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 in my case 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?
My preferred cloud (off-site) backup system is Backblaze. At home, I have an Apple Time Capsule (you can also build your own using a Raspberry Pi and an external drive). The Time Capsule backs up everything on my laptop together with any attached external drives.
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 Time Capsule, and yet another copy in Backblaze. In the past, I used to store another copy of archived photos on Blu-ray discs but I no longer do that as the process was quite time-consuming and I no longer have a CD drive on my laptop. I do however store one extra copy of my photos on a drive that I keep at my parents’ house. Photos and videos are very important to me and hence why I have 4 copies at any point in time. The drive that is at my parents’ house is an absolute last resort and is only updated twice or three times a year. 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) 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.
Moving to Drobo 5n?
In the coming months, I will probably be moving to a different setup, so let’s take a look at what I have in mind.
The Time Capsule has really become too small for my needs at 2TB. The new Time Capsules have a max of 3TB hard drive space. Of course, I could buy a Western Digital Red 8TB drive and replace the one that currently sits in my Time Capsule.
After doing some research, though, I’m starting to lean towards a different (and possibly more complex) setup.
I would get the Drobo 5n, in which I could insert up to 5 drives for 20TB+ storage capacity and easy storage upgrades. I could then use it as a location for Time Machine backups for our family’s laptops.
Since I currently use the Time Capsule as a router for our apartment, I’d have to get a replacement for that functionality. New mesh technology sounds pretty interesting so I could get the Google Wifi mesh or something similar.
The final benefit of having the Drobo 5n would be that I could use it for streaming video from it by installing the Plex app and then accessing media from any device around the apartment.
One alternative to the Drobo 5n which you might want to look into if you’re looking to setup something similer is the Synology DS1512. From what I’ve read the Drobo 5n is the simpler and cheaper device and for my own purposes that’s ideal as it’s my first time using a NAS device and want an easy entry into this technology.
Another important benefit of using a Drobo 5n 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 Drobo 5n 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 Drobo + mesh 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 have.
The main con I see with the Drobo is fan noise. The Time Capsule is super client and ideal for small apartments. It all depends on where I’d be able to place the Drobo. If it’s not too close to my desk then I think it should be fine.
Edit: I ended up going with the DS916+.
I would still use Backblaze from the individual laptops.
If anyone has set up something similar, I’d love to have your thoughts.