I am totally screwed- time to rethink my backup strategy

Like the title says I am totally screwed and the day it happened started just like any other day.  The events that have me in a pickle were actually a sequence of events (like they usually are) that had to happen in just a certain way in a specific order.  They did and this is my story.

It was last Saturday and I was heading out the door to my stepson’s baseball game when I decided to start a manual backup of my document directory tree.  I have been using a manual system for years using the freeware copy tool Karen’s Replicator.  I’m pretty good about remembering to back up my files and the system has always worked well for me.  Karen’s Replicator is nothing fancy, it can copy (or replicate) whole directory trees through the use of “jobs”, predefined copy tasks.  I like Replicator because it’s faster than anything I’ve seen anywhere.  So on my way out the door I start Replicator and click on the copy job to send my document tree to the external hard drive.  I made sure it started up and headed out to the ballpark.

When I returned home that night I glanced at the Replicator screen, made sure the job finished without errors and shut it down.  All was well until late Sunday night when I was going through my notes in OneNote to get ready for the new week.  This week is going to be action-packed for me since I’m heading to Redmond next weekend and will be there all next week.

As I started spinning through my OneNote project notebooks something didn’t seem right and the more I looked into it the greater the uneasiness I was beginning to feel.  My whole workday revolves around the notes I take in OneNote, each project is its own section with daily notes in the tabs down the right of the OneNote screen.  The first project I checked seemed to have some note pages missing that I had taken the week before.  As did the second, third, and so on.  At this point I must have been positively green to match how ill I was beginning to feel.  I went to the most active projects I have and determined that I had NO notes more recent than two weeks ago.  A quick mental assessment told me that the notes from what is likely 30 – 40 critical meetings are just. Flat. Not. There.

The sinking feeling in my stomach is now threatening to shoot up my throat.  How could I possibly be missing all of my recent notes?  These notes are going to be impossible to recreate and all that valuable reference material is out the window.  Wait, I just did a backup the day before so all is saved.  I’ll just restore it back and be good to go.  Boy, that was close.

I open up Replicator and just before clicking on the job that copies the tree from the external hard drive to the Fujitsu a horrible thought crosses my mind.  What if I had clicked on the wrong Replicator job in my haste to leave for the ball game?  I’m referring to the copy job that copies files the other way.  That still shouldn’t wipe me out as the backed up files on my external drive are two weeks older than the Fujitsu drive so even if I had made that stupid mistake Replicator wouldn’t overwrite the newer files.  Or would it?  I open up the settings for the job that copies from the external to the Fujitsu drive and look at the details.  See, just like I thought, the settings say to only copy a file if its last modified date was newer than the target and the file size has changed.  I know, let’s look at the copy log from the job in question.

Sure enough, it verifies that I clicked the wrong job and it copied the entire document tree the wrong way.  But all of my OneNote files on the Fujitsu (target) drive were NEWER than the external (source) drive so why would it replace them?  I dig into the log and there it is in plain sight– files will be replaced if the source file is NEWER than the target OR, and that’s the big word here, OR if the file sizes are different, which almost all of my note files were.  So Replicator overwrote all of my good note (newer) files with the old ones, just like I told it to.  I am so sick at this point I pack it all in and went to bed.  I’ll deal with this tomorrow (now today).

So that’s what I’ve been doing today in addition to the big workload I already have this week.  I will likely never recreate those notes, I’ll just have to add what I can remember to new notes for the individual projects.  This has got me thinking long and hard about backup strategies.  What I think I need is a backup routine that saves each backup to a new version so I can always go back one or two versions as needed.  Maybe I should look into online backup solutions, that way I can even restore files remotely if necessary.  All of you backup gurus, what do you recommend?  I’ve looked at the Vista backup and it doesn’t seem to offer much user control, something that I think I need.  So how about it, what do you do and why do you think it would work for me?