Reddit has declared March 31 World Backup Day.

For a long time, backups were tricky for the average user. With OS X Leopard, however, Apple introduced Time Machine, a dead-simple way to backup data on a Mac.

However, most geeks know that there are more powerful options than Time Machine.

That’s not to say Time Machine is bad. It’s a great solution for most people, and a great first line of defense for even the hardcore data protectors.

Off-site Backups

One of the main downsides of Time Machine is that the backup is local. This means that if your office is robbed or burns down, your data and your backup is gone. A Time Capsule is just a half-step in the right direction.

I use two off-site hard drives — one for my iMac’s internal hard drive, and one to backup the Firewire RAID my media library lives on. I use Time Machine to backup the iMac to its off-site copy, and SuperDuper! to copy the RAID. SuperDuper! is my app of choice when it comes to off-site backups for several reasons. The app can schedule backups, and do incremental updates — critical when dealing with hundreds of gigabytes of data. Carbon Copy Cloner is a nice free alternative.

The most important part about off-site backups is updating them. I update mine every other weekend, and store them in a locked cabinet at work. If my apartment burns down or gets robbed, at least I have my data. With my setup, my worst case scenario is losing 13 days of data. I can live with that.

To the Cloud!

Another problem with local backups is that notebook users aren’t always with their backup drives, opening an opportunity for data loss. Cloud services solve this issue

Dolly Drive offers cloud backup that is compatible with Time Machine, which is pretty sweet. Other cloud backup services include Mozy and Backblaze, which both run as independent apps, separate from Time Machine. CrashPlan is another robust cloud option, with some great features for businesses, as well.

Of course, services like Dropbox or MobileMe’s iDisk are great for backing up smaller sets of data or current projects easily.

The downside of cloud backups is bandwidth. If you’re on a limited data connection (like the single T1 at my office), a cloud-based solution may be super slow. Also, when choosing a cloud backup company, be sure to read up on how they encrypt your data when it’s being transferred, and how easy (and how much it costs) to get your data back in case of a data loss.

I don’t recommend cloud-based backup as a first-choice, but it makes a great safety net.

In Closing

Any backup is better than no backup. Time Machine is more than enough for most users, but adding an off-site backup or even a cloud-based solution makes your data even safer.

Everyone will experience a hard drive crash at some point in their lives. Why not take steps to protect your family photos, tax documents and more? Digital files are just like real files. Think about something as simple as your birth certificate. It’s probably at your place, in a lockbox at your parents’ house and maybe even a safe deposit box. Why should your digital files be any less cared for?

I mean, you wear a seat belt when you drive, right?

More Reading

Apple Support Mac 101: Time Machine

Shawn Blanc: SuperDuper, Time Machine, and Bulletproof Backups

Forkbombr: My New Offsite Backup Rig

Macgasm: The Paranoid OS X Users Backup Guide

 

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