Backing Up Is So Hard to Do

by Matthew Bookspan Jul 03, 2007

Lately, I have been on a mission to get folks to use backup software. It amazes me how so many folks who use PCs or Macs for their personal/professional systems don’t back up their data to ensure their livelihood.

This is even more apparent for those I know who use their machines for personal/small businesses. At the Bookspan house, we have some interesting backup solutions. Maybe I am paranoid, maybe I am smart, or maybe I just don’t like losing data.

In my house, we have three Macs. Two are personal MacBooks (my wife’s and mine) and one is my professional Mac—the MacBook Pro. My MB Pro has a backup system in the office, so I won’t discuss it here.

However, the personal MacBooks are another story. When we purchased these machines last summer, I realized we needed a backup system that we could both leverage. Many folks I know recommended buying separate USB/Firewire drives. However, this is not a setup that made sense to me.

Why? Well, whenever we wanted to backup, we’d have to connect the drives and that would be a hassle (especially for my wife, who likes the freedom of WiFi). So, last September, I spent some time investigating alternatives.

My solution isn’t novel by any means, although it is purposeful. After a few weeks of investigation, I decided to purchase a Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive. There are many vendors who make NAS drives, including LaCie, Buffalo, Maxtor, and more.

Given that I wanted something unique, I went with the Maxtor option. However, I purchased a Maxtor Fusion, which integrates a web server for photo/file sharing. I’ll explain more on this in a bit.

Armed with this new NAS, I created Automator actions to ensure that the drive would mount with a simple double-click. Note: I am still working on a solution that would enable me to auto-mount the drive anytime/anywhere in the house.

Because we have .Mac accounts, we use the Backup program that shipped with the offering. We use Backup for our personal settings to the .Mac storage store as well as to backup our Home folder to the NAS.

We also store all of our music and photos on the NAS and access them via iTunes and iPhoto. iTunes manages this just fine, although syncing my iPod takes a little longer as the media files must get synced over the WiFi network (which is wireless G, not N).

iPhoto, on the other hand, performs much slower with the images on the network when compared to iTunes. I hope that iPhoto 7 resolves some of these issues by providing some type of local caching to ensure better performance for network-accessed photos.

Okay, so why the Maxtor Fusion and its available web server? I was tired of using external web services (Yahoo Pictures, etc.) to store/share my photos. I want control of my data and I want to share it with whomever I want.

So, the Maxtor Fusion has this capability built into the product natively. Now, I can share my photos (full resolution too) with my family and friends. It is very handy indeed.

The other nice feature of the Maxtor Fusion is that it has two USB 2.0 ports on the back for additional storage or mirroring of the internal drive. This way, I can make backups of my backups.

I must admit that the one issue with my current setup is that the .Mac Backup program is pretty weak. It uses a proprietary format for backing up files. This is just broken. I thought about purchasing Retrospect, although I am just going to sit tight until Leopard arrives.

Once we have OS 10.5, everyone will have access to Time Machine. This will then provide automated backups, as well as the ability to directly access individual files. Lastly, it will support smarter incremental backups. All of this is crucial for safeguarding your data.

Okay, so how often do I backup my data? We have both daily and monthly setups depending upon the data being safeguarded. I highly recommend you do the same. Further, if you do have multiple machines, having a NAS is pretty handy. Alternatively, I would recommend a Mac Mini (if you have the spare cash).

I’d love to hear your thoughts about backup solutions. Also, if you have recommendations on how to auto-mount a NAS drive within Tiger (even upon resume/wake of a MacBook), I am listening.

Comments

  • Carbon copy cloner. Run it on Friday night before you goto bed, it’s done in the morning and you have an EXACT copy and it’s bootable.

    So the trick is use a Firewire external case with a drive that your machine uses. USB 2.0 is fine too, but IMOE it takes a bit longer. USB 1 would take all weekend.

    It only requires a second drive wether external or internal. Just make sure that second drive is as big or bigger than your current.

    It’s a 4 click operation. Click to open, click to select From drive and click to select target drive. then click to start. Easy backup.

    And when 10.5 is on your system you now have the external drive it requires.

    xwiredtva had this to say on Jul 03, 2007 Posts: 172
  • Thanks for the suggestion. However, I mentioned in my article that the solution you recommend would not work for me.

    Matthew Bookspan had this to say on Jul 03, 2007 Posts: 12
  • A big problem with the .mac backup is that it is has no automatic way of not filling your iDisk.

    It needs a way to say “let me recover anything up to a month ago - every week do a full backup, purging the oldest week”.

    Automatically.

    HowardBrazee had this to say on Jul 03, 2007 Posts: 10
  • A better solution than having a LAN backup would be to have a LAN clone.  I haven’t seen software to do this, but I want my backup to go to my old computer or my laptop.  When my main computer goes down, I pull out my backup computer and work right away.

    HowardBrazee had this to say on Jul 03, 2007 Posts: 10
  • For regular “non critical” operation, I also greatly prefer cloning. Having a bootable clone means you’re back up running within as much as a simple reboot. Backing up small / workflow files via NAS seems viable, yet the speed issue is mentioned already.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Jul 03, 2007 Posts: 371
  • “I was tired of using external web services (Yahoo Pictures, etc.) to store/share my photos. I want control of my data and I want to share it with whomever I want.”

