I've been struggling for some time now to get the best performance out of my computers, but also to get the best possible backup strategy suited to my needs. These are 2 fold :
- project my data, MAINLY my photography (originals and modified versions)
- my setup. My computers are very personal to me: I hate lending them or giving access to them to someone else (yeah I know, appointment with Mr. Shrink some time next century). But this is where I work every day, where I spend a lot of time, and my setup is both personal in usability and feature-set. I hate having to re-install a computer as it takes forever to feel at ease again.
Aside of my iPhone, iPad, Blackberry (redundant piece of equipment, but I can't cancel my subscription just yet), AppleTVs, here's what I use.
1) an old DELL Precision 670 running Windows XP (windows Vista was slow on it, Seven doesn't rconize the mother board), and Linux Ubuntu. It doesn't have a backup strategy yet, and I could use maybe a suggestion on what best freeware to use for backing it up. (keep in mind that I also probably have tons of legal licences for backup software with all the hard drives I've bought over the years). My kid uses this computer in his room.
2) an old PowerPC iMac G5. It has a firewire hard drive attached to it, running TimeMachine. Happy with that setup. My other kid uses it to browse the net and play games.
3) my MacPro. As you know from previous posts, it boots off an SSD drive hooked on an eSata card. Fast boot and application launches. Then it has 4x2 TB of disks, running on a stripe of 8TB (RAID0). 2 partitions there for speed (measured up to x5 vs. a single disk). I was scared here, because if one disks fails, I would loose everything. I recently changed ALL the 10 (yes 10!) external disks I had to backup different directories, to an external RAID5 enclosure (love it !), running off an eSata connection (fast !), with 4x3TB disks on a RAID 5 setup (meaning 3 disks are used for data, 1 for security copying parity information. If 1 drive fails, it keeps working, no problem). This gives me 9TB of usable data and I use TimeMachine to backup my 3 partitions (boot on SSD, 2 partitions on internal RAID0) without worrying about backup anymore ! And I also get incremental backups with TimeMachine of certain files, although they are sometimes hard to find (config files, etc.).
And because, just because, I also set up 2x2TB LaCie drives (eSata link) as a RAID1 mirror (hey, I have tons of spare disks now), where i manually update a copy of my Aperture photo database (nothing else) using the built-in Aperture Vault mechanism.
4) now, I also use a MacBook Pro as a travelling laptop. I used to have a very simple setup with 2 external USB drives that would clone the internal disk with SuperDuper. I would do this EVERY single time I was planning on traveling, as in the past, I've had my laptop stolen already. Actually, when my house was broken into last year, I restored a new mac in a matter of hours (just copying the files after 3 clicks). I recently switched my optical drive with a SSD drive, hence I have 2 partitions now, and the capacity of both is greater than my external 2 disks. Maybe I could clone each partition with each disk ?
But I chose to do something different :) I hook up my laptop to my home LAN (cables, yes, but 1 Gb/s ethernet), and now do a TimeMachine from my laptop to the same external RAID5 enclosure. I could automate this (there's a trick described online to do TimeMachine backups over wifi) in order to always have the latest sync, but it's manual for the moment. I now use TimeMachine over WiFi for automatic backups. And for added protection, I also clone each partition, to an external USB disk.
I also do a manual Aperture Vault sync to the RAID1 disks.
Note: I moved my home directory to my DATA disks and they are not anymore on my SSD drives. Explanation on why and how here.
Next steps :
I undertand that my data is now safe from a disk crash (MacPro's SSD + RAID0, MacBookPro's SSD + HD), or if my laptop is stolen, or if my MacPro dies on me. I have 4 copies of my pictures now too (internal disks, RAID5, 2 copies on RAID1 mirror). Even my backups are protected (RAID5 has 1 disk failure tolerance, RAID 1 too).
But my physical backup drives in themselves are not fully protected. My house was broken into last year; what if they had stolen my RAID5 enclosure ? What if I lived in Japan and was struck by a tsunami ? I need a copy of my data elsewhere.
The easiest way would be to go for an online service to backup everything. I wouldn't mind paying. My RAID5 with disks cost me $1,100. But with my current ADSL upload speed (< 1Mb/s), the original backup would take more than 3 months. I could of course send in a disk, but that's a hassle. This is the way of the future though, as soon as I get fiber optic internet at home. I hear CrashPlan is a great service, although there are other options.
In the meantime, the best option would be to get the smallest possible setup to carry elsewhere a full copy of my setup + data. I guess the best option is to get another RAID 5 enclosure with 12 TB, and swap them regularly (say once a month) with the one I have at home (leave them in the office, or with a friend or at the bank). But then I would have 2 RAID5 enclosures at home every now and then... Not good. The answer is to rotate with 3 enclosures, labeling them easily as quarter - month 1, month 2, month 3.
Bottom line, I'm happy now that I've centralized everything on this Raid 5 enclosure with TimeMachine. You can get the same one at MacSales.com, with 4 disks.