Backup Strategies and Solutions

A pile of crushed desktop computers

If you’re serious about protecting your data, you need both onsite and offsite backups. Onsite backups provide immediate access to previous versions of files and copies of accidentally deleted files. Onsite backups can also get you up and running again within minutes of a hard drive failure. Offsite backups protect you against less likely but more catastrophic events that result in physical loss or destruction of your data and your onsite backups.

Onsite Backup

At our onsite backups are implemented primarily using the Time Machine application that’s built into Mac OS 10.5 (Leopard) and later. This gives us instant access to hourly backups for the last 24 hours, daily backups for the last month, and weekly backups limited only by the capacity of our backup drives. We also use SuperDuper to duplicate the system drive of our Mac Pro to enable immediate restart in the event of drive failure.

Offsite Backup

None of the above protects our data against physical disaster. If the house burns down, our backups are toast. When I was commuting to an office every day, I took a duplicate of our Time Machine backup to my office each Monday on a portable hard drive, rotating weekly between two drives so there was always a fairly recent backup stored offsite. Now that I work at home, we need a different solution to offsite backup.

We could rent a safe deposit box at our local bank and continue with the portable drives, but we’d need several more drives (two for each system being backed up) and one of us would have to remember to make the copies and switch them at the bank. This would introduce the elements most likely to break any backup strategy that has a manual component, namely human error and inertia.

I decided to take a closer look at online backup solutions for the offsite portion of our backup strategy. I didn’t consider anything that doesn’t run on MacOS. My search included Arq, Carbonite, CrashPlan, Dropbox, JungleDisk, memopal, mozy, and SpiderOak. The following three posts describe the solutions that I plan to use and what I like about each of them.

Update 4/28/2020

CrashPlan no longer offers personal backup.
mozy is now part of Carbonite.
Thanks to Ivy from AOMEI for pointing out a broken link in this post.

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