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World Backup Day

As March 31st is World Backup Day (who decides these things?) it is time for my annual post about backups.

Computers, hard drives and other storage media can and do fail. It is more a question of when they will fail than if they will fail. Thus, it is essential that you have a viable backup plan.

Here are some recommendations:

  1. Set up an automated backup system with an external hard drive or other storage device (both Windows and Mac come with rudimentary backup programs that will do the job)
  1. Ideally you will use multiple hard drives and rotate between them so you do not have a single point of failure. Keep one of those hard drives in a different physical location than your main backup. In my case I keep one hard drive at home and one at the office.
  2. Keep both incremental backups (which allow you to return to multiple previous versions) and a clone of your hard drive (which allows you to return to work very quickly).
  3. I also use cloud based storage for crucial files. I use Dropbox but there are many different options out there. I also use box and iCloud but have found Dropbox to be the most seamless and robust of the solutions. If you would like to try Dropbox you can sign up and get a small amount of space for FREE with the use of this link. FULL DISCLOSURE: I will also get extra space if you use this link so you may want to consider asking for a referral link from family and friends.
  4. The World Backup Day site has a variety of deals on software and hardware for your backup needs.

Use which ever system works for you, but for your own sake, please don’t rely on a single copy of your data. Backup. Backup. Backup.


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15 thoughts on “World Backup Day

  1. So, are you saying we should backup our data? (just kidding)

    I was missing the “rotate backup drives step”, even though I have extra portable drives. Must look into how Time Machine would handle this. Guy at Apple Store suggested I look into Carbonite — essential files backed up to Cloud automatically for $60/year. Also Time Capsule @ $300 is tempting b/c it is automatic, but not so good for someone who moves around a lot.

    I think the lesson I learned is, when I go on a trip, leave one fresh backup disk behind and take one with me.

    And, of course re-think what belongs in the cloud.

  2. There are a number of these online services. Another one that has been recommended to me is called Crashplan. Crashplan may be worth looking into because, if I remember correctly, it allows you to backup between two locations you control for free.

    Time Capsule is automatic but if you just plug a blank HD into your Mac it will ask you if you want to make it a Time Machine backup. From there it is pretty much automatic. With Mountain Lion it even recognizes multiple drives.

    • Am checking out Crashplan now.

      • Please let me know what you think

      • Hi Mark, I’m at the Apple Store – Biltmore Phoenix. Turns out cloning a Time-Machine Portable HD is almost an impossible task — but I think my daughter Rebecca pulled it off. I’m thinking Carbon Copy Cloner next time.

        Carbonite vs. Crashplan:


        “Whether you choose Carbonite or CrashPlan is really going to depend on the type of computer user you are. Carbonite, while not as user friendly as Backblaze, is easy to use and runs well. If you only have one computer and want to make sure your files are safe Carbonite is a great choice. If you are installing it for someone else Carbonite makes a great choice as well.

        If you are an IT pro, have multiple computers to backup or just want to tweak everything about your computer backup then look at CrashPlan. It is cross platform, allows you to backup between computers and is slightly less expensive than Carbonite.”


        The costs are comparable. It sounds like Carbonite would be all I need. For now I’m going to try to go with the rotating backup drives approach — especially since I have at least 3 portable HDs available.


  3. I use Carbon Copy Cloner myself (in addition to Time Machine). I have it set to clone my HD every Saturday night so I can be up and running almost immediately. Mission critical files are on Dropbox so the only thing I would need to add is anything purchased or updated since the last Saturday. I should be able to get those off my Time Machine backup.

    • It never occurred to me to use Time Machine as well as Carbon Copy Cloner. Sounds like a great idea.

      Does “set it to clone” mean you attach a Portable HD to your computer Saturday evening and CCC kicks in automatically?

      • I have a single HD that is always attached to my computer. It is divided into two partitions. One is for the clone the other for Time Machine. Both Carbon Copy Cloner and Time Machine are set to do their work automatically so it is a no touch solution.

        Periodically, I poke around in both backups and check to see if they appear to look okay. I also have a program call Drive Genius that is constantly monitoring my HD for problems and notifies me if it finds anything.

