System Back-ups

In entry My Mac Let Me Down (Sort of), I talked about a hard drive crash on my PowerBook G4. It has taken me months, with no good excuse, to “report on my progress” and share some ideas.

As I stated in the previous blog on the subject, I do regular back-ups. I did not regularly back-up my applications (added programs), but I did know my short-list of “must have” additional applications, so it was not a problem to reinstall them. And anything I forgot would be remembered when I tried to use it. And anything else, I did not realy “need.”

That scheme proved to work very well. I asked for other ideas. Here’s a few thoughts from my friend David Strom.
I save all of my data into a folder for a particular year, I guess that is how I think of what I create. Anything that persists from year to year, like my QuickBooks, I just move it to the new year’s folder. Or I have it online.

Having two HDDs makes it easier to duplicate everything with SuperDuper!” [The ‘!’ is part of the product name.] This way I have two bootable drives, in case of failure of one of them. Run the pgm every day or other day, depending on how often your content changes. In my case, not much changes and it takes maybe 10 mins to do an incremental backup. SuperDuper! can be set to just do the increments.

Then once a week I do a backup of the current year’s data to a CD-R. I don’t need much more than that, but you might.

Then once every 60 days or so I bring up the external drive from my basement and do an incremental on SuperDuper!, again, so I have a bootable drive that is in another location.

My most important data is my contacts list and I maintain that on Gmail in two different accounts. Still working on getting that backed up. Gmail has very primitive tools for contacts backup.

Thanks, David.

Okay, so some of you are thinking “Wow. David is really, really paranoid.” (Or you are thinking something less polite.) But, if you have ever lost precious photos, critical emails, or irreplaceable files of any kind, you have some kind of sense that some back-up scheme is necessary. I’ve not yet done everything David does. I’ve started by using an external firewire drive with SuperDuper!. Every once in a while when I remember (!) I dump all my photos to a DVD-R and put them in my safe deposit box. I’d back-up to one of my Internet servers, but need to come up with a plan to do this gradually.

I do not have an automated process. I have to remember to do this. I do remember, though. I plug my Lacie firewire drive in and turn it on. The partitions on this portable drive show up. Each partition is 60G—each large enough to hold all the information on my 60G boot drive. I configured each to be bootable. (Actually, one of the four partitions is slightly smaller. I named this “Archive” and to it I manually copy things I don’t need to regularly back-up.For example, I have my photo archive there. I created it from iPhoto as another Library. I may someday do something similar for iTunes.) I then run SuperDuper! in “incremental back-up” mode, which they call “Smart Update.” Interesting (I think) side note. Someone at work (JHU APL) had a similar disk problem as I described in this entry. She lost some things she wished she hadn’t. Back-ups? Never. I asked around. Mostly it was guys that did back-ups and women that did not. (Of course, APL systems are backed-up by the IT department over the network on a regular basis; I am talking about home systems.)

So, I (almost) daily back up my entire disk using SuperDuper!. I switch between using two different partitions. A third I will use on which to install Leopard. Eventually. (SuperDuper! does not yet work with Leopard.) I am seriously thinking of backing up over the Internet next. Somehow. But, automatically.

Here are a couple of Mac-specific items I found in my searching.
My own personal “Mac Genius”—because he’s a friend—Kevin Long told me how he backs-up.
My backup needs are satisfied by Leopard’s Time Machine (which is as slick as the rumors claim) and .mac. Time Machine does incremental backups every hour. The initial sync takes a long time, as you might expect, but subsequent syncs have occurred without my noticing. (In fact, I’ve checked the Time Machine System Preference to make sure they’ve taken place.) Large, frequently-modified files like Entourage’s database are probably the biggest “problem” for Time Machine as it’s probably backed up during each Time Machine session. Luckily, you can choose to not back up some files via the Time Machine interface; I’d probably add the Entourage database to that list and rsync it on a regular basis instead.

For redundant backup (which includes my Yojimbo database), I also utilize .mac’s Sync application, which syncs my most important information across all my Macs and a .mac server somewhere. I also use Sync to schedule backups of larger, infrequently-accessed files like photos to CD or DVD. /blockquote>Thanks, Kevin. I suspect I’ll move to using “Time Machine” when I install Leopard.

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