Backup and Recovery

Recently my macbook pro hard drive crashed. I did not think it was a big issue initially as i have multiple backups. Firstly, i have TimeMachine running a backup to a NAS (network access storage) device, the Drobo FS. Now this Drobo FS is my pride and joy. Almost 3 times the cost of other multi-disk array NAS for home use. I had previously posted about the benefits of a Drobo and why i was so happy with it. Secondly, i subscribe to Carbonite, an online backup service. What Carbonite does is that it will backup the data on your machine onto the cloud in the background. You barely notice it is there, and it just keeps working in the background. In addition to that, i also have a few dropbox accounts that mirrors some of my working documents to the cloud and to other computers. Example, my day job work documents mirrors with another XP machine and my night job work documents mirrors with my macbook air.¬†Given the KS (translated to mean “afraid to lose”) nature of Singaporeans, i occasionally also does a local TimeMachine back up to my USB drive.

I guess you get the picture now how many backups i have. However, when disaster finally strike, all my preparation was unfortunately not that efficient for recovery and i eventually also lost some photos. The latest photos i took on my New Zealand trips. In short, some of the lessons learnt and the pros and cons of the various backups i had are below.

1. TimeMachine

  • TimeMachine on a NAS is very slow and was virtually impossible to restore a complete system. It works for versioning where my system is still working and i need to go back in time to retrieve deleted or amended files.
  • The main advantage of the TimeMachine on NAS is that my macbooks can backup to it via Wifi in the room and it is always and working in the background.
  • However, i hardly ever, in fact never, had the ¬†need (touch wood) to go into TimeMachine to retrieve a file. What i have always done and found super useful was to use the TimeMachine with Migration Assistant to restore a computer or setup a brand new computer. Only thing is that it works very well if it is on a USB drive.
  • I ended up copying my huge TimeMachine backup files from the NAS over to my USB drive and then restoring from there.
  • Lesson learnt -> keep a regular TimeMachine backup on USB drive.

2. Carbonite

  • The main purpose of a Carbonite cloud storage is to have backup against hard drive crushing scenarios like an earthquake. The the complete lost of all physical drives like someone breaking in and stealing the computer, NAS and all physical backups.
  • However, because it is in the cloud and working in the background, it does take sometime for it to upload everything into the cloud. Given my hard drive failed within a few days of me offloading all my New Zealand photos from my SD card to the macbook, not all of my photos were successfully backup to the cloud.
  • In a way it served its purpose and i should just be more aware of its limitation and how it presented a gap in my backup strategy.
  • Lesson learnt -> do not delete all photos from SD card until i have all the photos backup

3. SuperDuper!

  • Since my hard drive crash and after one week of restoration, i am going back to SuperDuper! What it does is to just make a carbon copy of my current hard drive on an external USB drive. In fact, that copy will be bootable as well. Although i have not tried USB booting on Mac, but it worked on firewire previously.
  • So now, in addition to all my other backups, i am adding SuperDuper! into my arsenal.
  • I am connecting an USB drive to my USB hub/iPhone dock so that it is regularly connected to my macbook.
  • Using the built in scheduler in SuperDuper! i have a SmartCopy job that will run every 1.30am. The initial full copy started at 1.30am and completed at 6am. But subsequent smartcopy will be much faster, depending on the amount of changes. The good thing about the scheduler is that it uses the Mac OS cron job and does not need the SuperDuper! program to be running.
  • It does not have the versioning history of TimeMachine but it is fast to backup and recover the latest copy of my system.


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