How a solo should backup a paperless office

“Can it be that there is not enough space for man in this beautiful world, under those immeasurable, starry heavens?”

— Tolstoy

Apparently not Tolstoy, if you run a paperless office.

Sorry for the delay since my last post.  I’ve been busy with several things, one of which is setting up a good backup plan for my paperless office.  Now that I’ve committed to a plan, I’ll tell y’all what I did.  Hopefully that will work for you too.

First, if you’re paperless, paper-least, or in anyway dependent on your computer (and who isn’t?), know that one day your hard drive will fail.  Your data will be lost when that happens, so it’s important to set up a good backup plan.

The old IT rule of thumb for backup is 3-2-1: 3 different copies of the data, in 2 different formats, with 1 of those copies off-site.  I followed the 3-2-1 rule and took a very conservative approach to backing up.  You don’t have to do this, but if you do it should help you sleep better at night.  Oh, and this is Mac-specific.

As to the 3 different copies, one is in Time Capsule, one is in a SeaGate hard drive, and another is in the cloud.  I have a MacBook Air.  I bought an AirPort Time Capsule which serves as a router and a hard drive.   I use the Air’s Time Machine program in conjunction with the Time Capsule.  When I am in my office the Air and Time Capsule share the same private wireless network.  Time Machine then wirelessly and quietly creates backups of all the files on the Air.  That’s copy 1.

I also bought a 1 TB SeaGate external hard drive.  I use that in conjunction with a program called Carbon Copy Cloner.  At the end of every month, I plug in the external hard drive and run the program.  Together, a copy of the Air’s hard drive is created on the external hard drive.  What that means is this:  if my Air crashes, I can simply plug the hard drive into another computer and treat that computer like it was my Air.  All of my files, settings, etc. will be there.  That’s copy 2.

Oh the cloud, that favorite buzzword with law practice management types. Most of you know that the cloud means that your files are stored online and not on a computer. You have several choices.  I use Google Drive and DropBox.  Once I signed up for those services, a Google Drive folder and a DropBox folder were created on my Air.  I put all of my files into those folders.  I also downloaded iPhone apps for Google Drive and DropBox.  If I open a doc from a file stored on one of those folders and make changes to it, those changes are synced to the cloud (i.e. my Google Drive or DropBox online account), the folders on my Air, and the apps on my iPhone.  That’s copy 3.  Voila!

I do recommend using 2 different cloud services; better safe than sorry.  As I write this, Google Drive is down and Twitter is aflame with frustration.  But again, I took a very conservative approach to backup.

I have data in 2 different forms: the hard drive (Time Capsule and SeaGate) and the cloud (Google Drive and DropBox).  I also have 1 of those copies off-site: the cloud.  And there are 3 different copies. Therefore, I followed the 3-2-1 approach.

Following this approach allows me to feel safe about running a paperless office from my Air.  Don’t forget, however, that some work is done on my iPhone.  For example, my calendar and contacts should sync and be backed up.  Let’s save that for another post.

Let me know if y’all have questions or recommend a different (or better) approach.

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