February 28, 2011, 11:40 AM — I'm a belt-and-suspenders guy when it comes to backups. All this began one day in the mid-1990s, when I lost a day's work on my PowerBook 100. From that day on, I have been extremely prudent about how I protect my data, and I currently use a multi-pronged backup approach, and even use multiple backups for important data.
What's connected to my Mac
I currently use a Mac mini, to which I have connected two 1.5TB external drives via FireWire 800. One of these drives is my media drive, which houses my very large music collection, some videos, and other media files. The second is a backup drive, with two partitions: one for a clone of my startup volume, and the other for other backups. I also have an AirPort disk connected to my AirPort Extreme, which is available via Wi-Fi for Time Machine backups. Finally, I have a disk dock connected to my Mac mini, in which I place hard drive mechanisms for rotating backups, as I'll explain below.
The heart of my backup strategy is Time Machine. With its automatic, unobtrusive, hourly backups, I entrust Time Machine with the basic backups of my home folder. I don't use it for my entire system, because it would take too long, and because I clone my startup volume regularly. In addition, restoring a startup volume from a Time Machine backup is time-consuming, whereas booting off a clone on an external volume takes seconds.
In Time Machine's preferences, I have excluded a number of items: not only other volumes connected to my Mac, but also certain folders I don't want to back up, which are easy to restore.
Other regular backups
The next step in my backup chain is regular daily backups using Intego Personal Backup. (Disclaimer: I have written documentation for Intego.) I have a backup of my Users folder scheduled for every four hours, and this backup is stored on one of my external hard disks. It's a set-it-and-forget-it system, like Time Machine, where I don't even notice the backups.
In a way, it's a backup to Time Machine, whose hourly backups protect me against immediate data loss, but also provide older files. I only have this backup store four versions, so I'm covered for a day or so.
In come the clones