Atwood Strikes Again

Published on . Backup Coding Horror Blog

Some of you probably follow Jeff Atwood’s Coding Horror. I used to look forward to reading his articles, but his content is increasingly starting to bore and annoy me. Many times it’s him quoting large pieces from some guy’s blog that does have original content, while trying to give some insightful comments. Except, they’re not insightful. They’re just plain wrong.

His latest entry, What’s your backup strategy, is another one of those monsters. Here’s a snippet:

The rsync command is more than a simple copy; it actually does a block-by-block comparison, only copying the differences. So instead of backing up the entire contents of your hard drive (again), you only back up the parts that changed since your last backup. This is commonly known as incremental backup.

Sorry Jeff – I can call you Jeff, right? – although your introduction to rsync is correct, rsync is definitely not “incremental backup” software. If he’d actually read the Wikipedia article he links to, he’d notice that the first line of it goes like this:

An incremental backup is a backup method where multiple backups are kept (not just the last one).

(Emphasis’ mine) rsync doens’t keep multiple backups. rsync will indeed only transmit the differinces between the last backup and the current original, but the result will be one backup: a complete mirror of the current original one.

The advantage of an incremental backup is not that it’s fast to do, like Jeff implies, it’s that you can pick a backup from before your last backup. This way you can restore the one you need, which is not necessarily the last one. Handy if you need a file you deleted 2 weeks ago, but your last backup was last week.

Even better, at the end of the article he throws up this God-awful piece of advice:

You don’t even technically need a second or third hard drive; if you have a large enough primary drive, Acronis will allow you to create a new, hidden partition to store a complete backup image.

If you store a backup on the same drive as the one you’re backing up, what the fuck – excuse my french – is the point in backing it up in the first place? If your drive dies, dear Jeff, your backup dies with it. Guess he didn’t got the message Jamie was trying to spread anyway.

It’s not that I hate Jeff. I guess I’m just disappointed that his articles have decreased in quality so much. There are some real gems on his blog, so you really should check it out. Just watch out for his Microsoft-centered ideas ;) .

David Verhasselt

Senior full-stack engineer with 5 years of experience building web applications for clients all over the world.

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