Initially, I wanted to dedicate this blog post to 'picture sharing' your holiday photos with friends and family. The draft went on ice because of a couple of calls I received from people on the verge of loosing all their data. Most importantly, their pictures. Before we get into sharing pictures let's return to "backing-up".
Time machine is a great solution. Connect your computer to an external hard drive or Apple Time Capsule. 'Approve' Time Machine to run and forget about it. Indeed, backing up your valuable data is that simple. Like everything in life, nothing is perfect, Time Machine has it's faults, too.
Advantages of Time Machine:
- Easy set-up
- Incremental back up
- Ability to roll back in time by the hour
- Older data drops off the storage once the drive gets full
- Tends to slow down the Mac
- Not all applications are easy to restore
Most importantly, set up the Hard Drive that the computer is backing up to is in the same room as your computer. In case of any trouble, you are right there to address. Disadvantage is that if there is a theft or fire, you lose everything. Read on, there is a solution!
I encourage you to create a second back-up that is stored outside the house. Or at least locked in a fireproof safe inside your house. Keep in mind that Time Machine doesn't handle two different hard drives very well and is designed to be permanently connected to your Mac, to allow for the hourly automated back-up to take place.
Occasionally, some one copies data on a hard drive and stores is away for a very long time only to find out that the hard drive that was working perfectly fine before doesn't want to wake up or is incompatible with the much newer operating system or physical connection on the new computer.
Unfortunately, burning optical media like CDs or DVDs is also a troubled path. Self-burned disks only last 5 years, assuming they have been stored correctly. There are special archival disks available, but this still doesn't eliminate the problem of changing hardware technology. Floppy disks or Diskettes any one?
Online Back-Up solutions are a good addition to the mix and can be used for certain tasks. At least "Cloud" storage will keep your data secure outside the house. But, keep in mind, It is not the perfect solution. Concerns to be aware of are privacy, internet availability and speed the data can be stored or retrieved. Last but not least, what happens if the provider goes out of business or is taken over by an other company.
"Super Duper" your data:
SuperDuper is the wildly acclaimed program that makes recovery painless, because it makes creating a fully bootable backup painless. It is incredibly clear, with a friendly interface that is understandable and easy to use., SuperDuper's built-in scheduler makes it easy to back up automatically. It's the perfect complement to Time Machine under Leopard, Snow Leopard, and Lion, allowing you to store a bootable backup, alongside your Time Machine volume—and it runs beautifully on both Intel and Power PC Macs!
To set it up, take a good quality portable hard drive like a LaCie Rugged drive and setSuperDuper to update the back-up every time the external drive is connected. All you need to to is occasionally retrieve the drive from its safe location and connect it to your Mac.
In summary, here is my recommended 'back-up' strategy in 3 levels:
- Time Machine for constant back-up
- Cloud storage for current files that need to be accessible at any time (Dropbox, iCloud, etc)
- Periodic SuperDuper image in a safe location
As for pictures and files that need to be stored for heritage, print them with archival quality ink on archival paper and store them in a safe location. Other than that, I would say archival quality optical media or USB flash drives. Both stored with a simple file system in very common file formats. Don't forget to include a simple text file, explaining the content.