The Tool Kit is an online newsletter that comes to its subscribers’ mailboxes twice a month. In Translorial, we offer a quarterly digest of Jost’s most helpful tips from the past season.
BY JOST ZETZSCHE © 2008 INTERNATIONAL WRITERS’ GROUP, COMPILED BY YVES AVÉROUS
Backups—we know we’ve got to do ‘em, but we just don’t quite know how. Long gone are the days of the floppy disk, and I would venture to say that with the newly released MacBook Air without a CD-ROM drive, another era may also soon be over – we’ve long sensed that CDs and even DVDs are sort of “yesteryear.”
So what’s hip, especially when it comes to backing up your data? There’s no doubt that it’s got to be online backups. However, the hippest thing does not always have to be the best, so I spent some time last week looking at online backup services.
Two of the most popular products at the moment are Carbonite and Mozy. They offer a similar service: with Mozy you have the option to get a free account if you only need to store 4 GB (you’ll need more), but otherwise they are each approximately $5 a month for unlimited storage. They both require to download and install a small program.
Once you have the small program installed, the backup process starts right away. You’ll see a little notification that the first backup may take several days. In my case it took about five days. I disabled it while it was working during the day because it requires quite a bit of processing power and continued the backup at night. It all works seamlessly, and once the initial backup is complete each file that is modified is flagged to be backed up either right away or at a time of your choosing. The restore function also is super-easy: a new virtual drive is created that gives you immediate access to all of your files.
But here’s why I decided to return to my exterior hard drive backup: If you work with large translation memories and/or use Outlook, which stores everything in a large database-like file, the nightly backup may just not be enough to get everything that has been changed written back to the Carbonite server. Then you will have to have the backup run constantly, which tends to steal from your processing power.
This may not be true for you. You may not deal with very large files. In that case, Carbonite, Mozy, or some of their competitors may be the right solution for you.
There is one more thing, though. With the product that I use to run backups on my external hard drive, Acronis True Image, I can do incremental backups that not only keep the data from yesterday, but also from the day before and before and . . . (you get the picture). Quite often I realize that I need to dig much deeper than just a day or even a week to get something that may have been changed many times since, and that’s no problem. Of course, there are limitations, too (at some point the largest external hard drive is full), but these are things I can deal with.
Of course, if my office burns to the ground and wipes away both my computer and the external hard drive, I may regret what I just wrote — so I do use the good old CD drive to burn CDs with the most important files that I store outside the house.
Working on revising my Tool Box book recently, it really got me thinking: of all the tips and tricks and programs that I mention (or have mentioned) in the book, which do I really use myself on a regular basis?
On my computer, the first group of diehard utilities are those that I’ve been using on a daily basis for the last few years: TrayIt to make room on my taskbar, PushPin to allow windows to stay on top of other active windows, Skype to communicate via voice and IM, IntelliWebSearch to speed and consolidate my dictionary searches (more on that below), and Lookout to index my Outlook mail (sadly this isn’t available as a separate application anymore, but it’s now integrated into Outlook 2007).
Then there are those utilities that I still have on my computer but don’t use the way their developers would like me to. They would like me to start these every time I start my computer, but I prefer to have them come up only when there’s a definite need for their specific function. These include ClipMate for managing my clipboard, SnagIt to manage my screenshots, and AllChars to enter some uncommon special characters or text strings. I’ve found that if I run these applications all the time, they tend to hog my system resources or have conflicts with other programs.
And then there are the plethora of utilities that are not designed to run all the time but are used for specific and relatively rarely occurring purposes. These include programs to convert measurements, data, and files; manipulate keyboards; search/replace text; manage, split, merge, and rename files; crack passwords; count words; track time; backup data; or manage downloads. Since these are used only in specialized instances, they usually don’t run into conflicts with other programs. And if they are well written, their footprint is so small that they don’t use any common resources. These are still installed on my computer as well.
If you would like to subscribe to The Tool Kit, visit www.internationalwriters.com/toolkit/  and mention Translorial during the subscription process; Jost will put your name in a drawing for one free Tool Box book per edition.