Why You Shouldn’t Just Rely On Subversion For ‘Backups’

If you’re developing a software solution, whether it’s for yourself or for a larger project, there’s plenty of source control products out there from CVS, Subversion or more modern solutions like git and Mercurial that distribute the load. Regardless of whichever you might be using, if you’re just developing personal projects, you’re probably using the source control so that if you make a mistake somewhere down the track you know you can always get back to what you’re working on today by looking at an earlier revision.

There’s some flaws to this when you’re working in a less structured environment;

  1. You probably simply won’t commit your changes often enough to be able to get back to a sensible status if you mess something up.
  2. If you’re using SVN and move a tree structure in place – particularly if you overwrite an existing tree structure – you just hosed all the SVN metadata. That leads to a whole heap of trouble when you try to commit.
  3. If you’re developing using WordPress you may get part way through your development cycle when WordPress issues an update. Or you may have tweaked a WordPress plugin that gets updated. If you mistakenly click the ‘auto update’ button you just lost all your local changes. Coupled with Point #1 above, you lost your work.

Enter TIME MACHINE (if you’re on a Mac – you’re on your own if you’re using Windows ;-)). It sits in the background and backs up hourly. So at least when you inevitably do make that mistake you only have to go back an hour.

Time Machine can be a pain in the butt when it slows your machine down while it does its backup – but that inconvenience will be priceless when you realise you really goofed up and mistakenly overwrote an entire directory that you were working in…

Trust me – I did exactly that last night with WordPress MU – developing a new ‘home’ theme for MU when I updated to 2.9.1 release and that overwrote all my changes. Yeah, it’s my own fault, I should have realised an update would include the ‘home’ theme – but knowing whose fault it is doesn’t comfort you all that much! Time Machine comforted me. If you’re on a Mac and doing dev work, I really highly recommend getting an external disk and backing up hourly with Time Machine. It WILL save your bacon on more than one occasion.

Author: Steve Brown

Steve is a paramedic in Victoria, Australia who is also an ex-IT Consultant and currently uses all manner of MacOS software in his everyday life. So he usually tends to write about his experiences with that. But sometimes he'll write about medical, political or other stuff that might (or might not!) be of interest

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