Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Backup Your Stuff... Please?

I'm interrupting the regularly scheduled blog post, which would have been Part 2 of my Smashwords: All Function and No Form series, for this brief public service announcement about backing up your data.

First thing yesterday morning I discovered my web site was not behaving well. Long story short, my web hosting provider had somehow switched the version of .NET out from underneath my site. If that makes no sense, suffice to say they rendered the site unreachable. We only discovered this and got the site back up and running after speaking to three different customer support reps and wasting an hour and a half of my morning. I then spent a couple more hours throughout the day and last night fixing the last lingering problems. But the site was up and, most importantly, I didn't lose any data.

This little episode reminded me that it's been a while since I'd copied over the data folder off my server onto my local hard drive. I use GoDaddy to host this and other sites, and I've no idea if they perform backups of my content. I know they have something called Managed Backups, but that's an extra service you have to pay for. Besides, I don't want to have to rely on them. I need to know where my backup is and that I can do a restore at a moment's notice.

Here's how I do backups and restores of my web content. Restoring is so important a lot of IT people call it a "Restore Plan" rather than a backup plan. It makes sense. If you can't restore, what's the point of having the backup in the first place?

Backup Plan

  1. FTP files from web service down to local disk. This doesn't happen as often as it should and really is the weak link in my plan.
  2. Each blog post is emailed to me at the end of the day. This email goes in a special folder.
  3. Windows Backup runs weekly on my laptop, rolling up a backup to my home server.
  4. On my home server I have Carbonite running. Carbonite is a great, cheap service that allows you to have continuous backups running to their cloud storage with no limit on the amount of data. This means that as any file changes on the server, including my Windows backup files, those changes are uploaded to the cloud.

Restore Plan

I have two options: restore from my Windows backup files or restore from Carbonite. I've tested both approaches, so I know they work.

Conclusion

This is by no means a sophisticated backup/restore plan. My worst fear is I lose the hard drive on my laptop before Windows backup has had a chance to run. That's a distinct possibility. But then at least I already have everything on the web server. If that were to then go down, I'd lose a week of posts. That's not really that big of a deal.

As for my novels, works-in-progress, etc., I store those in my Dropbox folder. Dropbox provides continuous backup to the cloud and even keeps a version history. Their versioning actually bailed me out about a month ago when I accidentally deleted the draft for a post which for some reason I thought I'd already posted.

So, there you have it. Hopefully this will serve as a reminder to all to make sure your data is backed up. You just never know what's going to happen.



Comments (2) -

  • Daniel R. Marvello

    1/31/2013 1:55:31 PM | Reply

    This might be a WHOLE lot more work than you want to deal with, but it is possible to automate FTP. Windows comes with an FTP command line utility, and you can create scripts for it to run. You can then use the Windows Scheduler and schedule the script to run at specific intervals. The main down side is that you have to put your FTP credentials into the script file in plain text, but I don't see that as a big issue since FTP sends the credentials across the Internet in plain text anyway.

    You also need to know what files you want to retrieve. If you want to retrieve "whatever's there," things get more complicated, but it's still possible. You can create a VBScript program that fires off one FTP script to retrieve a list of files on the server, and then have it *generate* a second FTP script that will retrieve them. It's not a task for the average user, but I've done it for a customer in the past, so I know it's possible.

  • scottmarlowe

    1/31/2013 6:09:27 PM | Reply

    Sounds messy. I've got enough to do with keeping this site up and running, especially when my hosting provider goes and changes versions of .NET out from underneath me. :-)

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