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Wednesday, 13 March 2013


I'll add, get AppleCare because it's great service, not because Apple products are poorly made. I even had a repair covered after I spilled water on my laptop, because the service person said he saw no sign of water damage even tho I'd told him about the spill. That's service.

As you'll know:

Time Machine. Set it and forget it.

Until it's needed, it restored all to a new Mac almost exactly as it was when the older one died, everything ship shape and Bristol fashion.

What shall I say but: Backup early, backup often.

And: Nobody is interested if you do backup. The only interesting point is if you can restore!

Sorry to hear of your Apple issues and I do not want to make you dwell on the problems you were having, however, I have one question. We have three networked Macs of various types and configurations. Recently, SOME..not all..of our outbound emails have not been getting out AND our wireless printer interfaces have been sporadic. No, we do not have apples care on any of our computers..all expired..only on our latest iPad/Retina.

Darn, I send it with out actually asking...were these symptoms of your recent issues?

Backups are vital but the nature of your backups are just as important. The keyword is redundancy, have lots of copies and ideally use versioned backups (like Apple's Time Machine). A common discovery is to realize that the file you wanted has just been overwritten by the last backup so make sure you keep your backups intact for long enough to avoid this.

A simple scheme is to use 2 or 3 backup drives, keep the oldest ones offsite (exchange them with friends) and rotate them (say weekly or monthly). Finally, check your backups, ensure that important files are present and can be recovered.

This isn't perfect but it beats what 99.9999% of people do.

You've still got your phone. Keep blogging.

Odd coincidence. I have also been dealing with email issues for the last 24 hours, but of the "hacked account" variety. Oddly, someone signed into my Yahoo account from Peru of all places. Good luck resolving your tech issues.

I just assumed you were letting Ctein sleep in.


After losing my Time Machine backup drive (not an Apple drive, however) and my external hard drive dedicated to photos, I'm thinking about an online service like Carbonite for full system backups. I'm now manually backing up my photos on 3 portable hard drives (redundant redundance in the face of likely future failures). I'm not feeling very secure about another drive for the whole system. Experiences with online services, anyone?

I have a separate hard drive in my PC for storing all my data, that drive is automatically backed up to my file server every night which has a pair of mirrored RAID drives in it, and for extra protection, in case my house burns down or is broken into, I also use an offline backup service.

Saving cat pictures is serious business!

Well, glad you're not dead.

There are two types of backup. One is to a drive that you keep close to your workstation.

The second is a drive you keep off site, say at a friend or relatives home. The idea being in case your home burns or your computer is stolen.

Thanks for the update Mike! I too had a scare like that last year and my apple care saved the day! I didn't have a backup drive and luckily they were able to save most of my stuff. I instantly bought a backup drive after that horrible experience! I was out of a computer for a week!!

Been there, done that and second your advice. Time Machine and a bootable internal backup drive updated frequently are good for System stuff. A two drive mirrored 4GB RAID setup also backed up at least weekly to an external drive store the picture files.

This is the reason I like a MacPro with lots of internal drive slots

Here are a few more exclamation points to emphasize everything you said!!!!

[Rob is the owner of The Lightroom in Berkeley, CA, a fine art custom printing house. --Ed.]

Be aware that Time Machine can sometimes refuse to read its backup partitions I think (but do not know) that if your Mac goes to sleep during a backup it will leave Time Machine with a corrupted partition, this was with a 3rd party networked device, then you are well and truly out of luck. Think of Time Machine for recovery of day to day errors, "where is that document I was working on last month". You additionally need a full backup onto a separate device, this is the one you keep somewhere else.

Besides backup, there are some regular maintenance tasks that you should perform on your Mac to help keep performance up and to ward off problems. At minimum you should use Disk Utility to repair the permissions on your main disk every week or so. There are other more esoteric things that help having to do with system cache, and other stuff which you can get geeky and learn about, or you can do what I did and buy a copy of the utility "Cocktail" for the Mac, and run it in "Pilot mode" once a week or so and it will take care of all those maintenance issues for you. It is inexpensive, and as far as I can tell you get free updates forever.

The other thing I would suggest is that you clean out your browser now and then to get rid of the detritus that websites deposit there (cookies, tracking stuff, etc.). In Safari, choose "reset Safari" under the Safari menu. Other browsers have similar functtionalilty usually buried in their preferences.

Drobo is a modular backup system based upon RAID technology that does not require an IT expert to administer. See drobo.com. Drobo supports time machine if you choose to use it. Drobo also allows dual disk redundancy (meaning two disks can fail and your data can still be recovered). I use their Drobo-FS system along with Data Backup 3 software from prosoft engineering (prosofteng.com). Drobo and Prosoft Engineering tech support is excellent (and free)! Both companies and lines of products are highly recommended.

