This is the first1 in a new series of monthly posts I’ll be doing in which I describe how I am trying to automate all of the repetitive tasks in my life, in order to free up time for the creative work. A big reason I can do this type of automation is because I have gone completely paperless. I also have a background at a software developer, which helps when coding is required. I expect these posts will touch all aspects of personal automation in my life. I am starting with those repeatable tasks that are relatively easy to automate and offer additional bonuses and incentives as well. I expect to publish these posts on the 3rd Friday of every month; Friday, because the weekend is often the time I use to implement these automations and folks reading along can use the upcoming weekend to do the same.
Part of my reason for automating the repetitive tasks in my life is to free up that time for other things: creative work, time with my family, more time to read. But part of the reason is that when repetitive tasks are automated, you don’t have to think about them and that can be a weight off your shoulders. I’ve just finished one such important automation: my data backups.
Actually, my backups had been mostly automatic before. What I did was change my backup services. I am now using CrashPlan for my computer backups and VaultPress for my website and blog backups. Both of these are cloud-based backup services, meaning my data is stored securely in the cloud. For backups, this is a good thing. It means that my backed up data is separate from the place it is used, so if that place goes away (e.g., if my house is blown away in a storm) my data is still safe.
Why I chose CrashPlan for my cloud backups
Previous, I’d used iDrive for my cloud backups. The service was fine and worked well, but there were some limitations. The biggest limitation was storage space. For $149/year, I could store up 500 GB of data with iDrive. I could backup up to 5 machines. With CrashPlan+ Family plan, I pay the same amount of money, $149/year, but I get some important benefits:
- There is no limit to how much data I can backup. This is a very important point. In considering backup services, I was not thinking about how much data I have to back up today but how much I’ll need to back up 3-, 5-, even 10 years from now. There is plenty of room to grow.
- I can backup up to 10 computers. Again, I was thinking about the future. We have three computers right now, two of which are backed up through CrashPlan. But we also have 2 small children and I imagine that they will eventually have computers. The plan I have will allow us to expand our backup clients as necessary into the foreseeable future.
- The software can handle local and cloud backups. Some people are less comfortable with their data in the cloud. CrashPlan allows you to backup your data to the cloud, but you can also back it up to other computers (or drives attached to computers). In fact, you can do both and CrashPlan handles it all so you don’t have to think about it.
- The software provides proactive notifications if backups fail for a certain number of days. If one of my machines is not backed up after a certain number of days, I will be notified. This is perfect because my default position is: I don’t have to think about it, which is part of the point of automation.
- I can initiate backups and restore data remotely. I don’t have to be in my house or even on the computer to which I want to restore data or initiate a backup. I can do it from another computer, or from my iPhone or iPad.
The initial backups take some time, depending on how much data you have and how fast your connection to the Internet is. When it is complete, only those files that are added or changes are backed up going forward. And you can always go online and check the status of your backups:
VaultPress for WordPress backups
One thing that iDrive did do was backup my WordPress website and database. However, the iDrive plug-in for WordPress is no longer supported, and after I canceled my iDrive account, I wouldn’t have access to it anyway. I needed a new solution for my WordPress backups.
Ultimately, I went with VaultPress. VaultPress is made by Automatic, the makers of WordPress. It is relatively inexpensive and with the WordPress plug-in, it backups up all of your files as well as your database. VaultPress can backup both WordPress.com sites as well as WordPress.org (self-installed) sites.
VaultPress has a one-click restore feature, which is convenient. And, like CrashPlan, it provides the added security that should someone go wrong, you won’t lose your data.
Backups don’t matter if you can’t restore the data
It is all well-and-good to backup your data. But if you cannot restore it, the backup doesn’t really matter. I always try to test restores by putting some dummy files of various types on my computer, backing them up, and then using the tool to test out a restore.
I’d urge this test on everyone who backs up their computer. Automation is great, and it is wonderful to be able to go through the day not worrying about your data. But if your disk dies, you don’t want to worry that you won’t be able to restore your data. Go through the process at least once so you are comfortable with it. Jot down some notes and keep them handy (in Evernote!) so that if you really need to restore, you don’t stress over the process.
Having cloud backups has saved my bacon on at least two occasions. Knowing your data is safely backed up is good. Knowing that you can easily restore it, is even better.
Having automated backups really does save me time and anxiety. I don’t worry about having to copy a file to a thumbdrive and then trying to remember if I copied the file, or where I put the thumbdrive. I just do my work and rest easy knowing that CrashPlan and VaultPress are keeping my data safe.