Back That Mass(ive amount of data) Up

You’re a creative professional and you’ve been doing this for years, right? You’ve got gigs and gigs of PSD’s and AI’s and thousands of lines of code on that G4 PowerBook you’ve been using since 2004, yet you’ve never even had the battery die. This thing’s rock solid, right?

But what if, in some Wednesday-morning “ZOMG Glee‘s on tonight!!!11one” Twittering accident you drop your laptop and destroy the hard drive? Chances are, most of your work is sitting here on the same hard drive next to your BitTorrented MP3’s, photos of frat guys eating cream corn and your screenplay for that Family Guy Musical. And who can afford to lose all those pics all that work?

Backing up doesn’t have to be hard to do, and it could save you heartache and actual cash some day. Here are four ridiculously simple (and relatively cheap) ways to keep your stuff backed up and your mind sane in case the unthinkable happens*:

Time Machine – Free, Mac-only
Leopard and Snow Leopard have a backup program built into their operating systems, Time Machine. Simply put, you hook up your external drive (or point it to a network drive) and tell Time Machine to back up your stuff. Time Machine will back up your changed files every hour, in the background, automatically. It even keeps a history of your files so you can roll-back to previous states (what? That client changed their mind again?) or even un-delete a file. Time Machine’s UI makes getting your files back easy-peasy. Upside: it’s ridiculously easy to setup and run. Downsides: Not only is is Mac-only (obviously), but you’ll need a ridiculously huge external hard drive to keep your extended backups on.

SuperDuper! – $27, Mac-only
Mac only, but is the standard for non-Time Machine users. Point it to a folder (or drive) and it will backup your things. Easy as that. You can even tell it not to include certain folders or files. One of the major selling points of SuperDuper is that you can make your backup drive bootable. This means that if your MacBook Pro’s hard drive craps the bed at 8am Tuesday morning, you can plug in your backup drive and work off of your last backup until your main drive is fixed. Upside: It’s been around for a while and rumor has it that they have incredible customer support. Downside: It costs $27 and is only for Macs.

Mozy – Free for 2GB or $5/month for unlimited space, Mac or Windows
You’ve probably seen the really cheesy ads with the really hot iJustine floating around your blogs touting Mozy.  Like SuperDuper, Mozy wants you to pick a folder (or folders) and tell it what to backup. What’s different though, is that Mozy’s solution is to do all of your backing up online by uploading your backups to their servers.  This could be really useful in case of catastrophic loss (like your house catching fire and melting your laptop AND your backup drive) and also cuts down on the need to physically connect something to your computer every day. Downside: People complain that it’s slow, so it may not be perfect for those large PSD’s. It only works when you have an internet conncetion. Upside: The price is great at $5/month for unlimited space.

Dropbox – Free for 2GB or $10/month for 50GB, Windows/Mac/Linux
Dropbox is the first thing I install on any new machine. I could literally talk your ear off for an hour about why Dropbox is the best app online right now (and spend another hour telling you how it’s saved me multiple times). It’s main purpose is to sync your files across all of your devices. For example, drop a PSD into your Dropbox at home and it’s automatically downloaded onto your computer at work and available on your iPhone. This is awesome if you work on multiple computers or regularly need to share files with others. The reason this is included in a post about backups is because Dropbox also keeps a history of your files on it’s server. But unlike Time Machine’s once per hour backup, files changed in your Dropbox are backed up every time you make a change them. This also means you’ll never need to buy and connect an external backup drive to your machine. Upside: Encrypted uploads to their servers, 2GB free and works natively on any operating system (even Linux). Works without having yet another hard drive connected to your computer. Wicked fast and works transparently in the background. Downside: Backups only work when you have an internet connection. More than 2GB will cost you, and will only backup items in your Dropbox folder.**

That’s it. A couple bucks here and there are completely worth the missing headaches, trust me.  If you have any suggestions (or experience with one or more of these), leave them in the comments.

* “The unthinkable” I’m referring to is catastrophic hard drive failure – not Kristin Chenoweth losing her voice.
** I get around this by using my Dropbox folder as my main folder, containing my music, documents, etc.