My 2008 Backup Procedure

by Mike Shea on 12 February 2008

Note: My backup plans have changed since I wrote this. You can read about my new procedures in the article Your Personal Digital Archive.

I've tried a variety of backup procedures over the past few years and, with the recent release of Time Machine and a Leopard-compatible version of SuperDuper, it's a good time to review my backup procedures.

Merlin Mann recently referred to an excellent, simple, and effective backup procedure for macs from jwz. It comes down to using two drives in external enclosures of a same size and connection type as the primary internal drive. The primary drive is copied bit for bit to one of the external drives as a bootable copy. This is updated nightly. Every month or so, this drive is rotated out to an alternate location and the other drive is now updated daily. This keeps two bootable copies available. If the machine goes down, it can be booted up with the next local copy.

This seems like a good system to me, but its tougher to do with a Macbook Pro because the drive is so hard to replace. However, the Macbook Pro can boot off of an external firewire drive. This system also doesn't handle archives of files as they change or are deleted, but Time Machine does.

SuperDuper is an award-winning drive cloning app recently updated to work with Time Machine and Leopard. In conjunction with Time Machine, it can create an external bootable drive that sits on the same drive as your Time Machine archive. It is easy to use and can run on a schedule without needing to be running at the time. I had a little trouble getting the cronjob created by SuperDuper to work with another cron I have set up to download a copy of my website stuff every day, but with some good technical support emails, I figured it out and got the schedule working.

With SuperDuper, Time Machine, and Jungle Disk, I have a backup procedure that is probably overkill but will surely be protecting my data far more than the average user. Let's take a look:

  1. Every day at 4am, Super Duper makes a bootable copy of my drive to one of my two 500gb Western Digital MyBook drives. This drive stays connected all the time.

  2. Time Machine makes an archive of every file that changes on my computer to that same Western Digital drive.

  3. Every couple of months, I swap that drive out and replace it with another identical 500gb Western Digital drive that I keep in the trunk of my car. The current drive goes to my trunk and the trunk drive now acts as the daily backup drive. As in 1, this drive is a bootable SuperDuper mirror and a Time Machine archive.

  4. Jungle Disk copies my Documents, Music, and Photo library to my Amazon S3 account. Right now I'm using 3.2 GB and it costs me about 50 cents a month. This is overkill but for six dollars a year, why not try it out. These files are technically available from anywhere on the net as long as I can get a copy of Jungle Disk running on a machine but it does require Jungle Disk - I can't just reach to S3 and fetch the files.

The Jungle Disk backup is probably not that useful. The SuperDuper and Time Machine backups alone are a little bit of overkill but with both of those in place and a drive outside of the house, I'm pretty well protected. Even if my Macbook Pro hard drive completely dies, I can still boot the machine off of the MyBook Firewire drive and still be up and running. I was surprised how well the machine worked off of a firewire drive.

I highly recommend SuperDuper and Time Machine. Between the two, you can create a fully bootable drive mirror and a simple and deep file archive.