Backups are essential both on a personal level and perhaps even more within a business context. My work and play are fairly intertwined, so for the purposes of backups I can’t really distinguish the two. What I will explain in this post can be used by someone to backup personal data but will also be useful to freelancers and small business owners.
There are some basic principles with regard to backups, and you should be aware of them.
- 3 copies of anything you care about – Two isn’t enough if it’s important.
- 2 different formats – Example: Dropbox+DVDs or Hard Drive+Memory Stick or CD+BackBlaze, or more
- 1 off-site backup – If the house burns down, how will you get your memories back?
I used to have an Apple Time Capsule where I backed up all my Apple laptops and iMac automatically (including attached drives). I’ve since gotten rid of the Time Capsule and purchased a Synology DiskStation DS916+ which gives me more flexibility. The Time Capsule had really become too small for my needs at 2TB. The new Time Capsules have a max of 3TB hard drive space, which is still quite tight for my needs.
The Time Capsule also functioned very well as a wifi router, so I had to get another router instead, but that’s a minor inconvenience as they are quite cheap anyway.
The other benefit of having the Diskstation is that I use it for streaming video via the Plex app and then accessing media from any device around the apartment. It’s like having my own private Netflix. I also set up other things like Gmail and Trello backups as well as video surveillance in my apartment. You can read about all this in my dedicated post about backing up with a Synology Diskstation.
I had also considered the Drobo 5n, but after watching the video below and asking some friends for their experiences, I decided on the Synology system.
Another important benefit of using a Diskstation over the Time Capsule is that you can use RAID for better peace of mind. If a drive fails, the files are not lost, you just have to buy another similar drive and replace the dead one. The Diskstation will then take care of setting up the new drive and adding it to your storage.
Of course, if I would be still traveling frequently and changing apartments, the Synology setup would not be practical as it involves more hardware. Traveling with the Time Capsule is manageable, at least with the older version (A1409) that I had.
For off-site backups I used to use Backblaze but I’ve stopped using that as it was quite slow backing up from Europe and consumed resources on my devices. Plus I was never 100% convinced that at any point in time the backups would work.
I also have two external drives which I use for photos. I don’t keep any photos on the Macbook; instead, I transfer them all to one of these external drives, then mirror that drive to the second one. So in the case of photos, I have two copies of them on my external drives, another copy in the on the DiskStation, and another manual copy that I keep in another country (I move between two countries quite frequently).
Photos and videos are very important to me and hence why I have 4 copies at any point in time. The drive that is kept in another country is an absolute last resort and is only updated a few times a year, so in that scenario, I would still lose a few months’ worth of photos and videos, which is not ideal. All copies are encrypted.
You will have noticed that this system is not completely automated. It is, unfortunately, impossible to automate it completely because some devices such as my cameras (Sony RX100, GoPro, Mavic Air) don’t have the functionality to connect to the internet and take backups on their own. That means that I have to manually connect them to my laptop and transfer the photos to my external drive. When I’m on holiday I try to do that every day. During the rest of the year, I do this once a week and only if I used those cameras during that week.
Apart from files on my computers and external drives, I use Evernote and Day One extensively. Time machine backup of Mac includes both local and synced notebooks (at the time when the backup was made). If you would like to generate a manual backup of your notes, what I can recommend you is to back up your notes as .ENEX file instead. You can read the help article about How to Backup and Restore Notes.
Day One keeps in sync across all devices using Day One Sync, and so that creates an automatic backup in the cloud of your notes. The Day One app on the Mac also keeps a local backup, which is itself included in the Time Machine backup.
If anyone has set up something similar, I’d love to have your thoughts.