Backup plan help...oh please...oh please

I think you have gotten a bunch of very good advice.

My backup strategy incorporates the idea of 3-2-1, but rather than the “2” standing for “2 different media,” which I think is no longer really an operable approach (it was when we had small enough amounts of data that a CD or later DVD could be a backup, but today, backup pretty much means to another hard drive), for me the “2” means two different methods of backup.

My thinking:

  1. TImeMachine is the first line of defense, because it is built in to MacOS, is therefore relatively easy to set up, and for the most part will allow you to step back in time to retrieve a selected earlier version of a file and/or restore an entire system. The downside is that TM is often glitchy, and very few Mac users have avoided the experience of being informed that their TM backup is not valid and having to restart the whole thing over, thus losing all of the previous versions. My sense from watching this over the years is that this is more common when TM is to a networked drive than to a locally attached drive, but that may be reporting bias.

In any case, I don’t think it matters a whole lot if your TM backup is to locally attached drives or to a networked location such as a Time Capsule, NAS (Drobo, Synology, QNap, etc), or another Mac that shares our a TM store.

Since you are both working on laptops, the Time Capsule makes more sense for your specific situation, because then the TM backups can occur without you having to remember to physically hook up the drive.

  1. My second line of defense is a clone. The advantage to a clone is a complete replica of your currently working system (as of the time you did the clone, of course). A big advantage of a clone is its ease of use in restoring a working system, and as others have noted, if one of your laptops dies, you can connect the clone drive to another laptop or other Mac, boot from it, and you can continue working while your primary system is being repaired.

Again, I have a lot of redundancy in my own system. I use Carbon Copy Cloner, and both my MacBookPro (my only working computer) and my Mac Mini Sever each make two clones. One is made daily to a Drobo attached to the Mini. The other is made to a directly attached USB drive and is a bootable clone (note that clones to a NAS are NOT bootable directly) to address the issue above. I use CCC’s feature of archiving deleted files so I can go back and find previous versions of changed files and/or deleted files if needed. Disk space is relatively cheap and I have enough room on my Drobo used for the clones to be able to keep things more or less indefinitely. As least, so far.

My laptop plugs into a Thunderbolt 3 dock when I am using it at my desk, and the bootable clone is attached to the dock, so a new bootable clone is made when I do this hookup, which is usually just on weekends. However, it also clones to the Mini over the WiFi any time I am using it at home on other days as well. My bootable clone is thus as much as a week old, but enough for emergencies, since I also have the TM backups and my cloud backup - see below.

  1. I also feel strongly that all important data should be backed up somewhere on the cloud. I am not a fan of the idea of making a clone periodically and swapping drives with a trusted person or safe deposit box or whatever, because I want my offsite clone to be, at all times, very close to current and something that happens without manual intervention. Having it be dependent on me swapping drives with an off-site storage site is just not a good plan.

I use Arq for reasons I have noted elsewhere on the forum: BackBlaze will delete any file that you have deleted after 30 days. I have had the situation of finding out 6 months down the line that I inadvertently deleted files I wanted, and since I had Arq (then going to Amazon Glacier) I just restored them…which BackBlaze would NOT have allowed me to do. I now use Arq to BackBlaze B2. Yes, it costs me a bit more (I have 2TB in the cloud) but it’s worth it to me. Plus, Arq runs every hour on my laptop, as long as I have an internet connection. My Synology shares are mounted to my Mac mini and Arq backs them up every 6 hours, which is frequent enough for those shares.

Hope this is of some help.


I’d say “the cloud” counts as a different media than a local hard drive. Even if your cloud data winds up on a spinning magnetic platter somewhere, Amazon, Backblaze, or whoever you use is managing it completely differently than you would a local hard disk.


What is Arq

I have not head of that. Having the files on my keychain has saved me a couple of times.

Lets you back up to your own private cloud storage.


Lots of good comments. I use iCloud, thumb drive for pics and two externals- i rotate them- one at home that I rotate with the other that i keep at my sister’s house.

Just don’t confuse Backblaze with an archive system. If you accidentally delete a file and don’t notice for a few months they won’t have a copy of that file in your backups. They only maintain a copy of deleted files for 30 days. If you need longer term protection against accidental deletions you should look elsewhere for additional backup types.


Backup 1 - Time machine to a local disk plugged into my docking station at my desk
Backup 2 - Time machine back-up to an old TimeCapsule that is still going strong
Backup 3 - Key files are sync’d to cloud services
Backup 4 - Crashplan sync for key directories
Backup 5 - Every now and again I make a full system image with Carbon Copy Cloner to a fast SSD drive

Whilst this might seem like a fair bit, it’s all hands off, however my experience with hands off is that things stop working from time to time, hence more than enough redundancy in this approach for one or two things to not work yet still walk away with everything that I need.

Yes you can go down the path of using specific self supported apps that plug into various cloud services, this approach is fine just as long as you regularly test (ie create a few backup test files in various places, then actually restore them or find an old file that should be backed up and restore it) and/or have an alternative strategy.

PS - Also consider if you will really do a full system restore should you have an unrecoverable machine, personal I don’t, I re-built and then re-add content. This can change your approach to backup.

If I missed seeing it, forgive me. What about us IOS folks that are using ICloud? Has anyone come up with a way yet for us to back up our ICloud contents to a hard drive attached to the IPhone or IPad or even attaching said hard drive to our home router? I still get nervous sometimes having “only one “ copy of my data, some which go back to the early 1970’s. :sweat_smile:

I agree a single backup is a bit of a risk, but it’s stored by Apple so you don’t have to worry about it being lost to fire, theft, HDD failure as they will have multiple redundant copies in the cloud. Also, think about all the people who don’t buy additional iCloud space and aren’t backing up at all, on a device you are very likely to break by dropping it or having it stolen. Scary!

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Use-to did before I went 100% IOS.

Excellent point about Apple and oooooooh yes. I deal with the non backup folks everyday. :flushed::see_no_evil::see_no_evil::see_no_evil::see_no_evil::see_no_evil::see_no_evil::see_no_evil::see_no_evil::see_no_evil::sweat: