Automatic backup program
October 25, 2016 3:52 PM   Subscribe

Hi, I need something that will automatically (or even with the relatively easy push of a button) back up all the files on my computer that have a certain extension. Specifically, I have a Mac and I want automatic backups of all my Excel and Word files but don't want backups of pdfs or anything else.

Does the new cloud thing do this? If so does anyone have good (or bad) experience with it?

Happy to pay but would prefer not to pay more than $20/month.

Ease of use is the key here, I won't be writing my own code or anything like that.

Thanks!
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why do you not want to back anything else up?

The easiest thing to do honestly is to get an external drive, plug it in, and use Time Machine. Set it and forget it until you need it. Costs like $100 once for a drive.
posted by egypturnash at 4:32 PM on October 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Why do you not want to back anything else up?

Because I don't
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:42 PM on October 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


Backblaze will do this for you. It's $50/yr. You can set exclusions for files/folders you don't want backed up.

Backblaze is an always on in the background backup system that you setup and let run.
posted by gregr at 4:55 PM on October 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Backup apps like Crashplan, Mozy, etc. allow you to exclude files from backup by extension. So, for example, you can tell them to back up only your Documents folder, and exclude pdf files. Most have free/cheap options if you only have a few GB to back up.
posted by bgrebs at 4:56 PM on October 25, 2016


You can also just created a "smart folder" (a saved search) in the Finder that contains all files of type Excel and type Word, then use Time Machine or any old backup program to back up that folder.

Or put that folder, or a scheduled copy of it, in iCloud or Dropbox.

Or use one of the many free/shareware front-ends to the Mac's built-in rsync (like iBackup) to do this on a schedule or to external media.

And I'm sure there's an easy AppleScript or Automator action to make this literally one-button, and assign it to F12 or something, though you might need your next AskMe for that.

If anything there are too many ways to do this built into the OS, without an obvious entry point or best-practice endorsed-by-Apple method.
posted by rokusan at 5:00 PM on October 25, 2016


"You can also just created a "smart folder" (a saved search) in the Finder that contains all files of type Excel and type Word, then use Time Machine or any old backup program to back up that folder."

Not 100% sure about smart searches, but I suspect they follow the same rules as symlinks i.e. the entry itself is saved, but the linked contents aren't.

The other problem with using Time Machine (at least up to 10.11.x) is that it can only filter by exclusion i.e. setting paths that you don't want backed up. So even if it does work, you'd have to create a Time Machine backup that excludes all paths except the one or two you want (and maybe additional folder actions to sweep any wanted files created elsewhere into those paths…).
posted by Pinback at 5:08 PM on October 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Download the latest MacOS Sierra and put the documents you're interested in in the "Documents" folder. The contents of this are duplicated into iCloud and replicated on all your other devices (should you wish). However, you can simply use it as a permanent backup of your Documents and Desktop.

But, as stated above, Time Machine is the way to do it, because of its interface.
posted by tillsbury at 5:12 PM on October 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Download the latest MacOS Sierra and put the documents you're interested in in the "Documents" folder.

I'm not going to do this, it needs to be done automatically for me


Not 100% sure about smart searches, but I suspect they follow the same rules as symlinks i.e. the entry itself is saved, but the linked contents aren't.

Yup, won't let me put it in iCloud either
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 5:14 PM on October 25, 2016


I use Crashplan, and it's pretty great - it backs up to the cloud, or you have the option to also back up to another computer (if you have a second one, or a trusted friend, or something).

One small word of warning based on your responses thus far: there is no backup service in the world that will require you to do absolutely nothing in order to make it work. Any one you choose will need a small amount of effort on your part. None of that effort is coding or script-writing, it's all user-interface choice/configuration type stuff, but with a requirement like "only back up certain extensions", that in itself implies you'll need to do a little work, no matter what service you choose.

That said, I can't recommend Crashplan highly enough.
posted by pdb at 5:27 PM on October 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Crashplan Pro allows you to use regex for exclusions, which should make it pretty easy to exclude everything that doesn't have the extensions you want.
posted by ssg at 6:02 PM on October 25, 2016


Nthing Backblaze. I use it and love it. I have it set to come on every night automatically at 10pm, so once it's all set up it just does its thing.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:55 PM on October 25, 2016


One small word of warning based on your responses thus far: there is no backup service in the world that will require you to do absolutely nothing in order to make it work.

Also, you will need to do significantly MORE work to force it to only backup Excel files rather than backing up everything. 99.9% of users of backup services want everything (within reason) backed up, and the popular services have unlimited storage, so there's no incentive to NOT back everything up.

It's totally fine to want easy, and it's totally fine to want to backup only Excel files, but having those both together is going to be a bit trickier. If I were you, I'd just sign up for an unlimited Crashplan or Backblaze account (significantly cheaper than your stated budget), let it back everything up, and pretend it's only backing up Excel files.....
posted by primethyme at 8:12 PM on October 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


One way to approach this is to keep the files you want backed up (your Excel and Word files) in a separate folder from the rest of your stuff that you don't want backed up, then use the free (and awesome) Sync Two Folders to backup your preferred items to Dropbox or iCloud or even a different drive on your local network.

You can set Sync Two folders to overwrite matching older files or to add to, but not overwrite the items from one folder to the other. I don't think you can set a scheduled backup, but pressing the button to sync on command after you set everything up the way you like is trivial.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 9:52 PM on October 25, 2016


Carbon Copy Cloner would let you do this. You could either create a custom backup schedule based on file type, or create a smart folder and then back up only the contents of that folder. You could then point the destination to an external hard drive, a Dropbox/iCloud folder, or both. I've been using Carbon Copy Cloner for years and can't recommend it highly enough.
posted by slogger at 6:58 AM on October 26, 2016


By the way, finder searches and smart folders built into OS X are incredibly powerful, and really help you hone in at a very granular level.
posted by slogger at 7:02 AM on October 26, 2016


So, there are definitely clear and safe ways to do backups.

