2015 was an exciting year in my house. My family grew by two (a dog and a baby) and I had a lot of new professional opportunities. As I build and capture memories I realized that I didn’t have a solid backup plan in place. This realization hit me when I was doing some upgrades to my computer.
I do everything my from late 2012 Mac Mini (which is a little beast) and I recently put a SSD into it to help speed it up a bunch more. When I installed my new hard drive I was left thinking about what I could do with the old hard drive. I had two real options:
- Use it for Time Machine backups
- Use it for file storage (the new hard drive is half the size of the old drive)
I wasn’t particularly fond of the Time Machine idea because it means that I am more limited on space than what I would like to be and that if anything happens to my computer (power surge, etc.) that I could lose everything. I also have other computers in my house past my trust Mac Mini that also need backup plans.
After doing some research I decided on a few things:
- I needed an off-site backup solution incase of anything happening to my house
- I needed a network backup/redundancy space
- I needed a rotating backup external hard drive to swap each month or so
- I need more money
The overall goal of my backup plan is to make sure that no matter what happens to my computer, house, or other items that I will always have my files accessible in a reasonable amount of time.
Luckily off-site backup is an inexpensive and easily achievable beginning point. There are plenty of companies that will slowly upload your data to their servers for safe keeping. I decided to go with BackBlaze after a few recommendations. Also, at $5 a month and unlimited storage, you can’t beat the price. I’ve been with them for a few months now and I can see that my files are there safely and saved routinely. The only thing I wasn’t thrilled about with BackBlaze is that they cannot backup applications. I’m sure there are legal reasons for that, but I would love if I could get all of my stuff saved off-site.
Since my house has multiple computers and my wife and I regularly share files (mainly pictures of my son and dogs) between our computers I decided that I wanted a network drive to make this process a bit easier. I mean I love digging through my stuff to find a USB drive and downloading pictures to it and then doing over to her computer and reversing the process… I actually hate that process.
I did some research and decided that I wanted a NAS or Network Attached Storage. Basically, it is a drive(s) that you can configure to do lots of different things. Some of them can even serve as a fully functioning (sorta) webserver. I wanted a 2-bay NAS at a minimum because it would allow me to put the drives inside in a RAID configuration. RAID, in a two drive situation, allows for both of the drives to be mirrors of each others. This means that if one drive fails (because all hard drives will fail) that the other one is safe. All you have to do is take out the bad drive, pop a new one in there, and all of the data will be copied over to it restoring the mirror. Sweet.
I went with a Synology DS214se for my solution. It’s one of the highest rated NAS systems out there and it has a lot of power for a low price. Inside of my new NAS I have two Western Digital 1 TB Red NAS Drives. I probably should’ve gone with bigger sized drives, but money.
So my NAS servers two jobs. The first is that I use it for some of my Time Machine backups. I only use about 250 GB of space on my hard drive right now so I gave Time Machine access to 500 GB. The second job it does is that it allows me to store and transfer files easily. Since it is a network drive, all of my computers can see it, and I have given read/write access to various folders and accounts. This means no more trips to my junk drawer trying to find a USB drive.
Rotating External Hard Drives
I said above that the NAS does some of my Time Machine backups. I have an external hard drive that splits the workload with the NAS so that every other backup is on an external hard drive. I also have two additional external hard drives. I keep on plugged into the NAS via USB to do weekly backups of the NAS. The other external hard drive is kept in my classroom office locked in a filing cabinet. At the beginning of each month, I swap the drives so that the one at my school is now plugged into the NAS and vice versa. The point of this is so that if anything happens to my house (fire, flood, exploring babies, etc.) I have a backup of mostly everything. I would lose at most a month’s worth of files, but hopefully, BackBlaze would be able to restore those files.
Is this kind of backup plan a bit crazy? Maybe. My goal is to make sure that I don’t lose my data. It would kill me to lose pictures of my son or my wedding or my life. Hard drives will ALWAYS fail at some point and I want to make sure that I have a plan in places for when that happens. My backup plan cost a decent amount of money (to me anyway) but the cost of losing all of the things it is protecting if far higher.