Backup Strategy 2010

It’s the end of the year, and I’ve been cleaning up my digital clutter and revisiting my backup strategy. Since I last wrote about the subject, my storage requirements have grown. My 1.5TB Photos partition has turned into a 2TB partition, while my video projects span 1.5TB and 1TB drives.

Here’s what’s changed over the past two years.

  • SSD
  • Separate Data Partition
  • Time Machine
  • Dropbox
  • Hard Drive Consolidation


I purchased an OWC Mercury Extreme Pro SSD to function as my boot drive in my desktop and laptop computers. I’ve long known about the benefits of SSD, but was waiting for the exorbitant prices to come down before making the plunge. The prices are still high, but I figured the extra productivity I’d get would help offset things (famous last words of mine).

I must say that both computers feel much faster now. Applications open in an instant, and I’m seeing less of the spinning beach ball when the computer is waiting for data from the disk. Solid-state drives are the future of computing, and you’ll undoubtedly see more and more computers with SSD drives as standard options in 2011.

Mercury Extreme Pro SSD

Separate Data Partition

Since my SSD boot drive is only 240GB in size, I’ve converted my former boot drive into a 1TB Data partition. I moved most of my files from my user directory over to the 1TB, though things like my Library and Mail directories remain on the boot drive. The SSD makes opening and searching for mail really fast, speed which would have been reduced had I moved everything over to the hard drive.

Time Machine

The SSD and an additional 1TB drive are mounted in my Mac Pro’s second optical bay using OWC’s Multi-Mount bracket and cable set. This sixth drive functions as a Time Machine target. I’m currently backing up my Boot and Data partitions to this drive. It would be great to back up my Photos and two Video drives, but they simply take up too much space.


When Dropbox first came out, I found it to be too slow for my tastes. I’ve since changed my mind and have become a happy user of the cloud-based file storage utility. I signed up for the 50GB plan and am currently using 12% of my quota. People who join Dropbox through this link will give me an additional 500MB of storage.

I store all my regularly-accessed files on Dropbox, meaning I have the same files across all my working computers. Change a file in one place, and it’s updated on the other machine.

Hard Drive Consolidation

I’ve also been consolidating those archived files which I don’t need to access frequently. I recently sold my first-generation USB 2.0 Drobo. The data on the storage robot was moved over to two 750GB drives, one of which I store offsite.

I still use the Wiebetech RTX-400 port-multiplied eSATA enclosure to hold the drives that backup my Boot, Data, Video and Photo partitions. Since my Photos and Video projects are not being protected in real-time, I regularly back them up using the Wiebetech anytime I make substantial changes.

Not all my computers have eSATA ports, so I bought a NewerTech Voyager Q hard drive docking station so I can quickly access hard drives on all my computers. The Voyager Q has FireWire, USB and eSATA ports and can accommodate 3.5″ and 2.5″ hard drives.

Finally, the Infrant ReadyNAS stores various archived files, which are also backed up to external, off-site hard drives. I used to use the Infrant as a Time Machine target, but I grew tired of the noise it produced.

Laptops and the Future

For our laptops, I have two external hard drives onto which I make regular SuperDuper backups. Though I don’t use Time Machine anymore for them, I do make a habit of storing my critical data in my Dropbox.

For even faster performance, I’ll thinking about turning my separate hard drives in my Mac Pro into one big RAID-0 partition. Before I do that, however, I’m going to need to have a comprehensive real-time backup strategy to compensate for the increased likelihood of drive failure.

13 thoughts on “Backup Strategy 2010

  1. […] I’ve updated my backup strategy post […]

  2. I highly recommend Crashplan for your huge photo / video partitions. You can set Crashplan up with a folder / volume as a target, so whenever you connect your external backup unit (Wiebetech), it will automatically do a sync.

  3. By the way, I use Crashplan to backup my huge 8TB RAID-0 partition (backup to NAS). Aside from the week-long initial backup, it remains backed up without too much effort!

  4. Wasn’t there a version of Crashplan that allowed for incremental backups that did not come with an online (annual payment) component? Does that version still exist?

  5. It no longer exists, though if you have a license for it, it’s still supported. The free version still does incremental backups, it just only does automatic backups at most once a day. Even with that version, you can still request a backup at any time you want.

  6. Increasingly people are finding that data has to planned and stored around archiving and backup strategy: there is simply too much of it to manage the transfer in any other way in a reasonable amount of time. The need for this approach will only increase as storage densities continue to outpace transfer speeds.

    I wonder also, as people move to SSDs, how they will handle two “features” of rotating media that we have come to accept and live with that don’t exist in the SSD world: the ability to wipe a drive by zeroing all the sectors, and the audible warnings and natural progression of many of the medium’s failure modes. The danger, as I see it, is that failure will be sudden, have unfamiliar manifestations, and not be amenable to existing tools and techniques. Failure will be unpredictable and irreversible.

    When I want to dispose of an SSD, how can I know it has been wiped? Destruction is potentially easier than with a hard drive, but non-destructive erasure more problematic.

  7. I installed Crashplan on my laptop. Testing that out while I figure out a strategy for my photo/video volumes.

  8. […] Backup Strategy 2010 | – I’ve been thinking hard about adding SSDs to my desktops as well. […]

  9. Doug Quist

    I’ve been a happy user of Crashplan for quite some time. The initial backup takes a very long time since I, like you, have tons of photos, but once uploaded it is no big deal. I backup both to their datacenter as well as to one friend.

  10. Doug – What’s the size of your backup?

  11. It no longer exists, though if you have a license for it, it’s still supported.

  12. Laurence Cable

    Hi Adam, been trying to find a contact email address to speak to you about promoting your software on MacFormat’s cover disc. Please could you email me as soon as possible so I can let you know some details? Thanks, Laurence (Staff Writer, MacFormat

  13. Maurice Sharp

    Hi Adam,

    You should consider an offsite backup of your Time Machine volume. We have a 1TB Time Machine 1st Gen, though I am looking into a 2TB. I have 4 machines backing up onto Time Machine.

    Once 1 archive the Time Machine disk to an external 1TB drive. That drive lives at my wires office in a locked filing cabinet.

    Dropbox or similar services are good for critical data, but they make it hard to mirror everything you need to restore a machine.

    Given the backup strategy you described, a disaster that destroyed your machine (and, therefore the internal Time Machine disk), setting up a new machine (that you got through insurance of course :-), would take quite some time without a Time Machine archive.


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