How I Back up My Computer, Part Two

Paul Mah

I recently wrote a post about how I backup my computer, where I started off with a couple of simple steps on how to ensure that documents and user-created files are properly backed up. Today, I shall continue by listing out how I ensure that other types of data are also protected against theft or other disasters resulting in data loss.


Browser bookmarks


I'm sure not everyone saves and maintains bookmarks the traditional way anymore, what with services provided by Digg and other cloud-based services. However, my workflow entails manipulating various URLs as I work with multiple tabs of stories and press releases. In addition, I have also accumulated a sizeable number of URLs to articles or sites that are of interest to me.


To ensure that a computer crash doesn't wipe out all my efforts, I rely on XMarks to provide the protection I require. This free service basically saves my bookmarks with its servers, and also syncs them seamlessly across all my computers. The synching is done via a free browser-specific plug-in. At the moment, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari are supported.




I host my personal e-mails on an Exchange Server, which is also the final destination for mails sent to my various e-mail accounts. As an additional backup, these e-mails are first piped through Google Gmail before being forwarded to Exchange Server. Of course, my other reason for doing this is to tap into Gmail's excellent spam filtering, but that's for another blog. The result is that any hard disk crash or data loss on my laptop does not affect my e-mails, which resides safely on a server.


Other application data


I consider this to be the trickiest part of any backup regime. The challenge is that applications with data you want to protect might save them at disparate locations. Backing up the entire My Documents folder might work, but offers no guarantee.


For me, one of these applications would be the Digsby IM client, as well as FileZilla FTP client. In general, you will have to work out how to protect the data on an application-by-application basis. Fortunately, my list of these applications is relatively short.


Modify the file location: For IM chat client Digsby, for example, I needed to ensure that historical chat records are saved for reference. Fortunately, it is possible to manually modify the path of the chat log so that it is saved within a protected folder. Such a move is probably possible with most other applications, though manual tweaking will be required in most instances.


Manual exporting of data: For FTP client FileZilla, I simply export my list of saved FTP sites to a protected folder. I do this every time I add a new site to the list, which thankfully is quite rare.




By applying the simple tips highlighted in this article and the first part of how I backup my laptop, I am now assured that no simple hard disk crash will ever cripple me. In fact, I was able perform a format of my productivity laptop with Windows 7, install the requisite software applications, sync back all my personal files and be ready to continue working -- in just over two hours.


If you have your own tips and experiences to share, do feel free to share them with us here.

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