[5.0 Beta] Dropbox, OneDrive and Backing up with SecondCopy

One of the major hassles with Endnote up through and including the current version is that *.ENL files become corrupted if you leave them in a Dropbox or OneDrive folder. Although I have a solid relationship with EndNote support going back 25 years, I've never received a solid explanation for why this is, since it isn't the case with Access database files (which also revise the hard drive with any change). Why is it that EndNote and apparently Zotero Standalone files can't subsist in a Dropbox folder? Is there no way to make this possible? If you install your data director as recommended within the Zotero folder in Program Files, you can't use Windows restore to go back to a clean windows copy or earlier windows/programs copy, without going back to an earlier Zotero database or assuming that you can sync with the version on the Zotero service accessible via Firefox Connector. There is probably a good reason for this, but I've never heard it. I do recommend a solid workaround however: the awarding winning shareware program Second Copy (www.secondcopy.com), still supported by the same file folks. This program saved my dissertation more than once from crashes, theft, etc. With this you can do this: its manual cloning to one-way clone your data director to a mirror file in Dropbox or OneDrive which is never used for actual Zotero operations, and do the same with an automatic profile that you run only when you shut down and start-up. If Zotero isn't loaded at start-up and is closed before shut-down, theoretically your Zotero database would never be corrupted and would be backed up, protecting against crashes, theft, etc.. Perhaps I'm wrong, I'm a Zotero neophyte.
  • I am not able to answer your question, but I can describe my solution. For backup of my work. I use free available FreeFileSync. In a first way, it runs as service (https://www.freefilesync.org/manual.php?topic=run-as-service) and all changed document in my data drive (D:) are cloned to LAN disk in "real time". In a second way, I use it for "manual" backup my data drive on the external drive. This external drive I use for syncing with my home computer. I've never had a problem.
  • Any backup solution needs to copy Zotero's data directory folder and all its contents: https://www.zotero.org/support/zotero_data

    That page has all of the details for what to back up.

    Regarding Windows Restore, you can set your data directory to be located in, for example, your User Folder (where Documents, Pictures, Desktop, etc. also are) in Zotero's Preferences (the Advanced pane). That folder won't be touched by Windows Restore. When Zotero 5.0 is released in the near future, the default location for the Zotero profile will change to the User folder, as well.

    Any backup solution that copies Zotero's data directory will work. I use Time Machine on a Mac. LiborA's solution also works, as would any other backup solution that periodically copies the contents of specified folders to an external device.

    You really, really don't want to touch your Zotero database with Dropbox, OneDrive, or other cloud sync services. It takes a lot of diligence to be sure that no Dropbox sync is ever running when the database is open in Zotero, which will cause corruption. Also, cloud servers shouldn't be regarded as a backup solution--they are for storage, but you shouldn't rely on them as your only backup. You can google around for various horror stories of people's photos, work, etc. being destroyed by a malfunction or misunderstanding of a cloud sync service.

  • I'd disagree that cloud services aren't a good back-up solution: standard best practices for personal back-ups are 3 copies in 2 locations, one of them would typically be the cloud of some sorts. Dropbox, e.g. has pretty good versioning, too, so can help in a lot of situations.

    There are various ways of making that happen safely with Zotero; the key part is that you don't place the active Zotero database into a folder that syncs between devices (i.e. the Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive folder). You can set up a one way sync to an oline back-up of sorts (many services offer that), you can set up a script that copies to zotero database into Dropbox et al. in regular intervals -- there are probably more options.
  • I have used Syncback for over 15 years now. It has free and paid versions; I have only used the free version and am very satisfied with it. Even the free version has deep controls regarding what to backup and how to backup. https://www.2brightsparks.com/freeware/

    I kind-of follow the two locations and 3 copies model adamsmith mentioned, except my two locations are home and office (and not two separate cities, which is better). With Syncback, I create a profile that mirrors the backup copy to what is on my computer. Running the profile is a one-click task. How frequently I run the update profile depends on the intensity of the work/updates I am doing (could be once every 3 hours or once a week). This might not be the most robust or the most frequently updated model, but has worked flawlessly for me, and has been proven over multiple hard drive/computer failures which are inevitable. I could setup Synback to work in the background and continuously mirror but I never liked that model.
  • Still using Second Copy, including, now, to back up my Zotero folder from my c:\users folder to Dropbox. this permitted me, as well, to copy it from there to a 2nd computer. While one might think this isn't necessary, given with autosync, you always have a duplicate file onine, without going into details, using some kind of backup program is highly recommended!
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