In search of the ultimate back up.

This post is not intended to change your mind on how important BUs are,
if you disagree with the above statement all I can say is.. by no offense I’m truly sorry.
It also contains info on software back ups, hardware solutions and online solutions. (Ultimate back up, right? 😉 )

Since I’ve try so many solutions I cannot mention all of them.
If you feel there is something better that the ones Im writing please DO share your comments so we can all benefit.

Since there is a lot of writing if you just want to get to the point please skip this text and go straight down to the Q&A section.

Time Machine was 1st announced on Tiger if I remember correctly. It was a fancy way to recover files that you already deleted. In the beginning it was very buggy and the only reason I used it was because of the fancy FXs.

What Time Machine truly is (for me):
You can use it if you have a really large unused hard disk and you don’t know what to do with it. Large because this is the only way to find it useful since when its full it starts deleting older back ups of files. Time Machine is also a great way to spin up your internal hard drive and slow down the whole system.

Im my research for a better solution, since it was very slow back then, I run across SuperDuper (after many many other piece of crap apps and some Terminal experiments). During the rest of this post you will find a lot of information for this app but for now I’ll just spot some key features that this magical piece of software includes:

-works on PPC and Intel

-incremental back ups

-simple UI with hidden advanced options

-back ups are fully compatible with Apple’s Disk Utility.

-You can back up specific folders, All user folders or the whole OS X folders aka BOOTABLE BACK UP!

A few years and 2 cats ago I was so proud that I’ve finally found the ultimate software for my back ups. About a year ago (before the weather change and the snow started to fall) I had 5-6 Western Digital “My Book” disks around 1 TB each one besides all the portable ones. Each one of them started to crash and I was loosing data. The only good thing was that I could get the disk back to the store and if I had the original package with everything in there (yes Im that freak show) Multirama, the store, would replace it for free. On the 4th or 5th replacement I was so pissed off. Even the guys at the store stopped checking the disks and they just gave me a new one. This is where I realize that I cannot count on such disks. (That wasn’t cause only on the WD, I had similar problems with other brands too). After a lot of thoughts but without research I took the brave decision to buy an external disk burner and spent 2 days to back up my files. I knew this was not going to solve the problem, cause I cant burn disks all the time but in case of an emergency disaster I would at least had a “version” of my files instead of starting from zero. So there I was spending around 250 euros to buy the best and most expensive disk burner created by Lacie. Awesome burn speeds and Firewire 800, besides usb. Don’t make me talk about the crappy SuperDrives Apple puts on macs since the Intel switch.

So started on a Friday night, Sunday afternoon I was ready!

Then someone on Twitter, I think it was Serge Jespers, tweeted something about Drobo a product from Data Robotics. I immediately did a research and man.. If that thing works as it says I need to find it immediately!

By doing a small research I was disappointed and almost sure that no one would sell this magic box in Greece and ordering it from the US site was not an option if you have the smallest experience with Greek Customs you will get me. So I decided to look through the official distributors just in case I could buy it from Europe and boom! Greece was an option.. !

I’ve always had a respect for this little (back then) shop beside the (still) ugly web site they have. The price was around 450 euros just for the box and thats what made me do a little bit more of a research. All comments were positive so there I was. Ordering it along with 4 TBs of SATA drives. In a short message my Drobo was and still is the most lovely peripheral I ever got.
By doing its magic, it lets me put in there different capacity disks, and even if one of them crashes I STILL have access to all my files!
I simulate that by simply removing a disk while accessing the files. Sometimes Im still doing it just to appreciate how cool this is!
So I had the ultimate software AND hardware back up solution.

Then on my 28th birthday and while I was out someone stole my Adobe Flex 2 bag and I got very disappointed. After that I cant stop thinking the case where someone gets it to my house while I am out (happened a few years ago) or a fire incident. I would be a guy with no MBPro, no Drobo and no files! :O

I couldn’t avoid it anymore. It was time for an online back up along with the Super Duper one on Drobo.
Research again.. Found many options but my mind was stacked on Amazon S3. Other options would offer me unlimited storage by paying a specific amount of money, which sounds great but then again which one of them had the respect of Amazon? No one.

