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SyncBackSE - The Ultimate Backup Tool

The two main kinds of data loss are A) your computer breaks and you need a simple backup of your data, or B) your data is corrupt, and has corrupted your backup as well. I searched long and hard to find a program that could handle both of these situations, and finally, I found one.

There are two main kinds of data loss.

  1. You can't access your computer (power surge, hard disc failure, fire, flood, etc.)
  2. You can access your computer, but an important file has become corrupt.

In the first scenario, a regular off-site backup should save you. In the second, that off-site backup itself could be corrupt.

Because of this, you need to have multiple backups so that if the previous version is corrupt, you can go back to an even earlier version until you find one that isn't corrupt. I describe this problem in more detail in my article Hands-Free Automated Backups.

Until now, I used several programs for this. 12 Backup ($30) to keep multiple copies of frequently accessed files on a second hard drive, and SyncBack (free) to FTP my most important files to my web server. 

The authors of SyncBack sent me a free copy of SyncBackSE ($15). The upgrade process was easy, and it imported my backup profiles from the free version. SyncBack SE meets my criteria for the ultimate backup tool. It allows me to keep

Compressed, Password Protected, Offsite Backups

The first kind of data loss is simple - your computer breaks, or you accidentally delete a file, or something causes you to need a backup. In the worst case scenario, there's a fire or a flood in your office and everything is lost.

SyncBack, the free version, combats this by FTPing your data off site. If you have a hosting account, you can back up your most important data. When my computer died, I had access to my most important files. They were compressed, in a password protected directory, and the zip files themselves were password protected. SyncBack will even email you a log so you can see if something goes wrong.

I describe what happened in more detail in my article Recovering from Catastrophic Failure.

SyncBackSE adds encryption while the files are in transit, and a "Fast Backup" option to save bandwidth.

Multiple Versioned Backups

What's really exciting about SyncBackSE (the pay version) is that you can create folders based on variables - day of the week, day of the month, month, year, etc. etc. down to milliseconds. This means you can keep as many backups as you need.

You can keep a rolling 7 day backup by putting your files in a folder based on the day of the week or a 30 day (give or take) rolling backup by using folders based on the day of the month. You can keep an hourly archive for the past day, and a monthly archive for the past year. Heck, you can keep a minute-by-minute archive for eternity if you had the disc space for it.

This means if your data becomes corrupt (i.e. you delete half your thesis), and you don't notice it for a long time (half a semester), somewhere you will have a good copy. Simple backup solutions will gleefully copy your half a term paper each time you back up your files, but by maintaining a multiple versions, you should have an old version to go back to.


How important your data is (i.e. how much disc space you should dedicate to backups) is up to you. Since sticking a hard drive on your computer costs less than having a hosting account with gigabytes of storage, you can keep frequent archives on your computer, and less frequent ones on a remote server. This strikes a balance between versioning frequently changing files, and conserving disc and bandwidth space on your server.

For example, I can keep a version per-hour for the past 24 hours on my computer, and upload one at the end of the day. Or I can keep a version per day on my computer for the past 7 days and upload one at the end of the week.

SyncBackSE is the best backup too I've found. Period. SyncBack is free and already saved me once. You'd be remiss not to at least download the free version.

page first created on Tuesday, March 15, 2005

© Mark Wieczorek