I have a confession to make. I am a back up freak. If you saw my desk you would see 3, 1tb drives and 1, 2tb drive. I need all of these because of my huge and growing digital library. I have, in essence, become a digital hoarder.

The main hard drive on my iMac is only 500gb. When I bought it, I could not imagine filling that space. Then I got an Apple TV for Christmas a couple of years ago. I was then faced with the fact that my digital collection was starting to grow. I already 5,000-song library and now I have added oodles of TV seasons, movies and documentaries to my collection.

The other day Deb wanted to see a documentary that I knew I had downloaded but moved to another drive because I can’t hold them all on my internal hard drive. I went searching through all my backup drives and I couldn’t find it. It turned out that my 2tb drive had died. It wouldn’t spin up or show any kind of connection to the computer. I changed the USB cable, I tried a Firewire cable and nothing worked. I also checked Apple’s Time Machine but those back ups only go back to March.

About 10 months ago or so, I signed up with Mozy, which is an online backup system. It backs up your entire computer. I didn’t realize it right away but I had also backed up all my back up drives. So today, when I had a little time, I checked what was available on Mozy and sure enough, there was the documentary I was looking for. I have now downloaded it again. When I replace that backup drive, I will just be able to completely restore everything that was on it.

Backing things up does not have to be difficult or onerous. I rotate my iTunes back ups amongst 3 drives. This means I always have at least two iterations of my iTunes library at any time. I had to pay for Mozy but it did its thing in the background and when my computer was idle. I didn’t even notice it for the most part. I think it took a couple of months before every thing was finally backed up. Retrieving it was super easy as well. All of my documents are stored in Dropbox and on 3 computers. They are also backed up on Mozy.

I am pleased how easy it was to restore a file. I am not at all concerned now about something happening as I know it will be easy to restore files. It may take a very long time but that is better than never getting them back in the case of a catastrophic failure. Most experts recommend backing everything up twice. One backup stays on site and the other is somewhere else. While you can do this with multiple hard drives, I think Mozy is less expensive and easier.

Back up problems solved

I have been running computers for over 20 years now and I have never had a hard-drive failure. I would like to think it is good management however it is likely good luck. I decided that I would I would practice good backup habits.

There are many different ways to back things up. You can use external drives, burn files to disk or usb sticks. It is good to keep backups at home and at another location. You can do all the backing up you want but if all of your backups are in one place they can be stolen or otherwise destroyed if there is a fire or something like that. Since I got an Apple TV, my investment in digital media has increased exponentially. I would really hate to lose everything. Plus, while Time Machine technically backs up your system, I have heard from others that the restoration may not be as complete as one would hope. I have taken a multi-pronged approach to backing up my main computer.

1. I have Time Machine running on Apple’s Time Capsule. It is a 1TB drive that backs up my iMac and my MacBook Pro wirelessly. I hope that if I ever accidentally delete something I will be able to get it from Time Machine. It would also form the basis of a restoration should I ever need it.

2. I have downloaded Carbon Copy Cloner that allows you to create a bootable carbon copy of your operating system so that if it goes down I can boot from that drive.

3. For my everyday documents I have chosen Dropbox. I came to Dropbox after my disastrous experience with iDisk and Mobile me. Dropbox is an internet program that allows you to sync your documents to storage in the cloud. You can then sync any number of computers to your files. As soon as changes are made to your files they are immediately uploaded and propagated to the other computers. Moreover, you can access your files from any computer with an internet connection. I can not say enough good things about Dropbox.* The best part about Dropbox is that it is free up to 2GB. I use Dropbox for all of my everyday documents for work and home. This way I have everything I need wherever I am. I love Dropbox!

4. I also have numerous external hard drives for backups. All of my iTunes content is backed up including content that I don’t have room for on my iMac. If I lose anything I can immediately get it from one of my external drives.

5. The final component of my backup plan is Mozy. Mozy is cloud storage for backup that is ridiculously cheap. You tell Mozy what you want to back up and Mozy keeps it backed up. After the initial backup which, depending on size, may take a long time to complete, Mozy will back up only files that have changes. In the event of a crash, you can then get your content back.

Everything I have read indicates that this kind of comprehensive backup plan will ensure that I will not lose my valuable data in the event of a crash. Like many computer users I have procrastinated about backing up my data. I feel better knowing that in the event of a problem I will not lose my data. If you have questions let me know in the comments.

*If you want to try Dropbox let me know and I will send you an invitation. The more peopleI get to sign up the more space I get for free!