Revisiting the prohibition on using Dropbox for backing up

Revisiting the prohibition on using Dropbox for backing up

I have two copies of DTPro. I have two Mac desktops, each in a different country, and a Macbook that travels with me. I am the only user. I have backups in each country. But I also have lots of space on Dropbox which I would like to put to better use.

I never use DT to reference data outside of DT.

My first proposition is that earlier versions of databases, when accessed, should be opened using a different name by changing the file name, and then DT will treat them as separate databases, allowing me to find the missing data from the earlier database, but not to lose later data in the current database, not available in the earlier database.

This is how I propose to use Dropbox. All my databases are already synced via a Dropbox Sync Store. I never run a database from within Dropbox, which I know to be very dangerous. However, I can’t see why it shouldn’t be a useful strategy also to backup to Dropbox as follows:

  1. Within Dropbox (and not by way of Sync Store) create a directory named “Copy of DT databases dated …/…/…
  2. Copy all databases to this Directory.
  3. Repeat 1 periodically by creating new directories each time with more recent copies. Each directory becomes a snap-shot.
  4. If wanting to recover data from a particular date, go to the relevant directory, find the database you want, RENAME it to “Database name - snapshot dated …etc”, and then open that database locally. Find what you want from the earlier version, and copy it over to the current version of the database from which some data was lost.
  5. If the problem is more serious, and the current version database is totally no use, then, of course, instead simply replace it with the previous version eg in TimeMachine. (But that never was my problem! My problem was always what I deleted a group either by mistake or deliberately, but later wanted to find it again).

(Just possibly, one might also explore having two separate Dropbox Sync Stores where one serves as a kind of backup).

So I am not advocating not backing up in other ways, but it does seem to me that Dropbox can be used for more than mere synching and should also have a useful role when backing up. I only use about 25% of my Dropbox allowance. It would be good if I could some of the rest of the space for depositing backup copies, that would then be available from both my Macs.

I don’t think there has ever been any suggestion that there is anything wrong with using Dropbox simply as a repository of backup files for DT3.

I might suggest that you Compress/.Zip the .dtBase2 files before copying them to Dropbox to remove any chance that Dropbox affects their contents or metadata in any way

Thank you for that reassurance, and the tip about compression. There is the script for “Daily Backup Archive”, but I have not found a way to apply it to multiple databases, and doing it individually takes a long time if you have over 20 databases. Maybe there is some way to automate that process?

How large are the databases? One option might be to zip them into one archive.

About 60 GB, which is not that big, I guess. So perhaps I just copy them to a new folder in Finder, named to show the date, and then right click that new folder and select “compress”, (which I think will work). And then the compressed folder can be saved either to Dropbox, and from time to time to some other media for safety.

(What about the idea of also having a second Sync Store (eg in Dropbox) that serves as a backup?)

That’s definitely doable (as long as there is enough cloud space) but sync stores should never be the only backup.

Thank you. Just thinking that another way is to set up a local sync store on a flash card, as well as the sync store in Dropbox. Can both sync stores then keep in sync with both Macs and also with each other? Is it a safe strategy to treat the flash card with its sync store as a backup system?

And just possibly, (and hoping this doesn’t sound too convoluted), could the sync store on the flash card periodically be copied to a regular Dropbox location as a way of capturing all data at a particular point in time?

It could be used as an additional backup but neither USB sticks nor sync stores should be the only backups.

That’s possible but not recommended, you’re backing up a backup which isn’t recommended.

OK, so best is to copy the individual DT databases themselves somewhere safe, that is not cloud storage. That makes sense. Thank you.

I have occasion problems with my Dropbox sync, for example, when the internet is not working. If I also have a local sync store containing the same DT databases on a flash drive, can I plug my flash drive in to whichever Mac I am using so that I am simultaneously syncing my two Macs via the flash drive and via Dropbox? That way, if my internet is not working, my flash drive will sync for me. And if I lose my flash drive, then I have Dropbox?

Usage of multiple sync locations is of course supported, just like using USB sticks or external drives.

Just to be clear, if there are sync stores in different locations (eg one on Dropbox and one on a flash card), and both those locations are both ticked in the Sync Prefs box, and assuming both sync stores contain the same databases, then my two Macs will be kept in sync by both of the sync stores? And the two sync stores will themselves keep in sync with each other as regards common databases? No conflicts? If I forget to plug in my flash card, next time I do so, it will be updated without my doing anything?

That’s correct, this is fully supported.

Thank you. That’s very helpful, and impressive too!

@cgrunenberg, is it possible to set different sync intervals for different sync locations? I ask this because it would allow one to use a local sync store as yet another backup method without the need to plug/unplug USB sticks/hard-drives.

To be clear, I understood the warning that local sync stores should not be the only backup method. I am also using time-machine in an external hard-drive. However, I think it would be wise to have yet another backup elsewhere.

About 60 GB, which is not that big,

Note: 60GB of data is big, especially when you’re talking about syncing with remote sync locations. Just an FYI.

But no one database is larger than 5 GB. Even so, in total there is quite a lot of data, I agree.

I do find that syncing to my flash drive is much faster than syncing to Dropbox. Now that flash drives are so fast, small, and cheap, I begin to wonder if using Dropbox is so important. If I were instead to sync to two flash drives, then my data would be on two Macs and two flash drives (as well as other backup media). Why then also use Dropbox? For some reason, because I had Dropbox, I assumed I should use it. Just as a surgeon tends to believe all medical problems are solved with a scalpel.

I realise I have rather drifted from my original question which was how to use Dropbox more!

I do find that syncing to my flash drive is much faster than syncing to Dropbox.

Absolutely. Local data is always faster than remote data.

On a side note - outside supporting Criss’ comments about sync not being a primary backup - I would suggest an external drive over a flash drive, i.e., an external SSD / spinning drive over a thumb drive.

For some reason, because I had Dropbox, I assumed I should use it

Absolutely! And I have told people this for years: Use a remote sync solution if you need it. Just having a cloud account does not make it optimal.

I could haul construction materials in my Mazda 6, but that certainly doesn’t make it an optimal vehicle for such activity. :slight_smile:

Very helpful! Could you explain why the spinning disk is better? I am using a Sandisk 500 GB Extreme Portable SSD connected by USB 3, and it seems to work very well and is pretty small…

Ahh… No, the spinning disk isn’t necessarily better. Just an external drive, whether SSD or spinning disk, will be more robust over the long term than a small flash drive.

is better than…

OK, thanks! My investment in Sandisk is secure!