Backup strategy and external drive size while working remotely

I’m fortunate that I can work remotely and I realized that my backup strategy doesn’t work remotely and could use some help in figuring out how to proceed.

  • 2014 MBP with a 500 GB SSD
  • Home Folder is about 250 GB
  • Backblaze for cloud backup
  • 500 GB Samsung T5 - that I create a bootable clone weekly by SuperDuper
  • When I’m home, I backup to a synology and an 8 TB external hard drive with Time Machine and Arq. I haven’t setup VPN on the synology yet and I forgot to bring the external HDD with me. The external HDD is too big to travel
  • I own Arq 5, SuperDuper, and ChronoSync.


  • Time Machine or Arq v5? At home, I run both since I have the drive space.
  • What’s the preferred drive size for Arq?
  • With time machine, I know there’s a preferred drive size of 2 to 4 times the data being backed up. Thus a 500 GB to 1 TB would be a good size.
  • I’m thinking of either the Samsung T5 1 TB SSD or the Seagate Backup Plus 2 TB Portable HDD. Both are small enough. I like the speed of the SSD. On the other hand, I like all the room of the HDD.
  • I’ll partition either half of the drive for backups and then the rest for data.

What do y’all think?

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I’m a bit confused. When you say work remotely, do you mean you are traveling away from home? In the time before COVID when we were free to roam about the planet, I was only concerned about backing up data that I had added or changed. In my case that was mainly photographs and I would backup those up to a Sandisk ixpand drive. (I travel with IOS devices).
I didn’t see any reason to back up anything that was already in my local Time Machine and offsite Arq backups

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Yes, I’m on a road trip to visit family and will be away from home for 2 months. The initial TM and Arq backups aren’t available to me remotely and so I feel like I’m starting fresh. My main concern is if my MBP craps out on me for any reason which is why I have the bootable clone. I want version control and a backup of photos while I’m traveling is why the TM and/or Arq backups.

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I’d probably make time machine backups to a local drive. I haven’t backed up to cloud when traveling because cell coverage where I go is almost non-existent.

In the film days I would “backup” my photographs by mailing some of my rolls home every day or two. That way I would have some memories of the trip if something happened to the ones I had with me. Today you can do that using lightning drives or extra compact flash cards.

If you already have everything backed up to a cloud service you could continue your Arq backups if free/reasonable bandwidth is available. Arq will only be doing incremental backups, but it could get expensive and time consuming depending on the amount of data you are creating.

I’d get another external SSD so you can restart the CCC backups during these two months (there’s some good “Black Friday” deals out there at the moment). Between that and Backblaze you’ll have some basic coverage. If you want to do better than that get an external USB powered hard drive and use it for Time Machine and/or Arq.


My wife & I just spent the last year and a half living full time in our motorhome while we decided where we wanted to settle down (both retired). Backups were a challenge on the road due to space limitations and bandwidth constraints. I used multiple drives and rotated them into our fireproof safe. I had clones in secure storage made before we hit the road as protection against major disaster. Hard drives are cheap, lots of them can be your friend.

Use a SSD for a clone so you can run from it if needed. Use hard drives for Arq/TM as the speed isn’t as critical. Space needed depends on data volatility. If a lot of changes are made to large files, versioning can take a lot of space regardless of whether it’s Arq or TM. The 2x size is a good minimum.

DO NOT mix backups and data on the same drive. That’s a good way to lose data.


@WayneG Had not heard of lighting drives. What an interesting concept. Actually that reminds me that I want space to do an iMazing backup of my devices. I’m staying at places that I have wifi so I don’t have to worry as much about slow connections.

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@ChrisUpchurch I don’t have CCC. Does CCC offer features that TM or Arq don’t have? Happy to invest in features that I’m missing.

@glenthompson, That sounds like a cool trip. Have y’all settled on a place? I think the safe and multiple drives is a smart idea. I guess I wanted to stay light in terms of accessories.

What are your thoughts on partitions on the same drive?

Current thoughts:

  • SSD for a bootable clone
  • SSD for overflow data
  • HDD for backups via TM and/or Arq

Partitions are fine if there’s a logical reason to split the data apart. I had a large HDD that I divided into two partitions, one for TM and one for a CCC clone. TM backed up continuously while the CCC backup was less frequently. This was in addition to other backups.

Is the Synology accessible outside the house via Quickconnect? I’ve got VPN setup but I very rarely use it. However, I can access via Quickconnect. If so, you could use the Synology backup software (or remote in to enable VPN).

I also do Arq and Time Machine at home, though Arq backs up via SFTP to the Synology, so it’ll work regardless of where I am.


A couple of additional thoughts:

Since you have BackBlaze installed, and assuming you have internet connectivity while traveling, you should have your cloud backup covered.

I use both Arq and TM. TM has the convenience factor if you need to quickly restore files or restore your entire system, but has a relatively high failure rate. Arq is less convenience for the restoration, but is highly reliable (as long as you are Arq’ing to a reliable backup location, of course).

THe problem with partitioning a single drive is that you still have a single point of failure: if that drive has a hardware failure, all partitions are lost. For that reason, I prefer to segregate backups from active data on different pieces of hardware. Drive costs are low enough these days that it just isn’t worth the risk. I believe a WD 14TB drive will be on sale for Black Friday at under $200.

If you have any form of remote access to your Synology, eg if you can SSH to it, you could set it up as an SFTP server (as another responder has noted) and use Arq to back up to your Synology via SFTP. That is a great way of having a Arq backup readily accessible to you.

If you feel you want a second cloud backup, add some B2 storage to your BackBlaze account and use Arq to back up to that. Note that will incur extra cost, as B2 storage is paid by the amount stored, in contrast to BackBlaze which is a flat rate for unlimited storage.

As to HD size for Arq, it really depends on how much you need to back up and how long you want to retain deleted files or old versions. The larger the drive, the more of both you can keep. Given that you have about 250GB of data to backup, you could get an external drive with 2 TB and likely retain versions for quite some time. If you went with the 14TB drive I mentioned above (not that will not be a bus powered drive so you cannot use it when you are not at a place with plug-in capability) you could likely just let Arq save things forever.

CCC is a volume cloning app, just like SuperDuper! And ChronoSync. Everyone seems to have their preference for which one they like best. Since you have the other two, you don’t need CCC (although I personally use CCC as the best balance of features and complexity among the three).


I have two 2 TB Samsung SSDs for my MacBook Pro. One, is for the clone I make with Carbon Copy Cloner. The other for Time Machine. The two drives are plugged into the MacBook each day for this routine.

I also backup data to B2 with Arq 5 continually.


Carbon Copy Cloner is pretty much the same feature set as SuperDuper. I use CCC, so when I mentioned restarting your clone backup that’s what my mind went to. If you’re happy with SuperDuper there’s probably not any reason to get CCC.