Monday, November 11, 2013

Who's Got Your Back?

"It's not a question of whether your hard drive will crash, it's a question of when."  Bright faces look up at me from the classroom seats.  Some nods.  Some open mouths. They're paying attention.  "So if you haven't backed up your work, and it makes you hand in your paper late, too bad. Don't write at the last minute.  You're responsible to allow yourself enough time to deal with the computer problems that inevitably will happen to some of you this semester."  I've imparted maybe the most important thing I will ever teach in a classroom: BACK UP YOUR WORK! Yes: I am a backtivist.

I've been a big proponent (read: nag) of backing up. I preach the backup gospel to my students at the start of every semester, and before every deadline.  I always back up everything.  Important files I'm working on go to the cloud, and I use a couple of different services such as Dropbox and SugarSync.  Still haven't jumped on the iCloud bandwagon yet, but that's in the works.

I also use Apple's application, Time Machine, which saves multiple versions of your files.  I send my backups wirelessly to Apple's Time Capsule, the magical white box that may save my behind one day.  Or will it?

My dirty little secret is I'm not really sure how it works or what it's backing up, and I haven't troubled myself to find out.  The burningest question is, does it back up the files of the other users on my computer?  Apple compartmentalizes, so that I don't have to see my husband's stuff on my desktop or listen to his iTunes, and he doesn't have to see mine.  But is his stuff going to the capsule?  What about my laptop? Can I send that to the Time Capsule too? 

And what about how this all works with the laptop? I've mostly been backing up individual files, keeping only what I'm actually working on on the laptop and backing it up to DropBox.  Then when the project is complete I transfer it to my desktop machine, where, presumably, Time Machine automatically sends a backup to the Time Capsule. 

I've finally decided to get serious about it and found a  basic article from Smith College outlining the pros and cons of various backup methods in clear language.  Next column - let's see what I find out.

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