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Using Sync

What is Synchronization?

With Backup you normally wait until your computer is done for the day and have it run a backup after everything is closed and you aren't using your computer anymore. It is especially easy for computers that are left on all night. Then backup can be done when all files are closed and the computer isn't doing anything else.

Synchronization on the other hand runs at all times. While you are using programs and working on your computer. Synchronization looks at folders in two locations, typically the cloud and your computer. It watches for changes in either place and then replaces the older file in either place with the new one.

So, if you update a file on your computer, and your backup program is synchronizing, then it will look at your backup and notice that it is older than the file you just saved, so it will copy the new file to your backup. Normally, it can do this in the background without you even noticing anything.


Types of Synchronization

I identify three kinds of Synchronization.
  1. Built-in Sync: A program is built for Synchronization. Examples:
    • If you have a chaoshost account, then Chaos software will synchronize your calendar, tasks and contacts with your cloud account. Then it can synchronize between your cloud account and your phone or other device.
    • Evernote synchronizes your notes with your cloud account and then between that account and your other devices.
    • Keepass will synchronize passwords between two Keepass databases by performing a manual synchronization operation.
      1. Sync for Backup: You can use a backup program's synchronize function as a way to backup. This works ok for computers that are turned off, or go to sleep and for users who can't remember to backup manually.
      2. Backup for Sync: You can use a backup program's synchronization function to synchronize data between two or more devices (like your notebook and your desktop computer).

When a program has built-in synchronization functionality, then it will usually synchronize each record. But when you use a backup program, or other technology that doesn't understand your data, then it will do a whole file, not the smaller parts of the file.


When does Synchronization make sense for backup?

1. Sync makes sense as a backup strategy if you don't leave your computer on all the time, so nightly backups aren't possible. 2. Sync works well if you only have a few folders that need to be backed up. The more folders (and subfolders) the backup program has to simultaneously monitor, the more it is likely to interfere with your work.


What are the problems and factors to consider?

If the two factors above are met, then you just need to remember to not close your computer quickly when you finish work. Clearly, if you finish working in Quickbooks and then immediately exit, Sync will not have a chance to work.

The big problem is if there are too many files or folders to track quickly.


Synchronizing between Devices

When you are using a program which is built for sync, like Evernote, or ChaosHost, or the manual Keepass Sync function, then it normally works extremely well. Whatever device you are working on updates to the cloud, which then sends it to your other device.

However, when you are using a general purpose program, like mysecurebackup,  for synchronization between computers, then it is very important to make sure that you never change the file in both places before it had a chance to synchronize to your cloud account. If you finish something and shut down, then open the other device and work on the file, your cloud account will see two files, both of which are newer than the one in the cloud. At that point, there is no good option. If it accepts either file, the other will be lost.


Date: December 2011

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