Forward with backup

Is there any subject as thrilling as backup? Many– nay, most — in fact. But lately it seems like I spend at least as much time worrying about how to preserve my data as I do creating it.

I could create a rather interesting map mashup of all the places and ways my laptops have decided to crap out, so I’m more than normally concerned about comprehensive backup. But recently over the holidays I entered a whole new stratum of data management. I thought, gee, it would be nice finally to digitize all the family video we’ve had laying around since my first son was born in 2001. We’ve not been obsessive about videotaping family gatherings; we had only 20 tapes — few full — in six years. I thought, I’ll just whip up a quick DVD as a stocking stuffer for the wife. Idiot me. A full week later of nearly nonstop chip-searing rendering I had produced five full DVD’s of video. (And if I had heard another rendition of “Happy Birthday To You” I would have lost it.) It turned out well, though the data it produced was both priceless and ginormous.

So this added to a few of my backup needs, detailed here. Ideally I need to:

  • Backup my main work laptop daily such that in the event of catastrophe I can boot from the backup image and resume work immediately.
  • Backup two other essential machines in the house.
  • Synchronize the main work laptop and a secondary work laptop. Oh, one is Mac OS the other is XP.
  • Establish a schedule that includes local, accessible backup and offsite storage in the event of real catastrophe. (“Fire! Grab the kids … and the drives!”)
  • Deal with the a massive music library and new half-terabyte of digitized video — offsite.

I’ve worked almost all of it out. For nightly backup I use SuperDuper! — a great app — to dump changes to a perfect image of my work laptop (a MacBook Pro) to an external, bootable Firewire drive.

The other machines in the house backup monthly to a networked Lacie drive.

I synchronize the MBP and ThinkPad using Apple’s smart folders, just copying over files from a Modified Since Last Backup folder to the ThinkPad. If you’ve ever used iTunes smart playlists you know how easy this is to set up. I suppose I could create an Automator action to do this automatically too, now that I think of it.

The last two present the problem. And this where I need your help. All told I have about a half terabyte of data to backup offsite, in case the shit really hits the fan. Time was, I’d just burn DVD’s and shuttle them to friends, family, or work. But I’ve surpassed the feasibility of burning DVD-R’s, HD-DVD storage is a a very rare thing these days, and the feasibility of online storage is hampered by cost and upload bandwidth. You’ll say, buy another external drive and move it offsite monthlyl! But I loathe to buy a fourth external drive in a calendar year. What to do?

The real problem is more philosophical. Backup to another device is relatively easy — and it is where most backup people do (if at all) stops. But to be truly comprehensive about it you need your backups in two different physical locations. Things happen. Robbery, fire, flooding. And this is where I am stuck. Help me, won’t you?

One response to “Forward with backup”

  1. GC says :

    Clearly the only solution is to convince some remote, island dictator/monarch/despot of some sort to allow us to build a massive underground data haven, to which you can securely back up all of your data. Add to the to do list: (1) find and recruit appropriate despot; (2) draft unbreakable encryption protocol; (3) dig up buried WWII gold. Oh wait, scratch no. 3…