Ask the Geek: Backing up


Adam Darack is the IT administrator for the town of Edgartown. He will be writing regularly about the technological issues facing Island business owners. Got a question? Send it to with the subject line “Dear Geek.”

Dear Geek,

I need to back up files on my computer to a memory stick. My problem is that I am always rushing to get work done, and sometimes I back up, and sometimes I don’t. So now I am in a position that I have to go through hundreds of files and folders and sort out ones that are backed up from ones that are not. It probably would be easier just to start from scratch. I know when backing up, you have the option to replace if the file has already been saved. However, this is very time-consuming. Is there a quick and easier way to sort this out without having to save everything, then go through it all and remove ones that I don’t want, or go through them one by one to save?

Thank you,

Saving Grace


Dear Grace,

Thanks for writing in; this is something I am asked about more than anything else. Luckily, backing up can be easy and automatic, so you don’t have to remember what you have or haven’t backed up, or where you last left your flash drive.

The method of backing up onto a flash drive can work if someone is diligent about doing it routinely. In reality, though, that doesn’t often happen, as we’re all pretty busy, so you are in good company. But what’s worse than forgetting to back up is remembering, only to then lose the flash drive. I’ve seen it happen, and just the possibility of that scenario is enough to eliminate it from being my preferred backup method.

The cloud is going to be your friend with regards to backing up. Start fresh, don’t worry about what you’ve already stored on a flash drive. Wipe the virtual slate clean. Online storage is cheap, so better off backing up too much than not enough. I’ve seen some online storage companies come and go, but one that has been around forever that I typically recommend is called Carbonite. (I will admit the attraction of the “Star Wars” reference, and how it froze Han Solo in “The Empire Strikes Back” long enough to be thawed in “Return of the Jedi”; it got me curious enough to test the product a long time ago.)

Carbonite costs $60 a year and provides unlimited storage from your home computer. There are business offerings as well, but for most people, the plan I mentioned is the appropriate one. There is a program to download once you have set up your account, and pretty much the rest is automatic. It backs up your files, and when a file is modified, it automatically backs it up again. This applies to photos as well, not just standard computer files. Multiple versions of each file are retained on their servers, which can be handy if you are working on a file, mess up something big (that’s happened to me), or when you want to start over from a previous date or point in time.

Once files are backed up, you can log into the Carbonite website to access your files from a different computer or mobile device. You might not need to do this very often, but I can assure you of something from my tech experiences: When you can’t access your important files any other way than this, it’s worth its weight in gold, and always comes with a huge sigh of relief.

There are different backup companies out there (iDrive, Mozy Home, etc.) but I have more experience with Carbonite than with these others, and I always recommend products I know and use over how others might sound in theory.

Hope this helps, and thanks again for writing in!

The Geek