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Data Backups When On The Road

Western Digital USB Hard Drive

Western Digital USB Hard Drive

Ok, when you live in a digital world as we do today, that comes with the need to have backups should something occur. After all, you want to be sure to save the thousands of photos taken of your cats and dogs in funny poses. (Cough, Cough…Brenda) At home I surely hope you have some sort of back up running and that is no different when you are on the road. But how, what, where, when? Let me try to help you in this case.

When traveling you only really have a few choices in backups, cloud storage and external storage such as a USB hard drive. But with cloud storage comes data use, and unless you are lucky enough to have an unlimited data plan, you need to be very careful of cloud storage. But with that said, you SHOULD have it.

“But Dave, what do I do when I only have my JetPack or Mi-Fi device? Then what?” As I just mentioned, USB storage. “But Dave, you mentioned to use Cloud Storage”. Why yes I did.

You see, if you use a service such as CrashPlan (the one we use) then you have the best of both worlds. When you are on the road, you connect a USB hard drive to your computer(s) and CrashPlan will use that.  However, when it sees you are on a network, it will then also backup to the cloud for even safer backups of your important files. The best part…You can tell it NOT to back up to the cloud if connected to certain Wi-Fi’s like your JetPack. So that means, when you connect to an RV Park’s Wi-Fi, it will start to automatically backup to the cloud thus backing up anything that has not been backed up. Same holds true when you go home and connect to your home Wi-Fi, it will just start to backup.  Nice.

Ok, but a BIG THING people do not think about is where they put that USB hard drive after they do a back up.  Most will backup every few days or a week, depending on your needs, and then just pop the drive into a drawer until the next time they want to run a backup. While this makes it very convenient, it does nothing for you in case of theft or dare I say a fire. This is even more true if you full-time in your motorhome like we do and thus our entire life, photos, documents, etc are with us all the time. You have no “home” to also store them at. So what do you do?

SentrySafe Media Fire Safe

SentrySafe Media Fire Safe

We use a SentrySafe Fire Chest that is also rated for digital media and is also water tight. This means that your USB hard drive has a MUCH better chance at surviving a fire. But then also take the time to go one step further…Store it in the cargo bay.

Why store it in the cargo bay? Fire burns upwards and the cargo area, unless the fire started in there, usually burns last. As such, your data has the best chance of surviving. But remember, even if a total loss, you still may have all the files that made it up to the cloud when you connected to Wi-Fi as you travel around. As such, your memories will still be around. The above is the way WE do it. Surely their are many other ways it can be done. But bet you did not think about the storage part. :)


Side Note:  If you think getting it out would be a hassle, have two USB Drives and rotate them. At least then you will always have the chance at saving most of your data up to the point of your last swap.

Here is a video I did talking about what I just said above. ;)

7 thoughts on “Data Backups When On The Road

    1. Gadget Guru

      1TB is nothing if you shoot a lot of video, especially with 4K moving toward being the new norm. My 4K video camera requires 64Gb per hour and a half of video. My still camera shoots 18mp photos that are over 40MB….each.

      If all you do is snap the occasional photos or videos on your cell phone, a large local drive is probably overkill considering most phones offer some sort of automatic cloud backup.

      For the photo or video enthusiast, though, 1TB is tiny. My home desktop system I use for photo and video editing as over 10TB of storage internally to allow for “safety” backups – i.e., backup in case of data corruption, accidental deletion or fallback copies in case I can’t undo something. That’s in addition to the other backups.

      Of course, all that data creates a bigger issue: backing all that stuff up to the cloud in a timely manner. When you’re talking Gigabytes worth of photos taken over the course of a single day, it can be pretty onerous to send that out over the cloud – even at home. Between slow connections on the road or data limitations through your ISP (be it mobile or home connections), that can eat a lot of data and hog your bandwidth for potentially hours.

  1. Al Welch

    You are addressing a concern I’ve had for some time. I keep an external 5TB drive connected and run an image backup every night (I had small retail stores for which I ran nightly a B/U–5″ floppies, then tapes–and when crashes occurred, we often found several B/Us were unusable, so I’m a little paranoid! The last solution before closing was off-site B/Us via internet, the best).

    I like your thoughts on the Sentry fire safe in the cargo bay. Is there any way to seal a drive in one but run a cable out of it? I can envision running the cable straight up to my computer at the credenza where it resides.

    I also need to address the cloud storage issue. Because we full-time too, I’ve avoided cloud storage and the data consumption it implies–and too often, mediocre park WiFi would not do the job. I’ll check out CrashPlan. I do need to do something…

    1. David.B Post author

      I had also thought of maybe trying something like that…But that surely would compromise the overall safety. If you think getting it out would be a hassle, have two USB Drives and rotate them. At least then you will always have the chance at saving most of your data up to the point of your last swap. I think I will add that thought to the blog post.

    2. Gadget Guru

      A couple of thoughts:

      1) Never use image backups for documents, images and other files. The reason? If even one thing gets corrupted, you lose everything. Only use images for drive duplication and settings. Always use a file-based backup so you can change or delete files individually as you create, change or no longer need them. While it’s no longer supported, Karen’s Replicator works wonderfully, even with external and networked drives. It’s such a simple program, it still works with current versions of Windows despite not having been updated in years since the death of the original author.

      2) As far as the issue of running the drive directly in the safe, I would look into whether the safe has provisions to bolt it to the floor. If so, drill the hole there for your cable, then seal around it with an ample amount of fire block spray. It shouldn’t compromise the safe any more than using the hole as a bolt hole. Just be sure to use cable designed for use in walls as they tend to be fire rated. It would suck to have your hard drive in the safe, but have the fire travel inside along the jacket of the cable. Also, don’t use a self-powered drive that needs a power cable. Use a portable model that is USB powered to avoid a) the need for more than one cable penetrating the safe wall and b) having AC power going into the safe and c) the heat from a power supply.

      3) Another online backup option is Carbonite. The basic plans won’t do networked or external drives, but for a laptop with a single internal drive it should work well.

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