A stitch in time…

Whats your backup method? I wont lecture you about backing up, you know its essential right? But its a PITA! Or it has been… I’ve been using computers long enough to have lived through & funded a few different backup methods – most boring of all was Retrospect tape backup which took many hours to backup & god forbid you should want to random access files scattered thoughout a tape set.
As drives have gotten bigger & cheaper backup has become a double edged sword, both my Mac Pros have 3 x 1TB drives in them & I have maybe half a dozen other 1TB drives floating around, plus 2 x 2TB RAIDs with my two libraries on them (one 2TB RAID for sound FX library, the other for music/sample library) so without investing the price of a small car in a tape backup format whats the best option to back it all up?

Well, I tend to follow two approaches, the first is to always maintain two copies of everything. So for my sound library I actually have 4 x 2TB RAID drives ie two seperate copies of the same two libraries. And they live in different physical places ie one set at work, the other at home. If one goes down I instantly have it replaced & update the clone.

Secondly everything is cloned to removeable 1TB drives. Over the years I have seen some fancy removeable drive docks & certainly in the early years they were the only way to access large amounts of data. But now i use a simple USB device that cost me only $50! And it lets you plug a raw 1TB drive into without any case. Now obviously it requires that you know what you are doing ie dont scuff around on your shagpile carpet & then handle the raw drive while you make a cup of tea… But if you do know what you’re doing these are a truly affordable means of backing up your data. Heres a link to where I bought my drive dock, in NZ: Vantec NexStar Hard Drive Dock, 3.5″ & 2.5″ SATA to USB 2 & eSATA

I use a fairly simple program to do my backups, called Folders Syncronizer – its like $40 to buy & will do incremental backups as well as syncronize in both directions should you need it to. I tend to just be backing up & then updating archival copies of everything so I don’t syncronise.

The one other important aspect of backing up is to backup your OS, as if the dreaded happens ie your system drive dies, you may well need to be up & running again fairly rapidily, especially if you have a deadline & mix booking dependent on it.
To make a clone backup of my system drive (OSX, plugs, apps, personal data) I use Carbon Copy Cloner and for example when I recently setup my MacPro at home I simply used CCC to clone my working OSX system drive at work & then installed the cloned system drive at home. It took a ridiculously short amount of time to go from zero to having a fully configured computer functioning exactly as I like to use it.
Having a functioning clone of your system drive is also a good trouble shooting tool so eg you install a new application & half a day later your mac starts misbehaving, you can simply power up the drive you cloned your OS to, switch startup drives preferences, reboot & then run diagnostics on your original system drive. Comparatively there is nothing so tedious as having to resort to an OSX installer DVD to boot up from & do diagnostics…

Whats your method?

7 thoughts on “A stitch in time…

  1. Benoit Tigeot

    Hello Tim

    I use a lot things for my backup. I have 2 mac (Macbook Pro with 240gb & MacPro with 1860gb ), a NAS of 1TB and externals hard drives.
    The music, pictures and sound library are saved on the externals hards drives and on each computer. I have all data 3 times. I use Chrono Sync for copy. I think is one of the best software.
    I have also a Mozy Account for very important files (contacts, ical, pref…).
    Everything connected with gigabit connection.
    I think an external backup like mozy or AmazonS3 are the best, but the access is too long to work properly.

    Chrono Sync

  2. leyton

    for my mac pro i have 3 physical copies of “current” projects (1 on the MP, one on a portable which i back up every night, and one on a 3.5 [off site] which i do once a month off site.. i take the 2.5 current drive with me everywhere…)

    and 2 copies of archived projects.. (one onsite.. one off site) i only use drives not dvds for the last 6 years..and im only going to buy 2.5″ drives for backups from now on..

    i had a drive caddy sytem but that fell over about a year ago and i havent replaced it so its good to know you have success with the one you are using

    during my investigations i found that it is important to spin up your drives regularly..

    all my original cds of programs etc are off site.. with one drive onsite of lots of disk images…

    i use time machine for my OS drive to a 500g 2.5 inch which i back up once a week ( on tuesdays) the same for my MBP ( on wednesdays)

    i dont use a app for syncing i just copy stuff across..

    i also have a backup of my sample library attached to the computer at all times so if one raid goes down i just keep going..

    i also use dropbox for small little things like ical/addressbook/bookmarks/wallet and my business accounts

    once its cheap enough and we get better broadband in NZ id consider getting a S3 account for archiving.

    tim do you have ilok zero downtime?

    1. admin Post author

      No i dont have ilok zero downtime… not sure what it costs…. I did manage to snap an ilok in half when i was moving – it wasnt my main PT HD system but still a hassle as had to FedEx the broken ilok to them to prove it was real & was broken!?! What bollocks! What should have cost $40 (for a new ilok) and 10 minutes ended up costing $150 and took 3 or 4 days….

      Just checked: “Zero Downtime coverage costs only $30.00 per iLok per year” – i have four iloks but only two are critical ie PT HD & plugs… hmmm…

    2. admin Post author

      i dont use a app for syncing i just copy stuff across..

      one reason i do use an app for backups is that when copying lots of files it is faster than using OSX to do it eg i am doing a complete clone of my music sample library, it currently says 539,304 files to go… I’ve had copies like this make my mac run very slow, plus its the incremental aspect that is very handy 🙂

  3. Sébastien Orban

    I’m on the windows side, I use syncback to have a copy of my main data folder on an external hd (once a week, or more if lot of work is done on the computer).

    But well, I’m going to take those nice adapter for naked hardrive in the future – eSata will speed things up, and a naked HD cost nearly nothing.
    And I’m thinking about raid 5, but without a dedicated controller performance are subpar. And those hardware controller cost too much…
    A SAN would be nice too. One day.

    But if I was on MacOS X I would take a good look with rsync – open source/free and pretty good. Not really that good on windows though.

  4. Dan

    Since my active projects are never more than 50 or 60 gig each, I usually work on my internal, and do a mirror backup every evening. So my backup drive is the same size as my internal. (My libraries are all on external drives so I only fire them up when I need them.)

    I’ve been using this old French software for close to 10 years now, and it’s saved my ass countless times: http://www.tri-edre.fr/english/index.html

    I know there are more sophisticated programs around but Tri-edre has been solid for me, so I trust it. Most times it’s saved me from ‘operator error’ (doh!) but a few times from a bad crash.

  5. Michael Maroussas

    hi tim – just recently been looking to improve my backup system and so revisited this post of yours – just wondered if you’d made any new discoveries or caveats since writing this? Would you still recommend the Vantec? How come you don’t just use carbon copy cloner for cloning and incremental backup instead of FS? Still using these apps? Any thoughts on time machine, ie do you know if it’s any good?

    Many thanks,


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