I’m a serial backer upper. Losing files on my Mac ranks up there with a dime-sized zit on my nose when I’m in a wedding party. I don’t like to lose files. Mac OS X Leopard’s Time Machine is a very handy back up utility, but I rely on SuperDuper! as the first leg in my trinity of back up options. What do I do that’s special?
I have an iMac in the office, and take my MacBook Pro everywhere else, including home. Much of what I do on both each day is for business, so the safety of my files is critical.
Both Macs have a few thousand songs in iTunes, many thousand more photos in iPhoto and Aperture, and many, many thousand more files, documents, spreadsheets, email, movies, and a graphics library.
A Trinity Of Back Up Steps
With all those files bouncing between two machines, my track record for not losing a file is good. For the last few years I’ve used a combination of SuperDuper! and ChronoSync to backup files between my Macs, and to external hard drives.
It’s a rather straightforward process. I use ChronoSync to back up files between the Macs, and SuperDuper! to clone each Mac. That’s one leg of my newfound trinity of backup steps.
The second leg has been to burn critical files to a DVD and get them out of the office and out of my home, sometimes for safe keeping at my parent’s home, other times to a safe deposit box (depends on which way I’m going at the time). The DVD back up routine isn’t as frequent, but may be the best option in case of a catastrophic disaster.
The most recent leg to attach itself to my trinity of backup steps is Leopard’s Time Machine. With two Macs that required the purchase of a couple of more external hard drives. One for the MacBook Pro, one for the office iMac.
After using Time Machine for six months I’ve become more accustomed to the single most obvious quirk I’ve encountered with a new Mac utility. I don’t have to do anything. It just works, grinding away every hour, backing up whatever has changed on both my Macs.
I’ve also had cause to test Time Machine to see if it really has files I’ve stored, then deleted. Amazingly, Time Machine finds my files and stores my files. In fact, Time Machine may be a bit too good, as it stores every email message that comes in, whether I want it to or not.
Some of my email and replies probably should not be saved, but that’s not a major issue. The law isn’t knocking on my door asking to peek at my email. Yet.
Legs That Mix & Match
So, how does Time Machine peacefully coexist with the ultra dependable SuperDuper!? SuperDuper! is used daily to make incremental backups, usually toward the end of the day. Multiple times during the day I’ve copied files from one Mac to another or to an external drive using ChronoSync.
SuperDuper! makes a bootable clone, not a feature available in ChronoSync or Time Machine. That means recovering from a disaster or a broken Mac, the ultimate disaster, is merely a matter of plugging in the external hard drive to another Mac, and restarting.
SuperDuper! also backs up my Time Machine hard drive, both in the office and at home. Let me repeat that—SuperDuper! actually backs up a Time Machine hard drive. The beauty of that is that Time Machine does something good that SuperDuper! and ChronoSync don’t—hourly back ups of changed files, while I do nothing.
That means that Time Machine has a different value—the ability to find a recently lost or the original of a changed file. Spotlight can do something similar with a SuperDuper! drive attached to the Mac, but Time Machine’s ability to capture the old file, nearly instantaneously, is even better.
Today & Tomorrow
It’s simple, but it’s three steps. Hourly back ups with Time Machine. Daily back ups to an external drive with SuperDuper!, on both the Mac’s hard drives, and the Time Machine hard drives, with ChronoSync copies of critical files during the day. Finally, the ever handy, and soon to be outmoded copy to a DVD.
That brings me to the future. I’ve been testing Amazon’s S3, Simple Storage Service, for online back ups. I can store gigabytes of files for just a few dollars a month. The backup process is more cumbersome than either SuperDuper! or Time Machine, but it means yet another off site location to store critical files.
I suspect that off site storage of files will become more common for Mac users, so I’m getting my toes wet.