My Backup Strategy
In honor of World Backup Day, I thought I would share how I have my data backed up. Since I am not a huge audiophile and have yet to archive my video viewing, the data I need to backup are family photos, personal and financial documents and projects, both past and current.
In general, my backup plan involves three stages: a local working copy, an onsite backup and an offsite backup. Additionally, I use some third party services for additional redundancy in certain areas.
Local Working Copy
The first phase in my backup plan isn’t really a backup at all, rather it is the main hard drive on my Mac. Technically, this isn’t a backup, but it’s worth mentioning because it is where I initially assemble my photo collections and work on current projects. Barring an unforeseen failure, my Mac is where the most up to date versions of my files are. However, the Mac is also the most at risk for failure since it is used the most, for a variety of tasks and it’s also a portable device.
For the second level (the first of actual backup) I have a 2TB Western Digital My Book external hard drive set to receive hourly Time Machine backups. This will record only changed files after the initial backup, providing versioning for my files while not taking up a huge amount of space.
On this drive I backup all of my documents, photos, videos, projects and any applications that would be irreplaceable. My Mac has a 500GB hard drive, so the Western Digital can hold up to 4 times that capacity, which should outlast the actual lifetime of the drive.
I have decided to stick with Time Machine backups rather than opting for a complete backup solution such as SuperDuper. Although SuperDuper would give me a complete and bootable backup in the case of failure, I’m not convinced that I need to backup the whole drive. All of my data and irreplaceable items are sufficient plus the versioning aspect of Time Machine may be useful.
Offsite backup is advisable, since a catastrophic event at your home or office could potentially destroy your working copy and onsite backup at the same time. For my offsite backup I use Carbonite which gives you unlimited storage for arround $60 per year.
In Carbonite, I store all of my projects, documents and family photos. Anything that I could not bear to lose is backed up there. I do not backup any music or other entertainment related files or anything that can be easily replaced elsewhere since I would only expect to need this backup in an extreme case.
Offsite backup is not a set it and forget it solution. You shouldn’t need to be constantly making adjustments, but you can’t just take if for granted that the backup is still running. I recommend checking on a regular basis to make sure that the backup is still running and that your files are actually available from the service. Nothing would be worse than needing this backup only to find that is hasn’t been running for the last six months.
Third Party Services
In addition to the other more standard levels of backup, I also use a few third party services to provide an extra bit of redundancy in particular areas.
Dropbox I use Dropbox to store many project related items as well as settings for many of my apps. For example, I store my TextExpander snippets in Dropbox, so not only can I share them across devices, I can also quickly restore them in case I needed to back up. I also store an encrypted 1Password database there, so if I were to lose everything I still can access all of my accounts and my license keys for restoring lost software.
GitHub As of now, all of the projects I work on are stored in a Git repository and stored on GitHub. Not only does this provide source control and versioning, but it provides an extra level of backup for items that could be potentially devastating to lose.
iCloud I use iCloud as a short term storage for the latest photos I have taken with my iPhone. If I were to lose my phone while on vacation, for instance, I would still have access to all of the photos I took when I got back.
There may be ways to become even more backed up, but for now I think that this setup has me pretty well covered. If you have any additional suggestions for me, please let me know via Twitter @johnegraham2