A case for the Need for Backups…

From SuperUser.com…

My wife has been complaining about her MacBook Air’s performance. It seems to work fine, but when I ran Disk Utility and did a “Verify Disk”, it reported filesystem errors. The “Repair Disk” button was disabled, because this is the startup drive.

So, I restarted with the Mac OS X Install Disc and ran Disk Utility again. When I run “Repair Disk”, I get this output:

Verify and Repair volume "Macintosh HD"
Checking Journaled HFS Plus volume.
Checking Extents Overflow file.
Checking Catalog file.
Invalid node structure.
Volume check Failed.
Error: Filesystem verify or repair failed.

Well, here’s the good example for the need of Backups.  In this particular case, the user had no luck, and ended up re-installing after a reformat of the hard drive.  And sadly, they had no backups of the Mac Book Air.

Those in the Technical Support field will completely understand, when I say, the most important thing you can have is a backup of your system. Why?  Because a backup insures that you will be able to restore your computer back  to a known state.  Yes, drive repair tools are all well and good…  DiskWarrior, and TechTool Pro both can do a fantastic job of repairing drive damage…  As long as it is not a hardware failure that is.  Disk Warrior v4 is a god-send to all Macintosh Technicians, I have used it countless number of times, to repair drives that just were not working.

But are you willing to make that gamble?  What about your family photos, Ebooks, family videos, etc?  A simple backup will help ensure that if your hard drive(s) are damaged, that you have at least saved some of your data…  If you do not backup, you will have no way to restore your system if trouble should arise.  Yes, ideally you would be backing your system up after every changes, but that’s not quite realistic.  Even if you backup once a week, once a month, or once every 6th months, you would at least have the chance of restoring your system from that older backup.  I would much rather be set back a month or so, instead of losing everything.

Reinstalling is a time intensive project, and can easily take a day or two.  Yes, there are techniques to help eliminate the manual labor, but those techniques (eg InstaDmg) are not intended for a single re-install, instead they are intended for multiple computer installs.  Thus, they are time intensive at the start, but quickly speed up the eventual process, when addressing multiple computers.

But what are your Backup options?

On the Macintosh, Time Machine is a low-cost, reasonable answer to the Backup issue.  Just plugin an external drive, and away you go.  Like anything else, there are some issues with Time Machine,  after all it’s still relatively new.  Overall it is a reasonable method to back your system up.  See my Time Machine Information page for more details…  Alternatively if you need more features, or more options, Carbon Copy Cloner, SuperDuper!, and other packages are available which give you additional features, and options, but are also reasonably priced.

On the PC side, I have used Rsync quite a bit….

For backing up Boot Camp partitions, I strongly recommend, WinClone.

What media should you use to backup onto?  Here’s a hint.  Don’t even consider tape backups.  The issue there is that the drives, and tapes are too expensive.

Sony 1PK 36/72GB DAT72 4MM TAPE     $14.77              $0.41 per Gb  to $0.22 per Gb

8mm Tape Cartridge, VXA, ECRIX, 62 m, 12/24GB, V6 Drive $26.13    $2.17 per Gb to $1.09 per Gb

Data Cartridge, 4MM, DDS 3, 125M, 12GB $6.12             $0.51 per Gb

The largest potential tape size is the Sony 36/72 (36 Gb non-compressed, 72 Gb compressed) would take roughly 14 tapes (compressed) to equal a 1Tb drive.  Or roughly 28 tapes, uncompressed, but in reality it would be somewhere in between 14 – 28 tapes.  That’s roughly $200 – 400 dollars on tapes….  Not including the drives, tape backup software, and storage space from the tapes…  And I do mean drives, generally if you doing more than a few tapes, you will need multiple drives, or a tape changer….  After all, are you going to pay someone to sit there and just change tapes?

Consider this, 1 TB external drives are relatively inexpensive these days.  For example, a 1 TB Western Digital My Home (USB/Firewire 400/eSata) is only $119 to $149 on Amazon.com.  How much Time, and Energy would it take for you to completely re-install your computer?  An Hour?  Two Hours?  A day?  Did I mention your applications too?  What about your documents, pictures, and mail?  Plug it in to your Macintosh, and turn on Time Machine, and your all set.

What about network backup solutions?  For example, Carbonite…  I am not recommending these methods, because of the potential cost, not of the service, but of the bandwidth..  Many Broadband ISP’s, are starting to try to charge “overage” fees for bandwidth.  That could make network based backups too expensive for practical uses….

Please feel free to leave comments, suggestions, and your input in the comments section.  I will be happy to expand on this, based on the questions, comments, and concerns that you raise.