    Mathew you did not explain how the Maxtor Fusion accomplished that goal and how this differed from services offered by Flickr, ShutterFly etc.

    Khurt Williams had this to say on Jul 03, 2007 Posts: 7
  • Island,

    Here was the follow-on:

    “So, the Maxtor Fusion has this capability built into the product natively. Now, I can share my photos (full resolution too) with my family and friends. It is very handy indeed.”

    Thus, the Maxtor has built-in web server that allows me to specify ACLs per user to share my photos or files.

    Hope this clarifies.

    Matthew Bookspan had this to say on Jul 03, 2007 Posts: 12
  • I’ve been using a service called Mozy for a few months now. It’s works well but I wouldn’t use it for backing up my entire drive. Currently I’m backing up about 3GB worth of data and it works well. One day I might get around to putting my iTunes library on it to see how well it works.

    Mozy is a service that gives you unlimited space for about $5 a month. A little program runs in the background and you configure it to backup the files that you want to save. It has Spotlight searching which makes it nice for finding specific sets of files.

    Occasionally I use Carbon Copy to make a bootable image as well.

    Also, from what I’ve read, Time Machine requires and external drive to do its magic.

    ChrisP had this to say on Jul 03, 2007 Posts: 2
  • A decent NAS which supports AFP properly (I recommend the Buffalo Link Station Pro, though I hear the LaCie supports AFP too) should not have any obvious speed issues other than those imposed by your network. NAS is a good solution if you have several Macs as it can be accessed by all and you can use secured account shares if you wish.

    Personally although CCC is free and very good and I highly recommend it (especially for the single user who knows what they are doing) SuperDuper has more features and is not expensive and can easily do scheduled backups (good for the “less tech aware” family members…)

    Back up, back up and back up some more - as we become ever more reliant on “digital only” media then the risk of loss becomes greater. Without backups a serious data loss could be catastrophic - all your pictures and music and videos… never mind the correspondence and all the rest of the stuff!

    Soon I suspect many of us will be paying “off site data storage” bills the same as we pay house insurance - or maybe an enlightened insurer will get the idea that including such a service in their premium will win clients.. No one backs up enough (No really I mean it… SJ says only 4% of [home] users really back up properly - he has to mean home users… doesn’t he? Please say he does…)

    Why do I say this? I got burgled at work about 2 years back… the hardware was irrelevant - replaced in days, but the data loss affects me even now (yes I had back ups - but at no point had I bargained on someone taking the main working Mac, the backup Mac, the external failsafe drive AND the not yet archived to “hard media” archive… And because they struck at Xmas guess what? We got hit just before the archive got duplicated to multiple on off"hard media” archives - Oh boy, how long have I regretted that “after the holiday” decision?!?

    Back it up and back it up now! If it is “irreplaceable” store it on DVD and make a reciprocal agreement with a sibling or someone you trust to keep a copy for you too (put it in encrypted password protected disk images if you are paranoid) but do it - really, I mean it.

    Serenak had this to say on Jul 03, 2007 Posts: 26
  • CaptnJack,

    I was curious if you could make a recommendation to me for types of enclosures and OWC hard drives.  For instance, I noticed there is a 2.5 laptop hard drive enclosure and a 3.5 internal drive enclosure.  As far as hard drives are concerned, do I need to get a 2.5 or 3.5 drive from OWC?  SATA or IDE or are they the same?  For instance, I was looking at this drive:
    http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Maxtor/7H500F0/

    I use a MacBook Pro.  I work with a lot of digital audio. 

    Lastly, I’m assuming you just need one enclosure and then you can buy multiple drives cheaply and store them in a filing cabinet or something.  Right?

    Thanks!
    Chris Schopmeyer

    Schop had this to say on Jul 05, 2007 Posts: 2
  • MATTHEW:
    Will you post tips or links to get that automator script.  Also, if you have any resources on how to use Automator.  I’ve yet to find it intuitive to help me do anything useful. I always fall back on QuicKeys. 

    Thanks,
    Schop

    Schop had this to say on Jul 05, 2007 Posts: 2
  • I need to backup my projects, but until a major disaster happens to my computer(earthquake, house fire, etc) I will probably never back my stuff up unless I get ALOT of spare time. People have to be motivated enough to take these extra precautions, and to most people, it would only be a pain in the butt if their computer had a melt down.

    Gravel had this to say on Jul 07, 2007 Posts: 1
  • Maybe you should have a look at Kenbushi too (http://www.lavasoftware.com). It offers some powerful backup features including multi-destination backups, in addition to being a very good media center (it’s designed to be used as a home server). It works on MacOS and Windows too, in a cross-platform setup.

    MikeW had this to say on Jul 08, 2007 Posts: 1
  • Your house could be compared to a data center San Diego, taking in consideration the backup system you have for your files. I understand your worry and the fact that you want to make things easy for your wife, but the NAS system you mention here can prove to be quite expensive for some folks.

    annekingsy had this to say on Oct 15, 2011 Posts: 22
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