Backing up files is always easiest at home or at the office, but it's when we're on the go that data is the most vulnerable. Whether it's image or video files, documents or other projects you are working on, or even photographing tethered to a computer, backing up data can often be an afterthought. Here's a quick and easy strategy to help you maintain backups of your files on a notebook computer while you're at work or on the go.
The Hardware You'll Need
It goes without saying that you'll need a second physical volume to copy your data to for larger projects. I wanted a solution I could keep in my MacBook Pro nearly 100% of the time, which is what makes this approach a little more unique. There are so many USB 3 flash drives available, and the physical sizes and costs are awesome for the volume they can store. For Mac users, we'll have to wait to see what Apple does down the road with upcoming releases and the potential exclusion of USB 3 ports.
For my workflow, originally, I needed a backup drive that was nearly flush with my MBP to fit inside the display hood on my TetherTools Aero Table, which I reviewed here. I realized that the drive stays put more often than not. I went with a 128 GB flash drive for $38, which is large enough for most of my backups, though 256 GB would have been helpful in a couple of instances recently. A potentially better solution that comes in a variety of computer specific models might be the Transcend JetDrive Flash Expansion, which mounts flush with the SD card slot. One word of obvious caution: it is important not to put stress of any kind, impacts or downward force alike, on any USB device when connected to your computer.
The Backup Software You'll Need
I started using Carbon Copy Cloner 4 when I switched to Capture One Pro from Aperture, needing a new backup solution. That need also included backing up with tethered capture to my MacBook Pro, which Capture One Pro does not do in camera (thankfully if you ask me) to maintain speedy data transmission. CCC4 offers users the ability to create many highly specific backup tasks that are either automated based on time, hard drive connection, or started manually. CCC4 backups are incremental, so if you're just making changes to your documents, updating your backups won't take long at all. You can designate specific folders or files for backup. I created a "Travel" task that backs up the contents of one primary folder on demand, i.e. Capture One Library, Photoshop files, etc. At most, all I have to do is connect the flash drive and click "Clone" in CCC4. That's it.
Why not Time Machine, you ask? Well, if you are on a PC, that idea can go right out the window. Where Time Machine on a Mac can be a great solution to create a working backup of your entire hard drive and if the volume is large enough, save a few revisions of backups, it doesn't fit every solution. It is most often used at home, at work at a desk, or with a wireless network hard drive such as Time Capsule, and it takes time to back up everything on the go. This solution focuses on fast and nimble for the most recent and significant data.
Bonus: An Alternate Way to Work With Dropbox
If your files are small enough or your upload connection is fast enough, Dropbox is another great solution for backups. I use it almost exclusively for backing up my word processing and graphic documents, which are factors smaller than my image libraries. The basic free offerings from Dropbox are great for students and small businesses alike, and as a bonus, you can access your data on a mobile app. For my typically 20-100-GB Capture One Pro 10 catalogs, the CCC4 solution works best.
Do you have a portable backup solution or tricks? How are you backing up while on the go? Let us know in the comments below!