Backup Routine Revisited

I’ve just had another drive failure here in the office and this always causes me to stop and think about my backup routine.  I haven’t lost any data in the incident but I like reviewing things every now and again and reminding you guys how important this stuff is.


The drive that failed was my primary boot drive for my 27″ iMac.  In fact it was a $600 SSD which in theory should last much longer than a regular spinning disk drive.  In reality it lasted less than a year before catastrophic instantaneous failure.  Never trust a drive.  SSD or HDD.


My current backup system is as follows:

photography backup routineMy boot drive is (was) the aforementioned SSD and that backs up daily to a 4TB G-Tech USB3 drive with Time Machine.  I also have an internal 3TB drive in the iMac which is used for data, documents and temporary files.  This also backs up to the Time Machine.  There’s a further G-Tech drive connected which actually serves as the Time Machine for my laptop.  When I switch it on, my laptop connects with it over the WiFi network and backs itself up.

Connected to the iMac via Thunderbolt is a Drobo 5D and daisy-chained to that is another 5D.  Drobo A mirrors itself to Drobo B using Carbon Copy Cloner every single night while I’m asleep.  Whilst the data on the Drobos is redundant within itself in theory, I’ve had more than enough old Drobos die to know that you need to have a copy lying around just so you can access your data.

Off site I keep a pelican case full of drives which come back home on regular intervals to back up the office data and take it to a safe place.  When I do this, one of the drives makes another Time Machine copy of my iMac as well, before going back in the pelican case.

When I get the warranty replacement of my SSD back it will simply be a case of restoring it using Time Machine and everything will be back to normal but an unexpected snag is that I’m currently without an easy way to get my iMac running in the meantime.  Typically when an HDD fails, I go to the store and buy another, or grab one off my shelf as I often keep spares to feed the Drobo.  I guess I didn’t really expect the SSD to fail, and it’s not financially practical to buy a temporary drive to use for one week while the warranty service replaces the dud one.  So what to do?

I can temporarily work on my laptop and manually get files off the Time Machine if they are important.  It’s a slow way to do things though. I think I am going to implement new step in my routine which will be to have Carbon Copy Cloner mirror the boot drive to another small USB3 drive every 5 days or so. That way if the SSD fails again, I can literally just reboot the computer using the other drive and never miss a beat while the SSD is being replaced (if it ever needs to be again).

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Dan Carr

Founder of Shutter Muse, full time photographer and creative educator. Dan lives in the Canadian Yukon, but his wanderlust often sends him in search of images all around the world to meet the needs of clients and readers alike.

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