My Twitter-friend Chelsea may have lost a truly heartbreaking amount of work when a powercut somehow wiped her hard drive. She and probably anyone following the awful saga have resolved to be more zealous about backing stuff up online, so I thought I’d do a post about what I use and what I think of it.
Dropbox runs in your system tray and keeps everything in your ‘Dropbox’ folder synced, both to their servers and to any other computer you install it on. Since I use a desktop and a laptop regularly, right away that gives me one remote and two local copies of all my most important stuff. I use my Dropbox folder as a ‘My Documents’, generally: it’s all things I’ve created and would hate to lose: docs, photos, and my game.
I pay $100 a year for 1TB of space, plus $40 a year for an add-on that gives unlimited version history: every version of everything I’ve ever put in there is stored forever, even if I delete or over-write it.
- It’s not good for syncing stuff that needs to stay in the folder it’s in, like a savegame folder. There’s a third party hack to trick it into doing that, but ‘third party hack’ and ‘my most precious data’ don’t really feel like good partners.
- If you regularly dump huge amounts of stuff in there, it’s a little irritating that you can’t change the order in which things are backed up. One 2GB file has changed? It’ll keep trying to upload that and not back up any of the new changes to smaller files until it’s done. Hasn’t been a problem for me since I first set it up.
- If you regularly delete thousands of files (I do!), it’s bizarre that it takes as long to upload or download that change as it would if you’d added that many files.
- You can get your iPhone to back up your photos to it, but they’ve recently split that functionality off into a separate app called Carousel, which is fucking horrible. It only syncs if you run it, then access your photos while it’s running.
- It’s not good for backing up Unity games. Unity seems to lock certain files in a way that prevents Dropbox from backing them up, and as mentioned earlier, it’ll keep trying that same file forever, ignoring all other changes in the meantime.
- The version history thing is reassuring, but if I ever lost or over-wrote a folder of thousands of files, I can’t see a way to batch-restore them – you have to click on each file individually and select the version you want to roll it back to. For my game, that’d probably take longer than re-making it.
CrashPlan runs in your system tray and automatically backs up a number of folders you’ve told it to, encrypted, to any and all locations you select. I use it for absolutely everything I value outside of Dropbox – and Dropbox itself, just to be sure.
The free version will back up to a local or external hard drive, or even to a friend’s computer, so you can do a kind of back-up swap (it’s encrypted).
I pay $60 a year to back up to their servers. There’s no space limit, and I’m using over 300 gigabytes – it took a week to get it all up there when I first installed. Now it just runs silently in the background and I never notice it. It’ll back up all changes right away if you like, or you can tell it to only do it when the computer’s idle.
- As far as I know you can’t use it for passively keeping stuff in sync across multiple computers.
- I thought it didn’t have versioning but it turns out it does. Gosh, unless you really need syncing you should use this instead of Dropbox.
Version control is a truly vital concept that has unfortunately been implemented by madmen. It’s basically “keep every version of my project (usually online)” but with the ability to ‘branch’ out from a version and then merge those changes back in later, which is particularly useful for teams.
I use GitHub for my Unity projects, following this guide, but I find Git itself baffling and mad, even after taking real pains to learn it. More than once it’s told me I’m not allowed to save my work, and must over-write it with the outdated online copy, and I have to go crying to Twitter to find someone who can tell me what buttons to press to let me actually save. I’ve never actually lost work to it, so I’ll keep soldiering on, but I have a hard time claiming this is a sane way to back up your stuff if you work alone.
- Fucking mad.
Game Maker Studio has a different version control system built in, Subversion. I tried setting it up once, using a test project, and tested deleting something and rolling back to the old version. I could not, the thing was gone forever. That concludes the past, present and future of my relationship with Subversion for Game Maker.
- Lost the only thing I ever entrusted it with.