        In theory it would be safer to have two different HDs but then I would have to buy another HD.

        I does sound a bit paranoid but I have not had any data loss in years (well, with the exception of data loss related to user stupidity).

      • Mark — Drop box offers 2-3 gig free (unless…) ; I understand Google Drive offers 5. Do you happen to know if you can use Google Drive to store anything or does it have to be Google docs?

  4. I have a Google Drive account and it seems to be fairly flexible in what you can store there. However, it is not as integrated into OS X and into iOS. As such, I can’t access it in all the different ways I want to.

    I also have a Skydrive account. Thus far none of the other services has the ease of use and trouble free operation of Dropbox. I think they must know that because they have not taken measures to increase their default storage or reduce their price.

  5. BallBounces on said:

    For my second attempt at recovery I asked Rebecca to make a Carbon Copy Cloner copy of my backup drive but then ship the original drive to me. The strategy is all about hedging bets and probabilities. I maximize my probability of recovery by sending the original drive while minimizing the downside risk by making a CCC backup of it first.

    My hard drive from Toronto is scheduled to arrive via FedEx on Tuesday — the same day the Catholic church begins its deliberations for a new Pope — coincidence??!! I shall be emitting either a black or white puff of smoke sometime Wednesday.

    • I will watch in anticipation of a positive outcome.

      • Hello Mark — A big puff of white intermingled with three strands of Time Machine grey —

        Problems using Time Machine (TM)

        You think if you use TM you have backed up your HD. You haven’t. What you have is a powerful warlord app that has grabbed all your stuff and will let you have it back only on its terms. Consider my problems:

        1. It would not let my daughter copy my TM backup drive — didn’t have “permissions”. Had to use CCC as a work-around. Cost me a week.

        2. When backup disk arrived, TM on my Mac did not recognize it as a TM drive. So, I said, “make this my TM drive”. It started to do a backup onto the drive, potentially erasing my data! I stopped that, but tried, tried, could not grab any of the old data. I fled to the Apple store in a panic.

        They erased the “me” I had created on my “new” Mac (the old Mac with a new HD), and created a new user called “Apple”. Then, using “Apple”, they launched Migration Assistant, which recognized the TM drive, and recreated “me”, my former UserID, and all the files, apps, etc. Beautiful — did it perfectly, flawlessly.

        ** What I should have done right there and then was a complete backup of everything onto a new backup drive. **

        3. Instead, I fiddled with Dropbox, messed up and ended up deleting some Tyndale files including my ch3 (gasp). So, I went back to my TM disk. It would not allow the re-created “Ricardo” to access the old “Ricardo’s” data, even though it had just given it all to me!

        The Apple guy over-rode permissions to let me grab the data, and then informed me in doing so he had corrupted the TM backup disk and it would have to be destroyed and re-created b/4 I left the store! In fact, I grabbed the data and then fled the store. The files I recovered all make me enter a password if I want to move them around, etc. (I think I have a work-around for this: use the file to make a Pages Template and then make a file from the template.)

        [In fairness to TM, rather than over-riding permissions and corrupting the file we could have wiped everything we had just done, started all over again with Migration Assistant, re-done 3 hours of work, and TM would have re-created a restored, fresh version of “Ricardo”. Still… ]

        So, you have to think of TM not as a backup drive but as a proprietary app that appropriates your data and doles it back out to you on its terms.

        I am going to use Carbon Copy Cloner to do straight, dumb backups of my data as well as TM from now on.

      • Yikes!

        The password thing is a permission problem. If you go back to the Apple store they should be able to fix that for you.

        If you want to get a big picture of backing up here is the book that most influenced my thinking on the subject:

        Hopefully your grief is nearing its end.

      • “The password thing is a permission problem. If you go back to the Apple store they should be able to fix that for you”.

        You would think so. But, apparently not. It happened the first time ’round as well, when I tried to use the kludge disk my daughter had created and they said the permissions issue was embedded way too deep for them to touch it. There response at the time was, “get the Time Machine backup and everything will work fine”.

        Thanks for the book lead.

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