Did You Backup Today?

So this morning I had a grand plans to get lots of writing done, drink tea, and recover from my cold. I sat down at the iMac and worked for about 30 minutes when, while I was away from my desk, everything froze. The iMac was locked up and not going anywhere so I rebooted and was greeted by this friendly icon.

Suddenly my Mac wasn’t sure what happened to the start-up volume. That’s bad. After trying a few times, and getting nowhere, I plugged in yesterday’s automated SuperDuper backup and rebooted from it (holding down the ‘C’ key). Everything booted fine from the clone. I then opened disk utility and discovered my internal disc was gone. Just like that. Working one moment, dead the next. Because I am nutty about backing up, this drive failure was a non-event for me. I took the iMac into the Apple Store and it will have a new drive in a few days. There are no lost pictures or destroyed family video. In fact, there aren’t even any lost pointless, yammering, text files. My latest backup was just an hour before the drive cooked itself.

So my question to you is: If your drive failed right now, how would you feel about it?

Blown up hard drive picture courtesy of PC Tech Notes.

Time Capsule Recovery … 34 Gigs … Check!


I’ve had a few readers email me following up about my over-air time capsule recovery of my cratered Aperture library (all 34 gigs of it). These emails fall into two general categories:
1. Friendly questions about whether you can actually recover a 34 gigabyte file over the air, and;
2. Indignant outrage at why on earth I would do such a thing. These emails also include questions about whether I have a lick of common sense.
So just to keep the answers simple …
To group #1: Yes, you can. On an “N” network it takes about a day.
To group #2: You are probably right. I could have done it over ethernet cable but I just wanted to see if it was possible without it. Call it, “taking one for the team.”
Everything came back fine and things are happily backed up again not only on the Time Capsule but the SuperDuper external drive too.

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How is Your Backup?


A few weeks ago I was at the Apple Store and witnessed this young woman in tears. She had all of her high school and college pictures on her aging Mac and the drive failed. She didn’t have a backup and while the Apple gang was doing their best to recover it, they weren’t getting very far. I felt terrible for her.
Then just a few days ago the external drive holding our 200 gigs of iTunes music and movies died. The drive (LaCie) was just 18 months old and gave me no warning. Fortunately, I had backed it up just a few weeks ago so we didn’t lose much but these events reminded me just how important it is to make copies of your data. I wrote about my backup plan a while back and the regimen hasn’t changed much. How are you doing on your back ups?

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Even Geeky Mac Guys Can Screw Up Backups

Crashed pictures.jpg

So today was Palm Sunday and my daughter sang in the church choir. It was a sunny day here in Orange County and I got some great photos not only of my daughter but also some of the gardens. So I was merrily cropping, tweaking, and rating while doing about seven other things on my MacBook Pro and managed to grind Aperture to a grinding halt.
I don’t know how I did it. I don’t know if it was Aperture or me, but the whole process cratered. I restarted and my Aperture library was completely torched. I could see pictures but not move them or use them. Moreover, the newest ones were garbled beyond all recognition. To add insult to injury, I had already wiped the memory card. After monkeying with it for an hour I finally surrendered and reloaded the last night’s version of the Aperture library (Thank you TimeCapsule) and everything is right but this morning’s pictures are gone. Don’t you just hate that feeling when you realize you’ve lost irreplaceable data? You’ll just have to trust me that they were fantastic pictures. In fact, now that they are gone I am already remembering them as much better than they actually were.
Anyway, I have to admit this is the first time in years that I lost something I hadn’t backed up. Just goes to show you can never be too careful on these things. For now on, the memory card does not get erased until the RAW photos are in two places. Live and learn.

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OS X Backup Strategies


I’ve had several people ask me about backup strategies lately so I thought I’d share a post about my ideas on the subject. A backup plan doesn’t need to be complicated. With some of the new tools available it doesn’t even have to be expensive. It just needs to follow a few simple rules.

1. Keep it Simple.

The more complex you make your backup plan, the less likely you are to follow it. Complexity used to be a requisite of a backup strategy. Thankfully that is not true any more.

2. One Backup is Quaint, Two Backups are Secure.

If you have your data backed up in one place you are “probably” okay. However there are a variety of circumstances that may cause one backup to be one too few. For instance, what if:
* You have a power surge that blows out your computer and your backup drive;
* A thief steals your computer and the shiny Western Digital box sitting next to it;
* Your computer fails and unbeknownst to you, your backup drive has been broken for several months?
That last one happened to a friend of mine. He lost five years worth of family photos. So having two backups in two different places is probably a good idea. If you don’t have a choice and only have one backup drive, I recommend you don’t keep it plugged in and store it somewhere else in your home.

My Backup Plan

My backup plan uses three external hard drives. I could pull it off with two but I happen to have an extra drive and I am a bit irrational when it comes to backups. So, anyway, my backup gear is …
1. a 1TB Western Digital MyBook with Firewire 800;
2. a 500GB Western Digital USB 2.0 Drive;
3. a 320GB Lacie USB 2.0 Drive.
My plan involves a combination of Carbon Copy Cloner and Time Machine. I was a happy user of SuperDuper but I’m still waiting for them to release a Leopard version. So my strategy is to keep it simple and keep in two places so what I do is this:

At Home …

I keep the 1TB and 320GB home on my desk. The 1TB drive holds my Time Machine drive and other miscellaneous stuff that doesn’t get copied in Time Machine like my Parallels folder, Aperture library, and a few other oversized files. The 320GB is used for my clone image whether it be Carbon Copy Cloner or (hopefully soon) SuperDuper. I do the clone a few times a week. Now I know 320GB is a lot for a clone drive. But if everything goes according to plan … I just may need that space soon. More to come on that later.

At Work …

The 500GB drive stays at my office and also holds a clone of my drive plus other miscellaneous media. The clone gets run a few times a week. Often I’ll set it to copy before heading off to lunch or a long meeting.
That is it. Simple system + multiple locations = Backup mojo.
So that is the heavy lifting of my backup plan. There are a few extra wrinkles however. For instance, I use my iDisk to keep copies of my essential documents. I know keeping it synced requires a nice chunk of hard drive space but I’m okay with that. I also store some files in the cloud in other places (Mozy is a good solution), and often carry copies of my most recent stuff on a 2GB thumb stick. I don’t do any backups to CD or DVD. It reminds me too much of the bad old days and boxes of floppies.
Let me know your plan or share it in the comments.

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Mozy No More

Mozy Logo

Well my month long experiment of the Mozy service is concluded. Over the course of about a week I was able to upload a lot of my document files and my 10gb iPhoto library. The thought of spending a month uploading my 40gb iTunes library makes my brain hurt. I can see the benefit of online storage but I’m not sold. Instead of renewing I spent $80 on a USB hard drive that I keep in a secure location away from my home.
Mozy in summary:
1. $5 a month, unlimited storage
2. Offsite
3. Presumably Secure Services
1. SSSLLLOOOWWWWW Upload (1 week for 12gb)
2. How secure is my personal data once I send it out into the ether?

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