Backup your shit.

July 11th, 2012 in Blog by 4 Comments

Seriously people.  Backup your shit.  I don’t care what you are doing now.  Stop whatever it is and go and do a backup NOW.
You think I am kidding?  Don’t make me come around there…..

This is the kind of ‘take to people with a stick’ attitude that is needed to get regular folks to perform regular backups.  With people embracing the ‘digital hub’ lifestyle, the amount of data people are accumulating is increasing exponentially, and in turn, the risk of epic data loss also increases.

These days, our photos are digital, our video is digital, our letters are digital and our music is digital – and they are all stored on that tiny little spinning hard drive that could literally fail at any moment.
Gone are the physical copies of the precious memories that people gather.  Previously, we would have had printed photos, video tapes, CD’s, cassette tapes, vinyl and hand written letters.  These were all physical items that could be stored easily for years, and barring a house fire that destroyed everything, you could be pretty certain that you could successfully keep most of your precious memories long enough to hand on to the next generation

Now, we store all of these digital memories on a hard drive (usually just one) and rarely with a regular backup routine.

Instead of you needing a catastrophic house fire in order to destroy all of your memories, now all you need is a hard drive failure; and those seem to be happening all to often.

ok – end of rant.  Now that I have hopefully got you fired up, now to do something constructive with this.  Let’s have a quick look at the options out there and see what is available.
First things first – storage is cheap.  Very cheap.  Too cheap for the cost of storage to be an excuse for not having your shit backed up.  Buy at least one or preferably two external hard drives to use as backup drives.  Next step is to look at software for backing up.

Software Options
At the absolute base level, you don’t actually need backup software.  If you have some idea about what you are doing, you can just manually copy all of your important data across on to your backup drive and be done with it.  However… Backup software has a few tricks that can make big differences to successfully maintaining your precious data.

Carbon Copy Cloner –
This app is free and awesome.  It gives you a bunch of really cool and simple options for backing up your shit.  You can even set it to automatically back up at specified intervals.  How cool is that? You can also set it to create bootable versions of your hard drives, which means you can create backup of your main hard drive, and if your main hard drive fails, you can plug in the backup and keep going.

Time Machine – this is built into the Apple OS.
It’s that thing that annoys you whenever you plug in a hard drive saying ‘hey, do you want to backup your shit onto this drive’?  I really wish people would pay more attention to that question and occasionally say yes…  it is truly plug and play (almost to a fault).  Whenever you plug in a drive, you are prompted to use it for a Time Machine backup.  It provides incremental backups so that you can go back to a version of a file at a particular point in time (hence the name Time Machine and you can set Time Machine to poll your machine several times a day to ensure that you have the most up-to-date backup possible.

Crash Plan –
Ok, I haven’t used this one personally, but I have had enough people who I respect suggest it that it certainly is worth checking out.  Even better, it is multi-platform so it’s not just for the Mac folk.

End note – I have written and published a version of this article a few times before.  Each time it has been triggered by some recent and very scary incidents.  Over the years I have seen university thesis (years of work) disappear in a drive failure.  In my early days of working with Premiere, I lost all of a documentary TWICE in 2 weeks.  Thank goodness for tapes back then…   I’ve had clients lose photos from the birth of their children, the last photo’s of their parents alive, and more than a few ‘only copies’ of wedding photos have vanished into the ether.  Seriously, back up your shit…

Author: Alister

Editor, Post Production Consultant & Entrepreneur. Owner of The Post Project


Definitely a good idea to backup regularly and also to keep the really important files in multiple locations.

Luckily, I’ve never lost files, but I’ve seen other people who have, and when they’re asked about if they have a backup or not, the answer is usually “No”.

Given how easy it is these days to backup, there is really no reason why people shouldn’t have backups and never have to worry about losing data due to HDD failure.

A great reminder for everyone!

Nick F


Oh, and people, even if you’re getting all technical and have some form of RAID, it still has to be said that RAID IS NOT A BACKUP.

Last week, Client #1 had two simultaneous drive failures in their RAID 5 array. Data = gone. Lucky we had a backup (or two). Client #2 had two simultaneous drive failures with a mirrored (RAID 1) stripe. Data = gone. Lucky this was just backup data and not live data.

Plus, it’s trivially easy to delete data off a RAID. IT IS NOT A BACKUP.



Great point Kai. RAID gives you 1 level of redundancy, but if that drive fails, you are back in the position of having all of your data at risk. Even worse, it scares me the number of people who tell me they have their footage on a RAID and I take a look and it is a 2 drive stripe. #shudder

For emerging businesses, backup is a constant struggle between risk management and cashflow. After 5 years of running my own business I am at a stage where I have afforded a ‘better practice’ data management workflow, but am not yet at a stage where I can afford ‘best practice’ data management workflows.



RAID: Mirrored Raid should be the default.

CrashPlan: Awesome. Backing up everywhere all the time. Just be careful if you tether your iPhone… HSPA+ upload speeds can be surprisingly fast…. and Telstra gets expensive.

Time Machine: Apparently Mountain Lion can backup to multiple locations. Haven’t tried it yet. But Mountain Lion server is so cheap there is no excuse not to turn multiple Macs into a Time Machine server.