In 2011, I bought a MacBook Pro. I have the 15 inch model with an i7 chip, 8 MB of RAM and a 500 GB Disk drive. This computer was to be my main home device and, most importantly, my digital darkroom. I’m a huge fan of Adobe LightRoom and I use Photoshop too. When I got my new Mac, I moved my LightRoom catalogs and photos from my old PC to the Mac and everything worked perfectly.
For my backup strategy, I used Time Machine, the continuous backup process built into the Mac operating system. As a second backup, I copy all of my user data to a network attached storage device in my house.
Fast forward to this year — my 500 GB drive was nearing its capacity and I couldn’t safely load any more of my photos. What I wanted to do was take my user data off of the internal hard drive and move it to an external drive, giving my operating system plenty of room to breathe and my photo library room to grow. LightRoom happens to play beautifully in an attached storage environment, allowing me to view all of my photos on my Mac, regardless of whether the external drive is connected or not. My MacBook normally stays on my desk and connected to the external drive so the detachability isn’t that important (but it was good to know).
As I was planning the data migration from the hard drive to the external drive, I became very concerned as I realized that all of my photos (my digital negatives), as well as my other user content, would be sitting on one external disk drive on the corner of my desk. Even with the Time Machine backup, I was worried that a corruption or a spilled glass of wine could cause me to lose everything. I guess I felt more secure with my data on the Mac’s internal drive than I did with it on an external device. So…I did research and formulated my plan.
Here was my refined strategy: I would move all my user data off of the Mac internal drive onto a new 3TB external drive. Then, I would create a new Time Machine drive on an additional new 3TB drive and use my old 1 TB external drive (my old Time Machine disk) as a miscellaneous external storage device. Once all of that was set up, I would sign up for a cloud-based backup service to continuously save my data outside of my house.
Seeing my MacBook connected to a small USB hub with three external drives attached made me smile.
One of the best-known online backup solutions is Carbonite. I signed up for the free trial and quickly realized that Carbonite has a limitation: the software does not recognize external drives for backup purposes! That restriction is, unfortunately, buried in the description and I missed it; it took a phone call to customer service to realize that issue.
Further reading on the Internet along with a closer look at Mac-oriented products led me to BackBlaze (http://www.backblaze.com/). In addition to its ability to backup external devices and unlimited storage capacity, they have an iOS app that lets me access my backup files on my iPhone and iPad whenever I’d like. I had almost half a terabyte of data that had to be sent to BackBlaze and the initial backup took over two and a half months! I had the BackBlaze control panel running on my Mac all the time and when I was using my computer, I paused the backup because it was impacting my computer’s performance. At night before I went to sleep, I changed the settings in BackBlaze to remove the speed throttle and let it use all of my bandwidth to load up the data. With my initial data backup on its servers, BackBlaze works in the background to constantly keep my stuff in sync – no action from me is required to keep my data safe and backed up outside my house.
Today, three months after I started, my Mac has redundant external disks with all my data backed up in the cloud. I hope this inspires you to shore up your backup strategy too!