I don’t like losing files. I don’t like messy, convoluted settings. I want to be prepared for a catastrophic disaster. I don’t want to spend a lot of money. Here’s my Top Secret, 4-Step Backup Plan revealed and why I think it’s the best ever for the slightly above average Mac user.
Are All Backup Plans Created Equal?
Yes, any Mac backup plan is better than no backup plan, but not all backup plans are the same. My grandmother always said, “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” When it comes to the files on your Mac, what’s the worst that could happen?
You can hope that you never lose a file.
You can hope that your Mac’s hard drive will never crash, never lose a song, or photo, or file, or movie clip.
Hoping and wishing is a start, but divine intervention may not resurrect your Mac’s dead hard drive. So, it’s time to prepare for the worst situation possible, and move backwards.
This is the place to start. How valuable are the files on your Mac? What would you do if you start up your Mac and it doesn’t? The disk drive is deader than dead. How do you recover?
To a certain extent, the trouble you go to for a backup plan is related to how valuable those files are, and how much you’re willing to invest in guarding them. The more valuable, the more effort you invest.
Let’s start with the worst scenario. Your Mac is destroyed or stolen or dies. All files are gone forever. How do you get back up and running with a new Mac? Apps can be installed easily enough. What about music, movies, photos, documents? Those are the files worth saving.
Assume that you back up your files on an external disk drive. Does it survive the catastrophic disaster, too? If not, now what? After all, the scenario is a catastrophic disaster.
4 Steps To The Best Backup Plan
First, it’s important to make some kind of backup of your Mac’s important files; those you cherish the most. A single external disk drive is better than nothing. Drag and drop works. But Carbon Copy Cloner is free, and will clone your Mac to a bootable external disk drive.
The cost? An external disk drive.
Second, losing files between backups is no fun. Apple’s Time Machine makes saving files between daily backups a simple, set-it-and-forget-it option.
The cost? Another external disk drive (or, in the alternative, a very big disk drive that does both a cloned Mac and a Time Machine volume).
Third, synchronizing valuable ongoing work files between your Mac, another Mac (at home or office), or another disk drive (at home, or office). For this, I use ChronoSync to ensure that all files in my iMac’s Documents folder are also updated to the Documents folder on my MacBook. Those files change often during the course of the day, so need more than hourly updates.
The cost? A second Mac (obviously an optional solution).
Finally, no home or small office backup plan can survive the catastrophic disaster in the way of a flood, or fire, or tsunami, or earthquake, or theft. If all the data is stored in your Mac at home, and home (or the Mac) is gone, including the backups, then that’s a disaster of catastrophic proportions, right?
That means getting an online backup solution.
Fortunately, online backup solutions are numerous and relatively inexpensive. For example, there’s Mozy. It’s a small app that works in the background on your Mac, copies your valuable files to a storage server someone in the internet’s cloud, so even if your Mac and home don’t survive the disaster, your Mac’s valuable files will.
Similarly, there’s also Jungle Disk, an app and service which copies your Mac’s files to a large server farm for offsite storage. And, a similar app called Arq, which copies and secures Mac files online using Amazon’s Simple Storage Service.
What’s the total cost of the best backup plan ever?
First, the cost of a good backup app. For those on my list, at most $45 (Synk Pro). Second, the cost of a backup external disk drive. A one terabyte external disk drives retail for barely $100; often less.
For online storage, depending on the number and size of your valuable Mac files, such services can range from free to approximately $20 a month (maybe more, usually $5 a month).
That means a catastrophic disaster can be overcome for less than $150 and at most (on average) $5 per month. Is that a perfect plan? It’s certainly not bad considering the cost and the coverage. Your mileage may vary, of course. Expense and complexity increase with the number of Macs, especially so in an office environment.
Things happen. It pays to be prepared.