For years now I have used Second Copy to both: (i) automatically backup my critical files to external storage devices (currently to a Drobo); and (ii) to synchronize key files between my computers across my network and laptops.
By and large it has worked well (perhaps some of its foibles will be the subject of a future post). But one thing it cannot do, and no other software that I’m aware of can, is backup Outlook’s PST files while Outlook is running. PST files are the files where Outlook stores emails, calendar data, contact info etc.
In my world, my PC is usually running 24/7 and so is Outlook.
For years I have searched, on and off and without success for software that can backup PST files while Outlook is running. Recently I came across Microsoft’s Outlook 2007/2003/2002 Add-in: Personal Folders Backup ("PFB")utility (download here).
While it cannot backup Outlook files while Outlook is running, it does the next best thing – it backs them up automatically when you exit Outlook. Since I exit Outlook at least a few times a week, my PST files are now backed up that often.
Note: For the last six months I have been using iMap to synchronize my Outlook email with my Google Apps hosted @daledietrich.com Gmail account. So, I also have continuous backup of all my current email and attachments via Gmail.
After downloading and installing PFB, a "Backup" option appears in Outlook’s "Files" pull-down menu (Outlook is the only Office 2007 program that still has a "Files" pull-down menu). When you click on it, you can set up its options. You need to tell it where to make the backup (in my case on my networked Drobo) how often to do an "automatic" backup. For example, if you set it to every 7 days, when you next close Outlook after day 7, PDB dutifully backs-up your PST files.
In my case I set the option to backup every day so that whenever I close Outlook (at quite variable intervals) it performs a backup.
Of course this is not a perfect solution because I can, and do, run Outlook for days or sometimes weeks without shutting it down. But, it certainly results in more regular backups than my old manual process did.
Another drawback: Owing to the huge size of my PST files (some 15 years of email), in my case, it takes about 8 minutes to do the backup. Since I usually ONLY close Outlook when I’m shutting the computer down, I have to remember to close Outlook in advance of when I want the computer turned off. Of course I forget. So I usually wander off and do something else, like brush my teeth, as it’s doing its business.
If anyone is aware of a tool that will periodically, reliably (and affordably) backup Outlook’s PST files automatically, without having to close Outlook, please let me know.
[March 30, 2009 Update: PFB does not work out of the box with Windows 7. I attempted to install it normally and using both Vista and XP compatibility modes. In each instance I received the following error message:
“Setup has detected that you do not have Outlook 2000, Outlook 2002, or Outlook 2003 installed on the machine…”
Under Vista the same pfbackup.exe file ran fine and worked with Word 2007.]