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Posted on Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Dave!The harsh reality of the Computer Age is that your life is in constant danger. Well, the life that you store on your computer anyway. Your music, your photos, your movies, your work, your writing... it can all disappear in an instant. All it takes is a hard drive crash or theft or fire or an errant sledge hammer and it's all gone.

Thus, we develop backup strategies to keep our digital lives safe. For me this involves several levels of protection.

My first line of defence is Apple's Time Capsule device, which is constantly and wirelessly backing up all the data from my desktop and laptop Macs...

Apple Time Capsule

It's a great system, and has saved my bacon more times than I can count. Not just with lost data, but with recovering old versions of documents I need. The problem is that my first Time Capsule died, taking all my backups with it. Apple promptly replaced it, but the paranoia of losing everything AND losing my backup has caused me to go to extraordinary measures.

So now I am using a couple of old external LaCie Porsche drives I had collecting dust on a shelf to make a backup of my backup...

LaCie Porsche Drive

Except the drives are old. Reliable, but old. So I'm using a couple of newer Western Digital"MyBook" drives to backup the backup of my backup and store them off-site...

My Book Drive

It's a good strategy, but still doesn't seem sufficient. So now I'm storing my most critical files in The Cloud on Amazon's S3 Internet Storage System. Unlike other online backup strategies like "Mozy" or "Carbonite" where your "unlimited" storage is tied to a single computer, Amazon lets you put any files from anywhere on their servers. Sure it costs more, but at least it's backup on my own terms.

And yet... I am still paranoid.

Categories: Internets 2010Click To It: Permalink


  1. A. Lewis says:

    Can’t we just go out and eat some delicious food and have a drink instead?? I mean, it’s a whole lot more fun that this crap…..

  2. I’m just as paranoid. Even worse: I have one of my backup drives on it’s own battery backup, just in case…. Granted, when the power goes off forever, I guess none of it will really matter any longer.

  3. Alexander says:

    Now you’ve got me all paranoid.

  4. John says:

    I know the feeling…sometimes I wonder if I should get physical prints of the binary code on my hard drive and store them in a fire safe. Then again…that may take 10 fire safes. Maybe those nice people at the Long Now Foundation who etch a “Rosetta stone” of every language in the world on a 3-inch nickel disc encased in an enclosure designed to last thousands of years do custom jobs for paranoid data backups?

  5. Sheila says:

    I have that exact same Western Digital ‘My Book’ that is pictured. It just died yesterday. All my photos and music is stuck on there… I was smart enough to back everything up, but not smart enough to know how to get it off of WD’s book. Great, huh?

  6. Yeah, I just had a similar paranoia strike and signed up for a MobileMe account, which I’m sure will prove worthless… But hey, I’m dumb, and that’s how it goes.

  7. i was robbed in july. thankfully they only took cash and left my laptop. i almost threw up when i realized all that is on that machine. made me carry my laptop EVEERYWHERE for weeks until i got over myself. i love that you have 112 backups. you make me smile.

  8. martymankins says:

    You’ve always got to have at least 2 backup solutions. For now, mine is both Time Machine and a once a month full clone of my MacBook Pro drive using Carbon Copy Cloner. I’ve only needed it once, but the peace of mind to know it’s there for that “just in case” time, it’s so worth it.

    I’m getting ready to upgrade my backup solution with a Drobo. Starting off with the basic 4-drive box filled with 2Tb SATA drives then partitioning it 3 ways: Time Machine, Carbon Copy Cloner and for all my data. Then will have my externals to use for those extra off site backups.

    • Dave2 says:

      I was going to go the Drobo FS route, but went to a photography forum and was inundated with Drobo-hate. Apparently, there are a LOT of problems with the Drobo (particularly with Mac), and once your data is locked into their proprietary format, recovery is next to impossible, and the Drobo customer service is so terrible that you will probably never get your stuff back.

      Since I am looking for a way to archive photos that I can no longer fit on my MacBook, the idea of paying over $1000 for a Drobo solution that may have a catastrophic failure for my travels and memories was just too risky. Ultimately, after much, MUCH research, I decided to go with a Western Digital MyBook RAID solution PLUS an extra MyBook (not RAID) to backup my RAID backup off-site. This gives me RAID redundancy and safety at home, plus an extra level of security with an off-site backup as well. Eventually I’d like to have a SECOND MyBook (not RAID) so I can do rotating backups off-site.

      If you do get a Drobo, I’d be very interested in hearing your experiences. From what I’ve read, the bad far outweighs the good… but, then again, people are more vocal when things go wrong!

  9. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I only have one line of defense. I back up to an external USB drive via Time Machine but that’s it. And that’s scary.

  10. Avitable says:

    I am starting to look into online backup solutions – one thing I do is upload full size versions of all my photos to Flickr, even if I keep them private – that’s a really reasonably priced way to keep photos forever.

  11. I do offsite backups every two weeks to three hard drives on a cycle (one for everything, one for data, one for photos), so always have two offsite backups. Except then I ran out of space for all my photos on the smaller disk, so as well as the cd and dvd copies I have of most photos, I’m going to need another drive. You can never have too many backups!

  12. Ren says:

    My MacBook Pro decided to finally notify me recently that it hadn’t been able to complete a Time Machine backup in 10 days (or two weeks, maybe). I’m sure it probably notified my earlier, but I get occassional hiccups so I just dismiss and figure it will work or re-notify. It never occurred to me that the “re-notify” would be after so many days.

    I’m not sure what the fundamental problem was, but I couldn’t even connect to the Time Capsule to manage it. A power cycle of the Time Capsule resolved the issue.

    I guess I should really pick up another external drive (portable, I guess) and do manual Time Machine backups to it on a weekly basis or something.

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