The Best Insurance: Backup

by Derrick Story

I was just reading about the rumored Disney Insurance Plan for Lost episodes. The timing of this story is interesting, having just spent a big part of my holiday shoring up my backup strategy so that my pictures, movies, music, and text are protected against hard drive crashes and laptop theft.

In short, a good archiving plan is the best insurance of all. We've covered this on Mac DevCenter, with articles such as Automated Backups on Tiger Using rsync and Web Apps with Tiger: Backups and Speed. I've also written about Apple's current solution: How to Set Up Backup 3 and Save Your Data.

Yes, I'm all for creative business approaches such as the plan Disney may be offering for Lost viewers. But the best insurance is a well-planned and vigilantly maintained backup strategy.

So, that leads me to wonder... how are you backing up your stuff?


2005-11-28 09:24:14
I use rsyncX. Great utility that makes making bootable backups a breeze.

I back up my iTunes library to DVD. I have a smart playlist that keeps track of items I have added after a certain date. I simply burn this playlist and reset the date.

Every Friday I do a full bootable backup to an external drive using RsyncX.

Any other files I absolutely don't want to lose are on my iDisk or a USB flash drive.

2005-11-28 12:31:00
I use SuperDuper! The just-released version 2.0 now has scheduling included. Easy user-interface, great support, fast backups. Highly recommended.

2005-11-28 17:43:34
I use the Perl script psync and a cron job to backup my home folder to an external storage every night.

The external storage consists of two identical FireWire drives in an enclosure. Another script mirrors the content of the first drive onto the second every night as well. I think this is more reliable than a RAID1.

psync is nice because:
- it's free
- it's a Perl script, so it survives system upgrades etc. unscathed
- it's a Perl script, so the user can modify it to his own taste

2005-11-28 18:40:31
My Backup Software
rsnapshot -

Free, extremely configurable, does incremental backups, a real backup solution for sysadmins and users in general.

2005-11-28 19:20:58
Ditto ! :-)
2005-11-29 00:51:32
Boot and braces
Current text files I'm working on to iDisk and to a folder on the other partition on my 12" PowerBook using Backup. All fresh digital media (sound & photos) to my LaCie mobile drive using SuperDuper! All partitions backed up to the LaCie weekly with SD! When I'm on the road & can't get a connection, backup up current files to my iPod 30gig as well as the mobile.

However, on returning from a recent two weeker in Germany I discovered I'd been backing up the wrong file for the previous fourteen days. This file was my current novel for NaNoWriMo and had a filename similar to a defunct file elsewhere on the disk! Even with Boot & Braces strategies the brain needs to click in too!

2005-11-29 01:51:31
Full bore
Having spent a lot of time designing and running backup services in the enterprise (and having been bitten peraonlly several times by hard disk crashes), I've invested in a relatively heavy duty backup solution.

I have a reasonably current PC (Shuttle bare bones system) that was originally destined for a media server in the living room. Unfortunately, even the shuttle is too large to shoehorn elegantly into the space available and it's too damn loud to leave on. So it got a new lease on life as a dedicated backup server running Retrospect. Installed a wireless card and a 250Gb drive, stuck it in the attic so in the event of burglary it's not sitting next to the rest of the equipment. 802.11g is just barely fast enough but it does the job.

Retrospect's proactive backup mode is ideal for a hands off backup solution since it backs up machines as they become available and it's happily backing up my portable, the cube and my wife's PC portable. The key function here is that it's self managing. I don't have to worry about events that run at a particular time or date and whether the machine is on the network or that I'm logged into the correct account.

I backup everything to a disk storageset and keep three generations of backups so I can roll back in an emergency.

The current catch is that even 250Gb is not really enough these days (especially with me obsessively cataloging the iTunes library and adding artwork).

The only missing piece is two external drives slated for purchase next year that will let me rotate an offsite copy so I'm waiting for the 500Gb external drives to drop in price. Again, the proactive backup will allow me to swap in a drive and it will dynamically backup to the storageset(s) that are available so there's zero administration (other than checking the logs and emailed reports).

Lessons learned from my experience with backup solutions:
1. If it involves work it won't get done
2. If it runs on a particular schedule, it will break eventually

2005-11-30 01:01:12
2005-11-30 10:22:24
Yep: great app. It rocks!