With regard to my previous blog about backing up my data and synchronizing it across multiple machines, one thing I forgot to mention was my emails.
Actually, it’s not just the emails themselves, although it’s certainly true that I’m constantly bouncing back and forth accessing the emails that I’ve received and sent over the course of the last few days. I use the Microsoft Office 2010 suite, including Outlook 2010, and I hadn’t realized how much I relied on my contacts list and – especially – my calendar until my system crashed two weeks ago.
I’m not sure how other email packages handle things, but Outlook uses a file with a .PST extension, where PST stands for "Personal Store." This file is really a quite complex database that contains your email, your calendar, your contacts, and a bunch of other stuff.
Depending on how well you manage things, these files can grow to be HUGE. Mine is currently hovering around 750MB, which is actually quite small in the scheme of things. On the other hand, this isn’t something that I want to be constantly uploading into The Cloud via my Dropbox Account.
Apart from anything else, Outlook locks the PST file when it’s in use, so you can only back it up after you’ve exited the application. For a while I was toying with the idea of copying the latest and greatest version of my PST file onto my home and work computers – and also storing a copy on a USB memory stick – and then using the Syncables 360 synchronization software (www.syncables.com) to keep all of the copies in sync.
Actually, Syncables 360 would be a perfect solution if I had multiple disparate machines, because it allows you to sync with – and between – computers running Windows, Mac, and Linux. Of particular interest with regards to our discussions here, Syncables 360 can also sync email between computers that use Outlook Express, Outlook, Thunderbird, or Windows Mail. In this case, your emails are auto-converted from one email application’s format to work seamlessly with any of the other email applications. So, for example, Syncables 360 syncs email from Outlook to Thunderbird and vice versa, auto-converting your email from Outlook on your Windows computer, to be viewed and managed in Thunderbird on your Mac.
But then I remembered the KISS Principle (“Keep It Simple, Stupid!”). All I have is two main machines – my notepad computer at home and my tower computer at work – both running Windows 7 with Outlook 2010. So what I’ve decided to do is at the end of each day to simply copy the PST file from whichever computer I’m working with onto a USB memory stick. And whenever I power-up my other computer, the first thing I’ll do (before launching Outlook) is to copy the PST file from the memory stick onto that computer.
Currently I’m just using one of the generic memory sticks I have lying around in the bottom of my computer backpack (check out This Blog for details on this amazingly cool and useful backpack), but a couple of days ago I ordered a Corsair Flash Survivor 16 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive ($39 from Amazon).
This is a ruggedized memory stick with aluminum aircraft casing, a molded shock-dampening collar for shock protection, and a seal that’s waterproof for depths up to 200 meters (I’m sure this will come in useful one day, although I hope it isn’t in my pocket at the time, because I’m not waterproof for depths up to 200 meters).
In addition to my PST file, there’s enough space on this device to store quite a few other files if necessary. And, quite apart from all of the protection, the best thing about this drive is that I won’t mistake it for any of my generic drives. Actually I take that back – it's important to keep things in perspective – in reality, the best thing is that it looks so cool, so my 16-year-old son will once again be disgruntled because I have cooler “stuff” than he does (grin).