Backup Plans

(Note: This was written for TMG 7 although it also applies to TMG v6.x and v5.x and the process is similar to that needed for TMG v4.x and earlier versions.)


Now that you have started putting your data into one or more projects, you need to consider the possibility that something will happen to cause all that work to be lost.  This could be something as simple as having the power go out causing your computer to crash.  I have seen what happens to a computer with a lightning strike and it is not pretty.  Or worse, the house could catch fire or a tornado hit. 

TMG is written in such a way that most power outages will only lose the current data that you are adding and anything that you added before will be okay.  As I said this is for most situations.  The question is not IF you will have a data loss, but WHEN will you have a data loss.  Thus you need to have a backup plan.  It should be for all the data on your computer, not just TMG.  But this article will just talk about TMG.  So you need to work up your own procedure that will include all the data on  your computer as well as your TMG data.

Many users can understand that they can lose their project data and often back it up.  But they forget that their TMG installation may include many added files that are not included as part of the project.  Most of these added files include the many customizations that user make to TMG.  This may include any or all of the following:

Exhibits Colornames Timelines Languages
Accents Spell Checker Dictionary Custom Frames State Abbreviations
Filters DNA Fingerprint Templates Preferences (Program Options) Layouts
Toolbars Icons for Toolbars Window Color Schemes Report Configurations
Export File Configurations Backup/Restore Configurations Check for Duplicate People Configurations Web Search Configurations

Exhibits, Accents, and Filters may be backed up with the project as they usually apply to only one project.  All the other items above are called customizations and most are considered part of the program and thus applicable to all project even though the user may consider some apply to only certain projects.  In any case, TMG has three standard Backup Configurations (Backup All, Backup Customizations, and Backup Project) that are included with the installation.  Users are encouraged to define their own backup plans.  A backup plan may use the standard Backup Configurations or users may create their own Custom Backup Configurations. This article is based on the default TMG installation and the default Backup Configurations.  Customizations of either the installation or the Backup Configurations may be significant or very minor.  The user should determine their needs and select or create the backup plan that is best for them.

Most computer professionals have their preferred backup plan.  Some backup plans are as simple as a rotating backup of three backup files.  This is often called the "Grandfather, Father and Son" method whereby when a new backup is made, it becomes the "Son", the former "Son" becomes the "Father", the former "Father" becomes the "Grandfather", and the former "Grandfather" is discarded (deleted and the space used for other purposes).  This is a fairly proven method and works well in general. Variations of this are those that add one or more "generations".  That is, instead of just three backup files being rotated, the plan expands to four, five, six, etc. as the user prefers.  The question is how far back is the user wanting to retain backup before they become "useless".   The problem here is that, at some point, the data being restored would be so outdated or so lacking in added data that it is not worthwhile. For example, would you keep six months, a year, five years, ten years?  If you somehow have lost everything but the ten year old backup, is it worth restoring?   This is mostly exaggeration to let the user get the idea of how far back they are willing to retain backup files.

As noted above, the rotational plan work well for many.  The problem is that with TMG, the simple rotational plan is too simple. A lot depends on the TMG installation, the project(s), the number and type (Internal/External) Exhibits, and all the various customizations.   If the user installs TMG in the default manner, makes no changes of any kind, uses no or only Internal Exhibits, and has only one project then the rotational plan may be just fine.  But as changes are made to that working pattern then there needed to be changes to the backup plan.

As users begin to utilize External Exhibits, they often realize that those Exhibit change less often than the other project data.  Thus the user may decide to handle Exhibit files in a separate backup plan outside of TMG.  In a similar way, other TMG customizations also are made less often than changes to your project data.  With these things in mind, the user may decide not to use the Backup All configuration.  This is fine until the user needs to Restore a TMG installation and certain customizations are no longer included in any backup file.

Thus, I will propose a basic backup plan.  It may not work for everyone, but it should work for most with some adjustments. This plan uses only the standard Backup configurations.  Users are encouraged to create their own Custom Backup Configurations and variations of the Backup Plan.

  1. To start the plan, the user should do a backup using the Backup All configuration.  This backup file should then be copied to a some kind of removable media (CD, thumbdrive, etc.) and then taken 'off-site'.  By 'off-site', I mean that the media with its copy of the backup file should be carried to some other physical location.  This could be your work place, a sibling's house, a bank vault, a friend's place, etc.  This idea is that you stand a better chance of being able to use this backup if something bad happens to your house.
  2. Each day, perform a Backup Project procedure.
  3. Each Wednesday, perform a Backup Customizations procedure.  Copy this backup to a removable media that  can be kept away from your computer -- preferably in another room.
  4. Each Sunday, be sure to copy the latest project backup file (step 2) to a removable media as in step 1 above and keep it away from your computer -- preferably in a separate room similar to step 3).
  5. At the end of each month, do a Backup All procedure as in step 1.

I suggest keeping one week (at a minimum) of daily project backups.  I suggest keeping the last four (more as desired) weekly backups (both project and customization) in a separate room.  Lastly, I suggest keeping the last six monthly backups off-site  As more backups are made, the oldest may be "discarded" (the file deleted and the file space used for other purposes).  Backups in another room or off-site would be returned for re-use when the oldest exceeds the number to be retained.

This plan considers that most changes are made in the project and that only minor changes are made in customizations.  But, things don't always work as planned.  Therefore, anytime a lot of customizations are made, you should immediately do a Backup Customizations procedure.  Similarly, if you occasionally work very hard and add or make many changes to your project and expect to make as many more additions or changes then I suggest doing one or more additional Backup Project procedures.   The extra backups should be retained until you have at least two other regular backups and then they may be discarded.

As I noted above, the above plan may not work for some users.  It may be more than is needed for some and not enough for others.  In such cases, the user needs to reduce the frequency of the backups or increase the frequency as best fits the user's needs.  Some users will need more Project backups and fewer Customization backups.  Some users will need to create Custom Backup Configurations that include only certain files and note others.  Thus they may backup some customizations more often than others. 

Some final points:

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