Backing up is one of those chores that needs to be done. I’ve been lucky in that whatever I’ve lost due to file corruption or drive failure… Well… I’ve forgotten about it… This isn’t a post about why you should back up – that’s a given in today’s media hungry society. It’s about how to back it up using GoodSync and why that software is better than free options. This isn’t an ad for the software either. It’s an article by an amateur photographer that uses the software and thinks it’s a good solution and is more of a Goodsync review. When I was looking for a backup solution there was precious little information on the web about things like this, so I’m just adding content!
Today I just can’t afford to let backing up slide. I’ve got music, movies and photos from many years of collecting and to lose it all would be terrible. Not only that, but I have a Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive at home that allows other people around the house to access the same media content, so keeping that up to date is important too.
I started out like most other people, looking for a free solution, and to be honest, if you want free, you can’t get much better than FreeFileSync. It has a simple User Interface (UI) and is a small download. The only problem with it was the lack of ability to schedule backups within the software itself. I’m not a programmer, and writing batch jobs to kick off FFS was not something I wanted to do. I wanted a one-stop solution.
I’d been a user of Roboform (a password manager) for some time, and after reading a mention on a website, I discovered that the company also made a backup software called GoodSync. Having a read through the key features of the software I noticed that schedule backups were part of the solution. It’s also not an expensive solution and at £20 I thought I’d give it a go. After all, the peace of mind of a) not having to remember to back stuff up and b) knowing it was being done automatically, was worth the “night at the pub” fee.
Setting Things Up – What to Backup
I’m not going to repeat the tutorial over on the Goodsync Website because it’s comprehensive and easy to follow (as is their manual). The UI may look a bit clunky but it’s efficient and it works. I am going to talk about what to backup though.
Photographically speaking, you obviously have photos. But you may also have Lightroom settings, Lightroom catalogues, Photoshop actions and brushes, Nik plugin presets… The list goes on. It’s easy to backup just your “My Pictures” folder, but Windows stores a lot of settings in your Username>AppData folder. Not just Photoshop & Lightroom but maybe your Outlook .ost folder, or Excel macros.
I don’t backup Photoshop, Lightroom or any other programs themselves. I can always reinstall them in the event of a disaster. I just backup stuff I can’t replace. I also set up “copying” functions to move (for example) my Music, Photos and Movies onto the NAS when they’re created. Here are some things I look at…
- My Userdata (Users>Username) : This covers everything irreplaceable. Application data, movies, photos, music, documents.
- Program Data I Can’t Reinstall : Some programs store configuration data in their program folder. I haven’t come across anything photographic that does this, but games often have their “Screenshot” folder in the Program folder for example. It’s always worth a quick check to make sure you haven’t missed something.
- Other Drives : We have a 16Gb USB stick plugged into the Router that I use to get the family to back up their data to. Especially my daughter’s college work! I also have a partition on the NAS that I’ve been messing about with trying to build a website on. None of these are on my “home PC” but I can back them all up with Goodsync jobs because my home PC can see them.
- Copying : My movies all reside on a removable hard drive attached to my PC. The are copied (along with music and photos) to the NAS so that the rest of the family can see them.
- The Backup of the backup : Call me paranoid, but the NAS has space for 4 drives. I’ve configured it so that one pair of drives is “mirrored” onto the other. In case of hard drive failure, I still have a backup solution available until I can buy another disk. It’s probably overkill, but it gives me peace of mind and storage is cheap.
Goodsync has an easy facility to “right click & ignore” folders from selection. For example, Windows stores config information in AppData which you may not want to copy. You can just right click and “Exclude” the folder, file, or root folder from the job. Being able to exclude (for example) all .tmp files and is really useful!
Advantages of Scheduled Backups – When to Backup
I don’t have to remember to do it! This is the only advantage of having the computer do the backup for you. However you do need to come up with a backup strategy. Other than the initial backup, I’ve not noticed any performance hit when a Goodsync backup is running. I can use my computer as normal. I do get the occasional error when programs are open during the backup (Outlook in particular) but it’s a minor thing.
Your decision about how often to backup is going to depend mainly on when your computer is switched on. I switch mine off every night, so I can’t schedule backups for when I’m asleep. If you leave your computer on, this is the ideal time to do it. Nothing is running and no files are being modified, so that downtime can be used efficiently.
Goodsync has an “Auto” button for each job which pops up the illustrated box. I use the following types of backup
On File Change will start the backup when a file in that job changes. So if you’re job is to backup “My Data”, every time a file changes, the job will kick off. I use this on jobs that are really important and need faster than a “daily” backup. My photos for example, as well as my Website folder (I don’t want to lose changes of coding). I usually set the delay to about 20 minutes (1200 seconds) to prevent constant backup of files I’m working on. Music isn’t in this category because I can just re download the album, or re-burn the disc.
On Goodsync Start for me, is when the PC is turned on which is every day. I put a 3600 sec (1 hour) delay on it to allow the PC to warm up and do the OnFileChange jobs above. This is my basic daily backup and is done on “switch on” rather than logoff because Windows has a habit of shutting things off when you click the shutdown button. All my non important backups are done daily with this setting.
On Schedule is the last setting. I do this once a week on a Monday morning at 11am and it is a weekly “backup of the backup” to my mirrored disks. It’s not just an insurance policy, but if someone accidentally deletes a file, the above backups might propagate that deletion before I can stop it. Having a weeks grace is an additional safety net. Note though – If your computer is switched off at the schedule time, the job will not run until the next schedule. This is why I don’t use the scheduler more often. If there’s a power cut or the PC is off, the job won’t run, but by choosing On Goodsync Start, I can be assured that as soon as the PC is switched on, the backup will run.
Time To Backup
It actually takes Goodsync longer to analyse the data for changes than it does to copy the data over. Obviously the first backup is going to take a while if you’ve got a lot of photos, but once it’s done, it’s done. Because my photos are set to backup on file change, I come back from a shoot, plug the SD card into the reader, download the images, and go have a cuppa. When I come back, not only have the images downloaded to the hard drive, but they have been backed up too.
Having said that, your backup time will depend mainly on your connections. I get 5Mb/s copying from an external (USB) hard drive, through my PC and off via the router to the NAS. This is as slow as it gets but because it’s running in the background and doesn’t hit my PC with performance problems (like I have experienced with Anti Virus checks) I just don’t notice it. It sits in the notification tray and runs happily. Occasionally it pops up an error that it can’t copy a file I’m modifying at that time, but this lets me know it’s working and is easy to fix.
Overall, I’m delighted with Goodsync as a solution. It’s completely removed the need for me to remember, or act on reminders to back up and freed me to concentrate on the fun stuff like taking photos and getting to Duna…
Until next time…!