Personal technology configuration: backups

Yesterday when I arrived at Deirdre Kent’s place she was sitting with a friend sharing tools and tips for using their laptop computers. It looked liked they were having a productive session. Deirdre is a convenor of the Transition Towns Aotearoa social media network.

It’s about the third time in the last fortnight where I’ve encountered people talking about their peculiar mix of technology and practices to get work done, communicate, and ideally be creative.

On the groupings blog Earl draws out some insights from a post by Nancy White describing what he sees as an “Object lesson in ICT competence”. Nancy has written about the “the architecture of the information technology of a person busy online” (see “the social media I use”, 12 August 2009).

Earl suggests she “never, ever, uses just one [tool] for any particular task”.  The list for email alone includes the Eudora email client, two Gmail accounts, web-based mail plus probably a Yahoo or Hotmail account.

The question raised on the groupings blog is “whether this feels doable and reasonable or just a welter of work and organisation that is too steep a cliff to climb?” I’d suggest many individual practices come about in an organic way. New needs dictate new tools, but the old ways don’t necessarily disappear. This is different to how organisations generally approach things where planning and some element of rigor plays a far greater role.

Pausing for a second to look at my personal technology configuration, to use Nancy’s phrase, most of what I end up doing is the result of a happy accident or an urgent need. It’s got me thinking I could write about some of the ways I learn and adapt what tools I use, how and why.

My back-up regime is classic example. Most of my back-up is manual. Even though I’m using the ChronoSync programme which allows for scheduling I’ve never got around to learning how to set this up. Instead I’ve got a weekly habit of backing up at a specific time.

It’s a bit complicated so I’ve got a list. I’m want my back-up to cater for recovery of any files I accidentally over-write and for disaster recovery (including fire), so I’ve got a combination of on-site and online back-up. I mostly save just files I’m working on plus associated resources, though I do have an old snapshot of the entire contents of my hard-drive.

At the moment this is the backup I’ve got in place:

  1. Hourly: Portable hard-drive using Time Machine programme which makes back-ups via Firewire cable. I’m able to instantly retrieve files from the last month.
  2. Daily: synchronised backup to JungleDisk, online service. I found this particular service after reading an opinion piece in by Cory Doctorow called “Not every cloud has a silver lining”. My data is transferred securely and can be encrypted. I’m able to drag and drop files or use my file sync programme. I only pay for data transferred or stored, rather than a set amount per month. As it’s backed by Amazon I feel pretty confident about the reliability of the service.
  3. Weekly: synchronised backup to my 80GB iPod and another computer. As I generally take my music player out with me I class this as offsite storage. With an iPod files will easily be able to extracted, singly or en masse, should I need it.

To get another perspective on backups, listen to Peter Griffin reviewing some of the free and paid-for options for storing and backing up your important personal data online (see “Digital back-ups”). (This aired on This Way Up on Saturday 3 October is available online for  up to 10 weeks).

As my backup regime is something that’s evolved over the last few years I’ve grown to be pretty comfortable with it, but I don’t know if it’d stand-up to outside scrutiny.  Perhaps reflecting on my personal technology configuration and sharing my thoughts might lead to some changes. As I’m not going to do everything at once I definitely think it’s doable and reasonable, to answer Earl’s question.