Portable VirtualBox on USB with cloud backup

You're a web developer and you build PHP web apps. On your machine you have a web server installed with PHP support enabled. You also have a database configured with dummy datasets loaded. You have a UML modeling tool in which you build your ERD and sync to the database. You have a number of different frameworks installed and configured to work with your setup. Your IDE is configured with your project and to push straight to your web server. The IDE is also linked to source control and to your test and production environments. You're happy and productive. Now your machine crashes and you need to get back up and running, quickly. You have backups of all your project files, but good luck setting everything up again. Hope you made really detailed step-by-step documentation.

A virtual machine can prevent this from ever happening. You setup your environment once, make a backup and you're safe. Your machine crashes, you just go on another machine, load your VM backup and you're good to go.

Better still, install your VM to an external USB HDD (both VMWare and VirtualBox let you do this). This means you can just plug the drive into any computer, double-click the VM client and your development environment loads as you last left it. You're now totally machine independent.

Make sure to backup your VMs religiously though. Chances of loosing the external drive or getting a corruption are possible. An easy way to manage backups is to combine a VM with Dropbox. That is, first build your VM exactly the way you want it. Install everything. Configure everything. Get it all running smoothly. Then get a free Dropbox account and link it to your VM image. Inside the VM, create a Dropbox folder and keep all your project files there. This means your project files will be synced to the cloud in real-time. Now all you have to do is shutdown the VM and take a single backup copy (might want to zip it), storing it somewhere safe (I store mine on Amazon S3).

In the event that you loose the USB HDD, all you need to do is startup your backup VM, and even if it's 6 months old, it'll automatically connect to Dropbox and retrieve all the latest project files.

And remember that Dropbox also has Shared folders. So you can have one Dropbox account contain a copy of another... The way I use this is I have my main Dropbox account which I sync to my personal laptop. I then have a work dev VM with a special Dropbox account that contains only the work project files. I share this to my main Dropbox account which gives me two redundant copies of the data (as well as the copy in the cloud).


  1. Hi, my name is Alex Taylor and I'm from Eltima Software, we are very interested in our possible cooperation. We would like to offer free licenses for testing our software.

    Please, contact me if you are interested.

    Waiting to hear from you soon!

    Sincerely yours,
    Alex Taylor
    Marketing Specialist
    Eltima Software


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