Conversation on Backup Strategies

In response to a call for opinions on NAS devices by Dan Wilson, Oğuz Demirkapi and I exchanged a few tweets regarding RAID and backups and how we each use them to try to ensure we don’t experience any data loss.  It’s hard to explain this type of setup in 140 character chunks, so I thought I’d do a quick post outlining my current setup and what I want to do to tweak it in the near future.

Our house is a total Mac household. I have a 17″ Macbook Pro, my wife has a black Mackbook, the twins each have a white Macbook and we have a Mac Mini that sits in a room in the basement and serves as a “server” for the house–iTunes and Calibre servers plus DVR functions with an Elgato EyeTV 250 Plus. The mini streams iTunes content to all the above-mentioned computers plus two AppleTV units.

For file storage, I have an original-model Drobo hooked to the Mac Mini.  We store everything from files used in our business, the iTunes media library, the Calibre eBook library, the centralized iPhoto library and more on there.

Current Backup Components

  1. Hourly backups: Each of our computers has Time Machine configured to do hourly backups to a 1TB Time Capsule
  2. Nightly backups: I’ve installed the Mac client for the Mozy online backup service on the Mac Mini. Each night it backs up anything on the attached Drobo that has changed except for music and movie files.  This ensures that our business files, photos and other files get backed up daily as they change. I originally had the movies and music set to back up there too, but it took entirely too long through the limited upload speed of my cable modem for large HD movies to get backed up
  3. Monthly backups: I keep a Western Digital MyBook that has two 500GB hard drives (configured to be a total of 1TB) in a safety deposit box at our local bank.  About once per month, we bring that drive home, sync all the data on the Drobo to it and return it to the safety deposit box. This ensures that there is at least a relatively recent copy of the media files stored somewhere outside my house in the event of a disaster

Holes in my setup
Eventually, I’d like to move the Time Machine backup targets to point to a partition on the Drobo. It has 4 drive bays that can each handle 4TB SATA drives (when those become available) so it potentially has the capacity to do everything it’s doing now plus store what we’re putting on the Time Capsule.  Doing that would give me redundancy for the backups that Time Machine creates unlike using the single drive in the Time Capsule today.

Additionally, the 1TB MyBook drive is, at some point, going to be insufficient to mirror the contents of the Drobo. I’ve been thinking about what to do when that happens. I’m considering purchasing another Drobo unit, mirroring the files from my current Drobo onto it, and placing it on the network at my brother’s house (which is about 150 miles from me). I could then use CrashPlan to mirror any changes to that remote Drobo.  That would let me remove the Mozy subscription while keeping a complete set of files outside the house.

I realize this is not the most comprehensive backup strategy known to man, but I think it balances automatic, hands-off backup with off-site redundant storage to recover in the event of a disaster.

I’m also sure there are other great ideas out there and I’d love to hear how you folks solve this problem for yourselves.

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