A Drobo is a 'storage robot'. Basically a storage computer you put on your network that handles backups and file versioning a la time machine, but depending on your budget you can add more drives as needed to improve data security (i.e. the health of the data, though they probably support encryption, I'm just working from memory). From what I understand, they are very nice products. They are not, however, a total data protection solution, as it keeps all of your data in one physical place. As others have mentioned, having data off-site is important if your data are important to you (g).

I think there is a truly large market for a multi-pronged data backup/archive product and service for consumers that is drop-dead simple (and not to diminish Time Machine, but that isn't it (nor does it profess to be).


This is what I do for backups


I've also since started using Backblaze as a remote backstop. You need a lot of network bandwidth for the initial push if you have a typical backup size (say around 1TB). But it's nice to have that stuff off site without needing to carry disks around.

I still also make my own off site backup once in a while.

I back up to Hard Drives but I'm not well organised and so I've ended up with files duplicated several times over various disks.

My ideal would be a utility which could search and report on the duplicates , allow me to get organised to 1 master sets (which I could then duplicate to another drive).

Mike I don't know if such a utility exists but maybe you could fire out this query.

There was a utilty that supposedly did this but I found that it came unstuck when it found duplicate names but the images were different. (Round the clock with a camera!)


Regarding your music collection, get the Music Match service by Apple!. It's cheap, and it's a great backup solution for all your music (plus, if you have anything in low quality, it can be "upgraded" to the standard–and pretty decent–250 kbps in apple iTunes).
As for documents... once again the cloud has ben the answer to my backup problems/worries. I have free accounts in a number of services: SugarSync, Dropbox and box, all of them synchronized with my computer, and in total with more than 50 GB at my disposal. I trust they take care of their servers, and have everything duplicated among different services. Nice at least a an off-site backup solution.

As a one man band lawyer, IT is critical but a pain in the neck. I use two drobo's onsite - I save all files to one with the other set to automatically back it up, all backed up both to the cloud and to an off-site raid drive using CrashPlan, and I've recently started using Dropbox for everything but highly sensitive data, so there's another effective back up. Don't forget to use power filters and battery back-ups so that power surges don't blow the lot. I can live if a crash takes a week to restore but I'm out of business if I lose the information.

Unverifiable backups are worthless - I don't understand how apple got time machine so wrong. Backups in unix are simple - rsync to update and md5 for verification if you're feeling paranoid (which you should be). All files are visible on the backup disk for spot-checking comparison. Easy peasy.

I use Time Machine and Backlaze ($5 a month per computer for unlimited storage) and it has saved my bacon countless times. The initial backup to Backblaze will possibly take weeks but the peace of mind is worth it. Any client of mine who will listen is also now using a remote backup service in addition to local backups.

If our apartment in this somewhat unsavoury part of south London gets emptied by unwanted visitors or if there is a fire or flood, our encrypted Time Machine backups might well be useless and Backblaze will be all we have. Off-site backups with disk swaps are a great idea but I've found that I just don't get around to them often enough. I have Backblaze configured to run only during the time we're asleep. I also use Time Machine Editor to have TM run only once a day. However, I do regularly spot-check the backups.

Another tip: if you store material on external drives, make sure Time Machine and Backblaze (or your choice of remote backup) are set to back up those drives as well.

Beware Drobo! (I'm assuming someone else will explain what is...) Scott Kelby chronicles his troubles here: http://scottkelby.com/2012/im-done-with-drobo/

The problem in a nutshell: Drobo uses a proprietary disk read/write system, meaning only they can read it if something goes wrong with your Drobo backup. Basically, you are translating your data into a form decipherable only by a third party: Drobo. It's like Adobe DNG, only in reverse.

This looks promising *but* it's new and I have no experience with it. The Transporter (http://filetransporterstore.com) is a network box with software -- stick one offsite at a friend or relative's place, attach an external drive to it and you've got offsite backup without fees to a service provider.

I have a friend in the Oakland Hills area (=major fire risk every dry season, earthquakes, etc.) who's thinking about leaving one with me here in Wisconsin (tornado hazard) if these things get good reviews in the field.

My backup regimen:
Time Machine for fixing files I've saved when I did not intend to or finding an earlier version of a document. Also an easy way to transfer files to your new Mac.
SuperDuper to make bootable copies. Do it in triplicate:
1) Attached to computer gets updated every night
2) Stored offsite (I use my lock box at the bank) that is swapped with #1 monthly.
3)Portable disk updated weekly or when I depart on a trip that goes with me in my briefcase. Allows me to access any files using another's computer if needed. I travel with an iPad only.
The SuperDuper copies can also be used to boot your Mac, wipe the Mac's disk and reload everything which needs to be done every few years to do the equivalent of the PC defragment.

