Karl Strieby

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Why have backups?

If you're a smart technology user, you always make backups because a lot of bad things can happen to rob you of your data:

  1. Hardware failure or loss (theft, a severe senior moment, whatever...)
  2. Ransomware
  3. Virus (electronic, not COVID 19, that is)
  4. "Trojan Horse" software
  5. "Drive-by downloads"
  6. And the most dangerous data threat of all: PEBKAC (problem exists between keyboard and chair)

How to backup

Backup storage methods:

  • Tape or other external media
  • On-line

Tape or other external media has the advantage of speed, both in making the backup and restoring data from it when needed. Cost of external storage has plummeted over the time I've been around technology, and the speed of data transfer has improved as well. On-line backup can be very handy when you only need to restore a single file or directory of files.

Backup storage

Where should you have your backups stored? For peace of mind, you want more than one location to store your backups.

  • On site (in your office or home)
  • Off site (for example, bank safe deposit box)
  • On line

My own backup strategy

Ever since I've been a Mac user, I've used Apple's Time Machine as my primary backup method. Back when I ran Windows as my primary OS, I used a variety of tools to create and manage my backups, but never did as good a job of this as I do years later. My secondary backup methods are mostly manual processes involving smaller sets of high-priority data and external flash storage or "cloud " storage.

Back in 2008 when I wrote on this topic, external media like CD and DVD rewritable disks were a big (and time-comsuming) part of my backup strategy. Now I use a variety of flash media of various sizes in addition to my Time Machine external hard drive.


I've been using Carbonite for a good many years now (since 2007 or 08). It's very easy to set up and use, but it's not practical without a broadband Internet connection. http://www.cabonite.com/.

Time Machine

My current Time Machine drive is an external USB3 device with 6TB of space total: at least 70% of that is available today.

Manual backups

USB "thumb drives" have grown in capacity and performance over the years. I use a handful of these on a daily basis to manually back up my most important data. One thumb drive is in our safe deposit box (rotated more or less weekly), and another stays on my desk at home until it's time to rotate it off site. A small third drive rides around with my key ring, and holds my most important files, in an encrypted zip file.

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Site recreation started (palindrome alert!) 02/22/20. This page last updated 4/6/20