Last summer my main hard drive malfunctioned. 3 years worth of files. No backup whatsoever. The end of the story is that it ended up costing me $1700 to recover.

To miss out on this, you need to backup your files regularly. I have been reading a total of four articles on backing up recently, and added my own experience to the mix.

There are two main ways to backup files the way I see it: local (hard drive) and offsite (online). Comparing the two is easy with a table:

  Local Offsite
Price One-time Recurring
Speed Fairly fast Depending on your internet connection
Safety Fairly safe Really safe
Ease of use Easy Easy

As we can see, one option might not be cheaper or easier than the other, but unless you have some crazy alien technology, a local setup will let you backup more data in less time. But local backups aren’t as safe as offsite backups? True, so why not go with both? Because really, you just can’t put a price on data. After almost a year of research, I have found a solution that works for me, and hopefully it might help you too!

Local: SuperDuper!

Superduper-ScreenshotSuperDuper might be one of easiest to use pieces of software for complete local backups. You select the disk you wish to backup, and then you select the target, the disk you wish to backup to. You can set simple option like only backing up the home folder. I would suggest you backup your entire disk though. This way the backup will even be bootable, so if something should happen to your system installation, you can boot from the backup and start working right where you left off. SuperDuper can copy only the files that have changed since the last backup, so if you backup regularly, it shouldn’t take too long. Still, I run my backups in the middle of the night. Daily.

A small tip: backup to a different drive, not just a different partition. If you have a malfunction, partitions won’t help you much.

SuperDuper will run you $27.95. A small price to pay.

Offsite: iBackup + DreamHost

Ibackup-ScreenshotSince a local backup won’t protect you from hazards like fire or theft, it is crucial to also have at least your most precious files stores somewhere else. Storing them online is one way to go. It’s both easy and cheap. There are services like Bandwagon and Mozy that makes it really easy. I’m already paying $10 a month for a very spacious webserver however, so it made me think “How can I use it for backup with the least hazzle?”. Meet iBackup.

iBackup is in many ways similar to Apples own Backup software that comes bundled with dotmac. One difference is that it can backup to any WebDAV folder, not just an iDisk. And did I mention it is free?

iBackup is perfect when you don’t want to backup everything. It uses plug-ins to let you easily backup all files associated with certain tasks or applications. You can easily backup your iPhoto or iTunes libraries. Your widgets or fonts. Or all the settings relating to an application. Because it is based on plug-ins, there are dozens of setting sets available to backup.

I set up iBackup to backup my iTunes and iPhoto libraries, all my mail, my bookmarks, my calendars as well as my address book. Of course you can also manually pick any file or folder that you want to backup.

iBackup will not do incremental backups. Everything will be copied every time it is run. This means that with the 30-40 GB that I currently have, I will not be backing up very often. Hopefully at least once a month though. Of course you can make smaller backups more often if you so desire. On the plus side, iBackup will not zip your files before uploading, meaning it’s easy to restore a single file from your online backup without downloading the whole thing, should you need to.

All in all, this solution works very well for me. I have a backup that will be at most one day old (or possibly a couple days if I turn the computer off at night), and I have another backup with my most valuable files stored somewhere on the other side of the planet in case the worst should happen.

If all this seems a bit overwhelming to you, you could of course just go with Mozy.

Please let me know if this encouraged you to do more regular backups, or if you have a routine of your own, let me know what it is 🙂

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6 Responses to “How To Save $1700: A Complete Backup Solution”  

  1. 1 GuillaumeB

    Well the thing is that i am looking for both a incremential backup tool and a webstorage that prides WebDav and a web interface so zs to retrieve files where ever i am.

    The more i search, the more I am considering .Mac again.

    Omnidrive looks interesting with 10GB for the PRo1 solution but I dunno how their webdav performs. I wish Amazon S3 had a web interface

    You may want to check out my blog, my last posts are about my searching for a storage solution

  2. 2 Hans

    I have also started using DreamHost for backup purposes, and love it. Although, I did find iBackup to be too much of a pain, having to upload the whole backup every time.

    Instead, I use rsync, which is integrated in OSX and can be run through Terminal and supports incremental backups. Adding a nice GUI makes life a lot simpler and less nerdy, than typing cryptic codes in the Terminal.

    So far, a perfect solution for me.

  3. 3 Andreas

    Great tip, Hans. Might have to give rsync a shot!

  4. 4 Hans

    Would you mind fixing my links, though? Didn’t turn out quite as expected 😛 And I saw you at the cinema, did you enjoy the film?

  5. 5 Andreas

    Links fixed. Learn HTML 😉
    Ah yes, The Simpsons is a movie I would be proud to have in my collection. Great movie indeed.

  6. 6 Maximus

    I would like to see a continuation of the topic


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