Back it Up or Lose It

What’s your backup strategy?

This morning, on Twitter, I read a tweet from one of the folks I follow, @SeeTTL :

RT @JCDean: PSA: Please back up your computer! My wife just went to console a friend who may have lost EVERY pic of her kids.

This sad story really hit home with me. No, not because I have kids. And not because I’ve lost the contents of a hard drive forever — despite the fact that I’ve suffered three total hard disk crashes since 1989. But because I could imagine how badly I’d feel if I’d trusted my hard disk to hold the only copies of all my photos.

As a computer user, the data you create is the only thing that can’t be replaced when lost. I’m talking about photos, diaries, accounting records, address books, original manuscripts, and more. Sure, a lot of this stuff can be recreated with some effort, but some of it can’t. Like all those photos.

The only way to protect this data from loss is to create reliable backups and, whenever possible, store them offsite, away from the computer.

Mac users have a few options for automated backups:

  • Time Machine is truly transparent. It goes to work in the background to faithfully duplicate what it finds on your hard disk. You can use it with its default settings or customize settings to limit what’s backed up. All you need is an attached hard disk or Time Machine-compatible network disk. Time Machine does the rest. Best of all, it will even keep copies of stuff you deleted by accident — at least for a while — so you can get it back. With external hard disk prices so low right now and Time Machine free with Leopard, why not take advantage of it?
  • Backup is backup software that comes with Mac OS X. It’s highly configurable and can be used to back up to a hard disk, optical media such as CDs or DVDs, and a MobileMe account. This last option is probably the best because it automates off-site storage. I wrote about using Backup in “Save Yourself (and Your Data) with .Mac Backup,” which I wrote for Peachpit.com in 2006. It might be dated, but I’m sure you’ll find some good tidbits of information there.
  • iDisk SynciDisk is part of a MobileMe account. You might not think of it as a backup solution, but it can be. First, you can simply drag and drop the things you want to back up to your iDisk to copy it to your MobileMe storage space. That’s an offline storage solution for you. But what you might find easier is to enable iDisk syncing so a copy of your iDisk space is available on your computer’s desktop. Then simply store data in it. The data is automatically copied to your iDisk space on MobileMe when synced. Not only that, but if you more than one Mac, all of them can share the same iDisk. That means the documents you copy there are available with you on all of your computers.
  • Third party backup solutions are also available to you. There are quite a few out there and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not up to speed on them. I haven’t needed them. I have a very good backup strategy without them.
  • Fetch and iCal can also be used together to create an automated offsite backup solution. I wrote about that in ““Creating an Automated Backup Plan with Fetch and iCal”,” in 2007.

CDs and DVDs can always be used to back up data to. This is what some people seem to forget. And it’s what probably could have saved the woman referenced above a lot of grief.

Last week, I wrote a blog post for my personal blog that outlined my workflow for geotagging images. In it, I included Step 4: Backup. That’s the step where I copy all of my images from my hard disk to a CD or DVD before erasing the camera’s data card. I have dozens of these discs, nicely labeled, in my office. I’d be smarter to have them offsite. But at least I have them. Anyone who makes a lot of digital images and does not perform this step is looking for trouble. Don’t say a hard disk crash won’t happen to you. It will. It’s just a matter of time.

Heck, it happened to me three times already.

3 thoughts on “Back it Up or Lose It

  1. I store and edit my photographs locally on a Windows 7 machine, using Photoshop CS3.

    However, I back them up to CD, upload the best ones (full size) to Flickr, and have found iDrive to be a superb, unattended, automatic backup utility. Inexpensive too. Get up to 12GB free, after that it’s only $4.99 a month for 150GB.

    Eyebee´s last blog post: Articles for 2009-04-12

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