Amazon S3 gives you an unlimited amount of space and you pay only what you use for. They charge the bandwidth you use (both upload and download), the calls and of course the space you use. Although this sounds fair enough I was a bit worry if I would able to control my self. For my online back up all I need is around 200 GBs. No system files, no music, no videos, just project files and Lightroom catalogue. S3 works really awesome with Transmit and its like you are using your personal FTP but its super fast and I don’t remember losing any connection at all no matter if I was uploading stuff for 2 days in a row. Then I though that I cant just replace files each time I need to back up, it will take for ever and I’ll pay more. I need an incremental back up. Jungle Disk seemed to do the job. You pay 1 or 2 USD per month and it uses your Amazon S3 storage while it keeps some short of versioning so you could do an incremental back up. While I started using it I notice that the initial upload process was very slow. Yes of course I know I need a few days if not weeks to upload 200 GBs but this thing was uploading at speeds of 10-20 kbs while via Transmit I was getting 120 kbs. Then I read again the documentation and I got the feeling that this service charges some extra for the bandwidth too, beside the Amazon charge. Just to be clear Im not totally sure about this, it was really late when I read the site and since I was getting that slow speeds I canceled the subscription immediately. I didn’t ask for anything back and I didn’t gave it more time for testing. I just realize that Jungle Disk has a new version out and a brand new site. So everything mentioned here is for the older version.
Right now I’ve upload 12 GBs of data (via Transmit) and I owe amazon only $2 which is awesome but keeping track of the files Im uploading and refreshing them is way to much painful so..
I haven’t cancel my S3 subscription yet but “I went back to the lab”.

My latest Ultimate Back Up solution as of this writing is:

-Incremental back up of the whole system, MBP that is, with SuperDuper on a 4TB Drobo.

-Incremental back up of the whole system, on a WD PASSPORT Studio TURBO 500GB which is portable and offers Firewire and USB connectivity. *

*This portable drive will be either on a relative’s house or always with me. That is the only reason that I can not make a bootable back up on this disk.
By bootable back up I mean, connect the disk on the machine and simply boot from it. In case someone steals from me that disk I can not afford to have in there the whole files free for him to use, I need some short of protection. The disk will contain the whole MBP’s files WITH system files but in an encrypted sparse image.
That gives me the opportunity to be able to restore a full bootable working copy of my machine on a brand new hard drive/mac and all that thanks to the awesome SuperDuper. There are so much to write but this post is already huge.. so

Try the trial version and you will understand why this app worths more than just $27.95 or 18.79 euros.



What is the best hardware solution for back up:

It’s called Drobo and it comes in 2 flavors. Drobo and Drobo Pro.
You buy some normal and very cheap SATA hard disks, no matter how many or of what disk capacities, it just works.
Drobo is smart enough to decide what kind of RAID scheme it will use depending on the disks you give it.
More info here.

What is the best software solution for back up:

It’s called SuperDuper and it not only works but its awesome too!
Best features are incremental back ups, which make it super fast after the initial back up and of course the bootable option.
You can put your external USB disk on mac and immediately boot from it!
More info here.

Whats is the best online back up solution:

Here Im not that much experienced but Amazon S3 looks really good.
If only they had a way to do incremental back ups, natively, I would probably still use it.
Cheap.. I mean very cheap.
More info here.


You want to be able to work no matter if your internal hard drive fails or your Mac gets stolen:

Schedule a daily, incremental, bootable back up with SuperDuper on an external disk. Intel macs can boot both from USB and Firewire.
You just plug the USB/FW disk on a mac and boot from it by pressing the alt key on start up.

You want to back up on a portable hard drive but you afraid the case where someone steals that disk from you:

Use encryption on a sparse image.
When you are backing up on a sparse image you cant boot directly from that image.
But if you back up the whole system, you can restore the whole back up on your new internal hard drive and this will be bootable!

You want to make a bootable back up but you cant dedicate a whole disk on SuperDuper and you don’t want to create a 2nd partition:

You back up the whole system on a sparse image. That way if your MBP’s hard disk dies and after you replace it with a new one, you can put the OS X dvd on the mac, and on boot – BEFORE THE INSTALLATION – you open Disk Utility. From there you restore the Super Duper image file to your brand new hard disk and you resurrect you mac 🙂

So unfortunately I can not have an online back up, just yet. I appreciate tho how useful and awesome SuperDuper is. Its also really easy to use.
After so many years of using it, this post is the least it deservers. I also have to say that it offers so much more than all these Im referring here but thats why their website exists..

David Nania.. you are SuperDuper!!

Thank you.

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