Customers often ask us how to back up and how often do they need to do it. The short answer to this is: How valuable is your data to you? If not at all, don’t backup. Beyond that, you want to back up as much as your data is valuable to you.
Backing up doesn’t have to be complicated. Think about this rule of thumb: Your data is not backed up unless it’s in at least two separate places. For most people, we recommend a local backup and a remote backup. This is a very high level of data protection.
Before we talk about which backup solutions are best and how to do it, let’s talk about where you store your data. Ideally, all of your data fits on your Mac and you back up that data to two places: an external hard drive (your local backup) and to a cloud service (this is your remote backup). Some customers want to buy a laptop with a small drive and then use external drives to store the rest of their data. While this can make their Mac purchase less expensive, it leads to a very complicated backup situation. Say you have all the data that fits on your Mac and the rest stored on an external hard drive: now you have to get a second external hard drive to backup both your Mac AND to back up the external drive with the rest of your data. How often will you be connecting both of those drives to your Mac and backing up? For most people, the answer is “never” or “not enough”. This is too complicated and bound to fail. (If you’re currently in this scenario, consider upgrading your internal drive.)
For local backups, we recommend using Time Machine; it’s already on your Mac and it just needs a place to put your backups onto. If you have a laptop, we recommend using a Time Capsule, which will make wireless backups using Time Machine. Once setup, it requires you to remember nothing and your data is continuously backed up. With an external hard drive, you have to remember to plug it in every once in a while to perform backups. Unfortunately, too many times, we see customers where the time they lose their data is the time they didn’t plug it in for a month. For desktops, a Time Capsule is not needed—you can just plug in an external drive, tell Time Machine to use that drive for backups, and forget it. If it’s always plugged in, it will always be backing up.
The final safety net is a remote backup. Why have two backups? The likelihood of both your Mac failing AND your backup drive failing at the same time are low. But that’s not the only scenario for data loss. Power surges, fire, water damage from flood, theft—you want your data in more than one physical location. We recommend Backblaze. Backblaze is a remote backup solution that backs up your computer whenever it’s connected to the internet. You don’t have to do anything except pay $5 per month, per computer. Backblaze is different from other backup services because they give you options for restoring your data. In a time of crisis, do you have time for all of your data (likely lots of gigabytes or maybe terabytes) to be restored wirelessly? It can take hours or days to restore an entire system wirelessly. What good is a backup if it’s difficult or inconvenient to use it when you need it the most? Backblaze can ship you a hard drive with your data on it, if needed. Once we had a customer with an RAID and a local attached hard drive. Unbeknownst to them, the hard drive got unplugged and then the RAID failed. They would have lost all of their data. But Backblaze had it all. You can never have too many backups.
Follow these simple guidelines and your data will be very well protected.