Earlier this week Sean McCabe did an episode of his twice-a-week podcast on "The Fear of Losing Everything". Be sure to give it a listen here, because it will scare you into backing up, or improving your backup regiment.
Are you scared now? Good.
We work in a digital world, and that world is far more fragile then we like to acknowledge. Losing all, or even a good chunk of your work can be debilitating to your business. There is no such thing as being too careful when it comes to protecting your data. I want to give you a peek into my backup workflow to give you some ideas for protecting your livelihood.
My backup system is 2 parts. They both have their pros and cons, but together they provide what I feel should be a bare minimum safety net for any person running a computer.
Time Machine is an automated backup tool that comes built-in to Mac OS X. There are other utilities as well for Mac, and also a wide selection of tools for Windows if you're of the PC persuasion. The tool doesn't matter, as long as it does automatic, incremental backups to an external hard drive on a regular basis.
Besides the backup utility, you need the necessary hardware. You'd need an external USB/FireWire/Thunderbolt drive that is at least twice the size of your internal storage (for reasons I'll get to in a second). Ideally you should be able to attach this hard drive to your network, especially if you have a laptop or multiple computers. Many higher-end wireless routers offer this feature. I personally use the AirPort Extreme because I feel that works best with the Mac, but do the research and find the equipment that works best for you.
As for why I suggest a drive double the size of your internal storage, you'll be wanting to use a backup utility with restore feature. Sometimes you can accidentally delete a file, or it can get corrupted. If you're just doing a clone of your drive, or your external drive isn't as big or just barely bigger than your internal, there is the possibility of losing these files forever.
In addition to local backups over Time Machine, I use Backblaze to create online backups. I've tried various different services like CrashPlan and Carbonite, but I didn't like them. I don't think there's anything wrong with them, I'm just obsessively picky about the software I use.
This tool is very simple. I pay $5 a month and my files are automatically uploaded to their servers. That's really it, it's so simple there is very little to say about it. As long as I'm online I pretty much have a constant backup of everything I do on my computer. They also send, via email, weekly reports and warnings if you haven't backed up in a while.
As I said at the beginning, there is no such thing as being too careful. While using one of these methods is certainly better than nothing, using both offers an even better level of protection.
The advantages of onsite backups are clear. They're faster, both to backup to and restore from, and you have full control over the hard drive. They're also a lot more convenient if you just have to restore a corrupt or accidentally deleted file.
However, they are not going to protect you against catastrophes. Crazy things can happen, and have happened to many people. A power surge could overload everything, or you could get robbed. There could even be a fire, or some kind of natural disaster that destroys your equipment. Insurance can replace your hardware, but not all that work you've done.
That's where online backups come in. Your data is being sent somewhere else that won't be affected if something happens to your home or office. While it's not super convenient, if something happens to both your computers hard drive and your external drive you will be glad to have something to fall back on.
So, if you don't have a backup regiment, make one now!