Everyone who has used a computer for any length of time has heard the advice, “Back up, back up often, test the backups, repeat.” Few people actually do it. Ignoring this advice is dangerous and can cause the loss of important documents, files, pictures, and more.
To prevent this loss, prudent computer users, regardless of operating system, pick a method of copying their files to a safe location for storage and use that method on a regular basis. To help you devise a strategy that best suits you, we have come up with a few options to consider. This topic is a big one, and how you deal with it is a very personal decision. Rather than give step-by-step instructions, we mention a few options to consider and leave it to you to research them further and decide on one that looks appropriate and inviting.
Some users find that the easiest thing for them to do is buy an external hard drive and copy all of their files to it every week or two. Others look at this and think to themselves, “There has to be a better way.” Perhaps they noticed that these methods require every single file to be copied every time, even if the file has not changed in ages. In these cases, an incremental backup is ideal, where the computer is told to compare the files in the original location with stored files in a backup location (like an external hard drive) and copy only new or changed files.
Several GUI programs for backing up are available from the Ubuntu repositories. Each comes with a basic and useful graphic interface that is easy to figure out and use, and each is configurable to allow you to do full or incremental backups. A backup program is installed by default and can be found by searching for backup in the Dash. The program lets you configure automatic or manual backups, specify the location for those backups, specify what will be backed up, set scheduling for automatic backups, restore files from the backup, and more (Figure 3-22).
Figure 3-22 The main Backup settings window
For users who are a little more advanced (or a little braver) and who love the raw power available from learning a command-line program, the best two programs for backups are rar and rsync, which are both available from the Ubuntu repositories. Once they are installed, you can read the manual pages and learn how to use them by typing man rar or man rsync from a terminal. They are complicated but are also fast and amazingly effective both at making the backups and restoring them.
Unfortunately, this quick mention in a small section of a very diverse chapter can only get you thinking about the need for good backups and help guide you in your search for the perfect method for you. However you decide to back up your data, we strongly encourage you not to ignore the need but to find a way to do it. If you have any questions about this or other topics, the Ubuntu community has a large number of very helpful people you can ask for help, and we recommend you start by searching or asking questions in the Ubuntu Forums at http://ubuntuforums.org.