Spurred on by a recent tweet about backing up your data I figured I’d write about how I setup the backup for my own machines.

Unlike many reading this (or talking about it on forums) I haven’t had a drive failure. I’ve never lost data. I setup a solid backup without learning the lesson first hand. If you haven’t lost any information yet, setup a good backup and don’t learn the lesson for yourself, data loss is not something you have to experience.

Step One: Instant Backup

The first step in your backup should be a solid instant backup of all crucial files. For this I use Dropbox. Each of my current client projects goes into Dropbox, that means on each save the files get pushed offsite as well as duplicated onto my two different computers and I don’t even have to think about it.

For all of my Macintosh computers I also use Apple’s Time Machine, which performs onsite incremental backups.

For my Windows machines I’ve been looking for a similar solution. I’ve tried Genie Timeline, which seemed to be the best solution. Unfortunately it chokes after about 100GB and says my 1TB drive is full. I’ve re-installed, formatted, restarted, stuck my tongue out on a full moon Tuesday, and nothing has ever worked.

In a second I’ll also talk about my offsite solution, Mozy. Bundled with the Mozy software is an onsite backup to a hard drive. Again I’ve reinstalled, rebooted, formatted and done a dance but no matter what I’ve tried Mozy chokes “preparing data” forever so doesn’t backup.

Yeah that does mean I have no onsite backup on going with my PC’s. Since all my client files are in Dropbox I don’t get too concerned about it though. Sure I’m farther away from my music if the computer dies but that’s something I can deal with.

Step Two: Long Term Offsite Backup

The second, and most important in my opinion, part of a solid backup solution is offsite backup. Just like people used to keep their photo negatives in safety deposit boxes in case the house burned down we need to keep our important data offsite. If all you have is a local backup and the house burns down, or you get robbed the onsite backup is of no use.

I use Mozy for my offsite backup. Mozy runs twice a day, indexes my computer encrypts and pushes my backup offsite. You’re limited by your upstream bandwidth so it can take a long time to push your files offsite. I started with the most important files and slowly worked to the least important files.

Other Options

I’ve listed what I use for offsite backup but here are some other options below. I’ve never tried them but have heard of them and they seem to get good reviews. No I have not provided links to any other options for onsite backup. I’ve never found one that really works for PC’s and Time Machine suits my needs for Mac’s.

  1. Carbonite
  2. Jungle Disk
  3. Crash Plan

If you Only have One Choice

When you start on this journey of getting all your stuff backed up you may only have one choice. My vote if you’re only going to backup one way is to use an offsite backup. Offsite means that if you’re house burns down (God forbid) you still have all your data intact.

The image used at the top of this blog post was taken by miss_rogue. You can view it here.