As my dear friends, David and Katie always say, in fact, as all my knowledgeable MacRoundtable friends always say, “Backup, Backup, Backup”. You have to be living in a cave not to know that your important data should be backed up to an external hard drive and an off-site storage. But, can you take this advice a little too far? I think the answer is yes and I think I’ve done it.
Do you find that hard to believe? Well, consider this. On just two Macs, the Mac Pro in my home office and my Macbook Pro in my work office, these are the active backups going on from day to day. For off-site or cloud solutions, I’m using Carbonite, Backjack, Amazon S3, Dropbox and MobileMe. For network drives locally, I’m using Carbon Copy Cloner, Clickfree, Arq, Chronosync, Time Capsule and Super Duper. These are all on just two computers. Do you think that I may be a little “Over-Backed-up”?
This feeling was not something that’s been sitting on the back burner of my little mind smoldering away. This was more of a revelation that hit me last night as I was watching the latest cloud backup solution installed tell me it would take 21 hours to upload all my data to their cloud. I asked myself if I really needed one more cloud back-up solution or not. Exactly how many layers of redundancy are really needed to feel absolutely protected from any and all catastrophes that may strike? I’d say that the answer would be less then 4 online and 5 local backups, wouldn’t you?
I was considering going over each individual backup solution and when it backed up, but this blog post would turn into a short story and you would be sleeping before I made it thru my local backup schedule. So let’s just look at my general workflow. On both Macs I use four different methods to back up, but some methods use several redundant applications.
The first method of backup I use is cloning. Carbon Copy Cloner and Super Duper are my weapons of choice. In case a hard drive crashes, the simplest method to get back up and running again is from a cloned hard drive. Sometimes you only need folders or files rather then the whole drive. That’s where the second method comes into play.
The second method I use is a simple folder sync or folder backup. Clickfree, Arq, ChronoSync and Time Capsule are the backup methods I’m currently using. This method basically takes my most important folders such as documents, music, photos, etc. and syncs them or backs them up to an external drive or a secondary drive in my main Mac. It’s a faster method of backing up and restoring specific files or folders when the time comes.
The third method I use is a cloud backup solution. I use Amazon S3, Backjack and Carbonite as my three cloud solutions. I just installed and started working with Blackjack and I’ve been using Carbonite for the last six months and have been very happy with it. Amazon S3 is another animal all together. You need a third party application to handle the backup and for that job I use Arq. Some apps such as Arq can be used for both cloud and external drive backup.
The final method of backup is rather new, it’s more of a hybrid then a straight backup. Most of us will use MobileMe or Dropbox for this type of backup. It really syncs important data from different computers to an online hub and then back to different computers. Whether it’s documents, bookmarks or application preferences, you can keep all your Macs talking to each other and sharing information with either Dropbox or MobileMe. I find that once this method is implemented it’s the most convenient by far.
Then there is the subject of backing up my Gmail account. All 5.795 gigs of it. I forward all emails from my Gmail account to a private Google groups account I started. All emails are stored in the Google groups folder. I also download all email to my Mac Pro via Apple Mail and then store all the email on a backup drive, which gets backed up to several places with a great little application we’ve talked about before, MailSteward.
So what constitutes “Over-Backed-Up”? If you walk into my home office anytime between midnight and 5 AM, 7 days a week, you’ll find hard drive lights flashing, router lights flickering, and you can hear drives whirling. For many hours every evening my Mac Pro burns CPU cycle after CPU cycle backing up data. The same goes for my MBP at the office. I literally can find any file in my document folder, for example, in 4 different drives on my network or 3 online storages. I think 7 copies of a file that’s not a government secret is overkill. What is a safe backup strategy? There is no exact answer, but I think that everyone should have their important files backed-up to a local disk, an off-site disk, and an online site. I also still think I’m a little “Over-Backed-Up”.