Are You Backing Up?

The holidays, and related precious photo opportunities, are upon us… so it’s time for a backup public service announcement. And, unfortunately, I have a feeling most non-geeks leave their data vulnerable to loss.

The point was driven home recently, when I recovered the mother-in-law’s PC – containing thousands of irreplaceable photos, including a trip to China and her son’s wedding. After numerous attempts, the XP machine wouldn’t boot into Windows. Which is when I was called in. I figured either the install had been corrupted or the hard drive was failing. Since the drive was still functional, the first order of business was ensuring the safety of her priceless data. I popped the SATA drive into an external dock (above, ran me about $35 at Micro Center) and offloaded her content onto my Macbook. Then I went about restoring XP (on the same drive), followed by her files. And left her with a backup DVD. However, it’s just a stop-gap… and folks need a more comprehensive archive strategy.

Ideally, data is backed up both locally (convenience) and remotely (redundancy). Apple attempts to bring simple, seamless local archiving and restoration to the masses with Time Machine. While a Time Capsule is probably the easiest implementation for novices avoiding clutter, I periodically hang a 750GB Maxtor One Touch 4 off my MacBook via USB. In the days when Windows was my primary OS, I relied on Acronis True Image for disk images and incremental backups. My main Vista install is a Boot Camp partition, and I’ve used the free Winclone to take a baseline image that I can rebuild from should the need arrive. For remote storage, I was a Mozy customer for some time… But have since moved on to SugarSync. While it’s not quite the Mozy+Mac Gallery+Dropbox über solution I was hoping for, they’re off to a good start – I’m willing to give them some time to refine and and enhance their service. (Neither of these cloud storage services would be appropriate if your ISP restricts you to a low data transfer cap.)

So, are you backing up… If so, how? If not, why? And standby for a post by Dale on his Drobo RAID-like storage usage.

18 thoughts on “Are You Backing Up?”

  1. Ugh. I am past due for a back-up. I’ll do one to our external hard drive before CES, and most of my photos are effectively backed up via Snapfish. But I admit to not having things backed up the way I should. Mozy time?

  2. I have been using the Mozy for a little over a year now. I like it alot and it came in handy when I built a new computer. Also saved me a couple of times when I accidentally deleted some files. I got them back as quick as a bunny from the Mozy.

  3. I feel the need to mention Windows Home Server as a viable Windows backup model. I can’t recommend it enough for PC households. It has saved my butt on several occasions and the price recently dropped which makes it a good gift idea for any last minute shopping.

  4. Time Machine! It has made backups something I don’t even think about.

    After Christmas I will be adding a second drive which I will bring off site after backups. The goal being a monthly offsite backup.

  5. On my server ( I have RAID1 boot and storage drives. One is 150 GB Raptors and the other 1 TB WD Green drives. I then have a USB/eSATA encolsure to back those two up to a 1.5 TB Seagate. I then use Complete PC backup in Server 2008 and Vista to create recovery .vhd files in case of catastrophic failure. I still don’t have off site but I keep getting better.

  6. I use Time Machine and then make weekly backups using SuperDuper to an external drive that’s encrypted and I keep at work (for an offsite backup).

  7. A few months ago, I realized that my data are far more valuable than the computers. A computer can be replaced but personal and financial data may be impossible to replace. Now, there are three kinds of risks: theft, fire/natural disasters, and computer failure. RAID is great but it only protects you against computer failure. If you want to protect against all cases, you need offsite backup.

    I’ve looked at online backup but it’s relatively slow and expensive. But it’s not expensive to purchase two external drives and rotate them offsite. I keep one in my desk at work and the other at home; I update the one at home and then swap it with the drive at work. Voila, now I’m protected against virtually anything. And if I’m worried about my data getting stolen from my desk, I can simply encrypt the data or the drive.

    I also use an Apple Time Capsule, but that’s for protecting me against stupid human errors – like deleting a file by accident.

  8. I use Time Machine with a pair of 500GB WD drives that are mirrored together. Works great … though when I can afford a drobo I would love to get one.

  9. I now only backup my data, not my installations. I use Jungledisk which utilizes the Amazon S3 services. Mostly, I am backing up digital pictures and a few small files. They are backed up automatically every single night (just the changes) and I don’t worry much about it. Total cost for about 35GB of pictures is $5 a month, which is dirt cheap IMHO.

    I don’t bother to back up the machine installations because I believe it takes me more time to configure and maintain a backup system than it does to just reinstall in the very rare instance of a hard drive failure. So, my recovery time is longer, but my backup time for machines is basically zero.

    I said I don’t backup machine installs, but there is one machine I make an exception for and that is my work laptop. I keep no data on the laptop (so there is nothing to lose if lost or stolen), however, recovery speed in the event of a failure or loss is very important to me. I take weekly TimeMachine backups of the machine.

  10. Kit bashed a windows home server for about $200 bucks and strapped 3T for a pennies. It works well for the whole house, especialy the windows boxes. Also acts as a good data server for the xboxes and every thing else.

  11. For my photography data:
    I use a FW800 1TB drive for primary storage, when photos are imported off CF, one copy goes to primary and one goes to backup storage. Then once a month I bring home from work a third naked disk which I plop into the dock in your picture and use it to mirror the backup storage. CCC automatically remembers what to do when the offsite drive is mounted and does an incremental backup since the last monthly backup. So I have 3 copies of pictures. OS and temp files use a FW800 timemachine backup.
    For the rest:
    I do the same thing for video and digital scrapbook drives, but there is no onsite backup, just the offsite drives.
    Other computers in the house which don’t house any truely critical data just use Time machine with 1TB Time Capsule.

  12. currently using a drobo for all data storage for networked media, with SyncToy backing up all my files each night to drobo from my main drive. i use a small flash drive to back up extremely critical data and keep that in a safe deposit box.

  13. I use mozy for my online backups.

    while on the subject of photo backups, lets not neglect our photo albums. How many peoples lifetime collection of photos has been lost in a flood or fire. That’s why over the summer I scanned in all my photos and then put them on picasa.

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