username and password. I tried the things suggested here and I still cannot get it to work. I feel like I have been spending a whole lot of time trying to figure this out.

Finally, I gave up. I downloaded DropBox where I can get 2gigs for free. I am very pleased to say that it is working and working very well. It also has significantly faster upload speeds. My largest folder was synced completely in about 2 hours. It took much longer to sync to iDisk.

I will keep Mobile Me because it syncs other things that are useful – like the calendar. If I can ever get the iDisk to sync again I will use it more as archive storage. It is too bad iDisk is this temperamental. If you need an online storage system, DropBox wins hands down.