The best possible answer for a Mac is to use Time Machine. Really. If it's a laptop, just plug the drive in when you're at your desk.

But one method is never enough, so you need something else, too. I use CrashPlan, but several other cloud backup providers are also well regarded, and have been mentioned here.

However, I do want to say I have concerns about the way you've framed this. Candidly, deciding to filter your backups to only certain file extensions seems like being penny wise and pound foolish; storage is CHEAP, and creating such a filter will strike most IT professionals as a recipe for disappointment later.

I'm really confused by your resistance to using the Documents folder. ALL cloud backup methods depend on knowing where the files to back up are, and ONLY cloud backup tools will be fully automatic for you if you're on a laptop and not always tethered to a local Time Machine drive.

This is a pretty solved problem, but it's solved in a way that expects you to use the computer and its file system in the way the designers intended. If you stray from that path -- by, say, insisting on storing key files outside your home directory, which is something people seem to want to do more often than you'd think -- you're creating an administrative headache where none should exist.

All that said, this is what *I* do with my Macbook Pro, and I feel very safe. I set this up when I traveled a great deal more than I do now, but it works either way. Not for nothing, but the only thing I exclude from this backup regime is my Windows virtual machine (which is also why I never store anything in it).

0. Time Machine. I use a Thunderbolt Display at my desk, and the TM drive hangs off the USB hub in the monitor. All I have to do to get hooked up is plug the monitor and power into my laptop, and it's done.

1. CrashPlan. It reads my home directory and grabs pretty much everything, including my not-inconsequential photo archive. It's cheap at like $60 a year.

2. Dropbox. All my current work is in my Dropbox account, which syncs almost immediately to my backup computer. If this laptop were to evaporate RIGHT NOW, I wouldn't even lose this whole post, because emacs would save it for me, and emacs is pointed to a folder in my Dropbox hierarchy. That's powerful. Dropbox is about $10 a month, but in addition to sync and de facto backup, it also gives you access to your files from mobile devices, which turns out to be pretty powerful.

3. Periodically and certainly before any major travel or significant OS update, I use SuperDuper to create a complete, bootable clone of my laptop's drive. That way, if the OS X du Jour update fucks me, I can easily roll back to the prior rev.

All this might be too much for you, but I encourage you to examine your assumptions here.
posted by uberchet at 7:28 AM on October 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is a pretty solved problem, but it's solved in a way that expects you to use the computer and its file system in the way the designers intended.

that's not how I do things, though. it's silly of me to set something up that I won't use. given how easy smart searches etc. are it seems really bizarre for me to have to manually place all my files in one certain place in order to have them be backed up.

also note that the idea of cost being only money cost is not right. time is a cost. effort is a cost. frustration is a cost. an increased chance of the backup not catching what I want it to is a cost. changing my workflow is a (huge) cost. time-per-backup is a cost (and the more you backup the more time each backup takes, increasing the chances of corruption, interruption, etc. and making it harder to restore your access each file you need).
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:16 AM on October 27, 2016


You do not seem to have a good understanding of modern backup tools if you think that
the more you backup the more time each backup takes, increasing the chances of corruption, interruption, etc. and making it harder to restore your access each file you need
because that's absolutely not true of any versioning backup system -- which is to say, of any modern backup system.

Restores from Time Machine are as smooth and painless as any backup tool I have ever seen, and I've been in software and IT for nearly 30 years. It's a great solution, compromised only by the fact that many users are very mobile and not always at a desk. For those users, cloud tools are a great complement.

Do I misunderstand? Are you truly invested in storing your DOCX and XLSX files all over the place, and not in one central tree of folders in your home directory?

I cannot imagine why that is better than the alternative; there's a reason why this usage pattern is effectively universal now, and a huge reason for it is that if you always store things in location X, then it's easy to be sure that you're covered by doing backups of that location.

Your list of "costs" really makes me think you may have some misconceptions about how backups are done today, but Ask MeFi isn't for back-and-forth. I'm happy to try and provide some help via MeMail if you can explain more about why the paths outlined above are unworkable for you.
posted by uberchet at 10:54 AM on October 27, 2016


Are you truly invested in storing your DOCX and XLSX files all over the place

Yes
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:10 PM on October 27, 2016


As I said, I'm happy to try to help you given a venue switch to something that is intended for dialog, i.e. MeMail. But I'd need to know much more about how you're doing things, and probably why, in order to help you.
posted by uberchet at 6:40 PM on October 27, 2016


(and the more you backup the more time each backup takes, increasing the chances of corruption, interruption, etc. and making it harder to restore your access each file you need).

This is incorrect. Every backup system available these days only backs up the changes since your last backup; your initial backup will take a day or two, but then subsequent backups, assuming nightly backups and assuming you're not adding gigs of data every day, will take minutes, and if you're not adding much data every day, it will actually take seconds. And you can set all of the mentioned services up to run at, say, 3AM, when you're not even using your system, so you won't notice that time cost at all.

Are you truly invested in storing your DOCX and XLSX files all over the place

Yes


May I ask why? Is there a legitimate operational need for them to be where they are currently, and will moving/consolidating them make them either unusable or hard to use? If that's the case, that's fine, I'm just trying to get a sense for where the resistance to consolidation comes from.
posted by pdb at 3:27 PM on October 28, 2016


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