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A Proven Backup System That Works:

We were entering a tricky section of the reef in the Whitsunday’s of Australia, when I turned on the computer to look at some chart details. "Disk not found" .. dead. I grabbed the backup drive, swapped it with the dead drive and was up and running in less than two minutes. I lost one GPS track which I hadn't backed up from the previous day, but since it was still in the GPS nothing was permanently gone.

I can't stress the importance of regular backups, drives are easily replaced...but the data is not. How often you ask? Well, how much data can you tolerate losing? One day, one week - that might be a lot of photos and journals. Develop a flexible backup strategy that can easily adapt to your changing needs. We like to make sure that work we’ve done is in at least two places at all times.

Disk cloning creates an uncompressed, exact copy of a hard drive; both program installations and data files.  It's fast and does not require any comparison of files or directories; it's just a brute force job. It’s flexible; you can clone to disks that are smaller or larger because it only needs space used by the data. Disk cloning is commonly used to upgrade your hard drive to a larger size.  What makes cloning so useful is that you can pull out your old hard drive and replace it with the clone and you wouldn't even know the difference; there are no programs to reinstall, no data files to copy. We use Acronis True Image for our cloning software. Thinkpads (IBM/Lenovo) are great because they have easier access to the hard drive. I can plug in the clone to make sure it works and then store it in a USB hard drive enclosure. An external 2.5” USB hard drive  is powered directly from the USB port and appears to your computer as a second disk once connected. You have access to the data as if it was a local drive, with a slight downgrade in performance (make sure you use USB 2.0 ports for large data transfer). This external drive becomes my backup disk and I can plug it in anytime I want to synchronize data. In the event of hard drive failure, it becomes the replacement drive which is ready to go with everything pre-installed and up to date. Please be sure to follow all the manufactures hard drive handling warnings, including anti-static precautions. I use a cigarette lighter with the GROUND wire connected to an anti-static wrist strap. Also be careful with the connections, as the hard drive connector was not designed for frequent changes.

You don't need to clone your disk every time you change a file. That's where the synchronization software comes in. We use Smart Sync Pro, its job is to compare all the folders you have specified (via a profile). It walks through and compares all the files to see what has changed and then copies them based on your criteria. You can select from various options, but generally, the goal is to get the new files onto the backup disk (the cloned disk). I usually don't delete the obsolete files until I'm sure I don't need them anymore, and it runs a little faster. Once a month I do a full synchronize and delete the obsolete files. I set up a couple of profiles based on my file usage. I back up my email, working notes, GPS waypoints, routes, tracks, and working charts area on a daily basis. On a weekly basis, I pick the profile which does a deeper search through My Documents and lesser used areas.  Sometimes for small or daily changes, or if KT and I are sharing data, I use Smart Sync with a flash drive for quick and easy access and transportability.  Smart Sync even synchronizes between remote unconnected computers and networked. Do you have two computers on board? Create a simple network, with no extra networking hardware, with a simple crossover cable. Then you can synchronize the two computer's common documents instead of using the USB stick to transfer files. You can even synchronize to a RW CD/DVD. So now what's your excuse for not having a backup? 

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