A positive difference between the Mac and Windows platforms (that is not often touted) is that full image Mac backups are much easier to manage than Windows PC backups. The Mac architecture enables easy disk cloning with “no Windows registry” annoyances. Couple this with the fact Mac full-system backup images are portable across all recent vintage Intel-based Macs, means a boot-able disk image backup of my Macbook Air can be attached to a Mac Mini and I will get hassle-free access to all my data and applications.
After much research and focusing on “frictionless automation,” here is my current strategy.
- Quick, complete “full system failure” recovery
- Deleted or corrupted file recovery
- “Set and forget” minimal maintenance
- Protect 3 Macs (Macbook Air, iMac, Mac Mini) from hardware failure and data theft
- Use a combination of local and cloud backup techniques
- Automated processes after initial setup
- Encryption for all data offsite
- Hourly Time Machine backups of all Macs to a 2TB Apple Time Capsule hidden in the house.
- Hourly Arq 2 backups of work productivity files (documents, spreadsheets and presentations) to Amazon S3.
- Daily image backups to a locally attached USB drive using SuperDuper! disk imaging software (the exclamation point in the product name is required… this utility is “that great!”). The daily image backups are rotated weekly to a fireproof safe.
- SuperDuper! creates boot-able Mac drive images that are portable to other Macs. If another Mac fails, I can use it’s USB drive image, attach it to the Mac Mini, and boot from the USB image and get full (slow) access to my Macbook Air. This is my system-level recovery solution.
- Time Machine provides file-level recovery. I don’t backup big files like VMWare Fusion Windows images, or the .Trash folder. But all other files are copied to the Time Capsule. Time Machine is not a good “system-level” recovery solution. It can be used for that purpose, but the recovery process is slow and requires a lot of attention to file versions.
- Arq 2 copies important “light weight” content to the cloud. I love that Arq 2 uses my own Amazon S3 account, and supports operating modes for “budget” and “bandwidth” to be considered for how many files to put in the cloud. I’m not considering the cloud for full image backups, but rather for file-based protection.
- SuperDuper! is available in a free version and a $28 premium version. Premium is the way to go with automatic scheduling and other extras.
- 1TB Seagate USB external drives are $100 from Amazon. I already had 2 USB drives from a previous project.
- Sentry Fireproof Safe $159 from Costco.com (including free shipping.)
- Arq 2 is $28. There is a 30-day free trial.
- Amazon S3 budget is set for $5 a month maximum spend. That’s about 40GB of cloud backup storage.
- Time Machine is free and included with all recent Mac computers.
- Time Capsule prices vary from $200 to $400 depending on disk capacity. There are also less expensive third-party storage devices from Iomega, Buffalo, and others that are “Time Machine” compatible
- Total: $515
[My TODO List]
- Find USB drives that can be encrypted for the full-image backups. Drive encryption (using fingerprint reader, etc.) protects the contents from theft.
- Faithfully swap the weekly full-image disk backup to the fire proof safe.