I totally agree with John Whitley's practice. My Mac Pro has 4 internal hard drives: one is my primary Macintosh HD (2TB), the other my Backup HD (2TB), the other two (750GB ea) are drives from an earlier configuration that I use simply as Photoshop scratch disks. All drives are Hitachi, reputed to be the most dependable made (doesn't mean they can't fail of course).

I also have an external Firewire G-Drive (3TB) solely for backups - it runs only when I'm backing up to it, is small and sits on top of my desk so in case of a fire I can grab it and run out the door so the only data I've lost is work done that day (unless of course the G-Drive decides to fail at that moment - nothing is perfect in life).

I use Carbon Copy Cloner and backup to both backup drives at least once a day. Both backup drives are are exact duplicates of my main Mac HD so they are bootable. It is possible that two drives can fail at the same time but the probability of all 3 failing simultaneously is close to nil so I have what I consider adequate redundancy. It takes only about 10 minutes to perform a backup to each backup drive which can be done while I'm away from the computer.

I don't use a laptop and have no interest in the so-called "cloud" - I prefer to keep all my data in my own hot little hands.

I've been using Carbonite to back up important stuff for a couple of years, but never needed to restore from it. My only comment is that it is slow. Slow to do an initial backup, and I suspect slow to restore. Use it as a secondary backup only. It's good for that.

Followup re. Carbon Copy Cloner bootable drives:
I have had drive failures and other instances when for diagnostic reasons I wanted to boot from my internal Backup HD or the external G-Drive and it did so without a hitch. I've also had to format my Mac HD and restore it using a backup and that went without a hitch also - takes quite a few hours however as 750 GB of data is a lot of copying even for an 8-core processor.

Just a note to people using SSD drives to speed up their computer systems. A recent test found that a power-failure would damage the file system in thirteen out of fifteen enterprise-class SSD's. In theory, a power-failure should not be sudden in a protected system, but most home users don't have multiple server power-supplies, a UPS, and a standby generator.

The results described were found to be consistent over thousands of testing cycles. That means that this sort of drive should be used at home only for the "temp" disk, or the operating-system disk (which can be re-imaged) and never as the sole storage for valuable data, even for just a few seconds.

In commercial database usage one might still, for example, use SSD 'disks' to store a datamart which is (re-)built using data from the protected original database, or to speed the use of temporary files in Tempdb.

For commercial storage of valuable original data a fail-tolerant NAS (based on many hard-drives) is used, plus log-shipping to an offsite location to recreate data changes on another server-system in real-time, plus protection of the transaction logs (more-or-less a list of every action taken, allowing recovery to any chosen point in time) plus use of two or more identical local servers to enable a 'hot' failover from 'n' systems to 'n-1' systems, plus each server having multiple redundant power-supplies, plus UPS systems, plus one or more standby power-generators, plus environmental-cooling to around 15C. This might be considered as overkill for one's cat-picture collection.

Don't run your complete system in SSD 'disks' in other words.


Mike --

If you're doing your Time Machine backups to an Apple Time Capsule, you can actually verify that your backups are sound. Press the option key while clicking the Time Machine icon in your menu bar. You'll see that "Back Up Now" has become "Verify Backups." Try that.

Of course I'm sure that no verification is infallible, and should never replace keeping multiple backups, etc., and I've also discovered that the Verify isn't available for Time Machine backups to anything but a Time Capsule, but it's worth trying every now and then, at least so you can sleep better.

Or just hook compuers that use SSDs up to batteries so they can fail gracefully under power loss.

I have two 4Tb drives for monthly backups that are both kept offsite. I alternate between them and bring one or the other onsite for a full backup (NewEgg recently had a sale on Hitachi USB3 4Tb drives. $160 each.) I have a RAID5 drive that I do nightly backups to that is kept near the computer. So far so good...

Operating system errors such as you encountered with your Mac are common with all operating systems, including Windows. It's more a question of "when" rather than "if".

As you note, the only sure cure for such OS failures is a complete reformatting of the hard disk and a clean installation of the OS. Any data on the same drive as the OS will be lost in the process.

For that reason, it's always preferable to use a second, physically separate hard disk to store all data. In the event of a corrupted OS, you do not lose data in the process of reinstalling the OS on the boot drive.

Unfortunately, some programs, including Lightroom, default to storing data in the "My Pictures" or similar folders on the boot drive, virtually guaranteeing data loss unless you intelligently redirect data storage to the second "data-only" hard disk.

Dohhhh, too late I notice a typo in my earlier post . . . For NAS read SAN.

Someone mentioned using a UPS to protect an SSD, well guess what? They fail also, and the extra connections between parts of the server add more points of failure ;o)

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