So we have a setup like this:

  1. His MacBook Pro with 1TB, about 30% used.
  2. Her MacBook Air with 256GB, about 30% used.
  3. USB2 drive with 2 x 2TB configured as RAID-1 ('mirrored for safety'), about 80% used, contains 300GB family photos, 700GB family videos, 400GB music, 200GB document archives, etc. This is most often connected to (1) when archiving or doing family event video editing.
  4. His and hers iPhones, we infrequently back them up to (1) and (2).
  5. TimeCapsule 3GB, currently backs up (1) and (2) but not (3)

All seemed good.

Then, one day, the USB drive wouldn't start up.

After cold sweats of panic, we opened the USB drive. Luckily, this is a model where you can pop open the top and pull out a drive. One of the drives inside has died. Due to the RAID-1 configuration, the other drive worked just fine, so all our data is safe.

That was too close - losing all the family photos, videos, scans of important documents, etc, would be catastrophic for us.

We accept that with normal usage; the drive(s) inside the USB enclosure were going to wear out at some point, so this isn't a problem with the product - although I'd think twice about buying a passively-cooled device again as manipulating gigabytes of video files is going to keep it warm for some time and heat causes equipment like this to fail quicker.

So we'll likely replace the USB drive with something suitable in the next week o so.

...but we're now really keen to incorporate some kind of secondary backup so that we don't have this panic again.

We've looked at 'cloud drive' types of solution, but they seem to presume that the entire backup will fit onto one computer - which it won't. We also don't need all our photos, videos, etc, to be fully sync'd - just be able to retrieve it if everything goes south with the USB drive.

So, putting aside costs for the moment, what are our secondary backup options?


I should've been clearer - the USB RAID drive is only sometimes connected. Backing up ~2TB to the cloud will take a very long time (2TB @ 2mb/second ADSL upload = 102 days according to http://www.databarracks.com/support/bandwidth-calculator/) which would tie up his or hers laptop for that whole time.

Can we connect the USB drive to the TimeCapsule and it upload to a cloud backup provider?


More than a 'cloud drive' solution, you should be looking for a 'cloud backup' solution. Backblaze and Crashplan are popular options, but there are a variety of possibilities with different features , such as Arq or Tarsnap.

A bootable copy of your main drives would be an additional insurance against disaster; you can use a software like SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner.


I would approach this as follows:

First, identify what you need to back up. Things like important documents and photos, of course, but not things like OSX cache files. For example, with few exceptions you can ignore most system files so long as you're willing to rebuild your machine from scratch. Also, some things don't change that much (like music perhaps) and some are covered by cloud storage you may get with your device (e.g. iCloud with your iPhones)

That said, it is probably wise to have full image copies of both MacBook boot drives so that in an emergency you can "roll back" to a point in time. If you're like most people you would need these back relatively quickly.

To support both of these I would do the following:

  1. Use Carbon Copy Cloner for rotating full image backups of both MacBook boot drives. This will require at least 2 hard drives of at least 2 Tb each (more if you fill up your laptops). You can configure CCC so that it will just look at the drive name when it does the backup. That way you can call each drive the same name and not worry about which you're plugging in for the automatic backup. If you keep one drive in a safe deposit box and the other at home, switching them from time to time, you'll have two full backups of both laptops.

  2. Get Crashplan (or a similar service; I love Crashplan though) for the 700 gig RAID and at least one of the MacBooks. Crashplan is CPU based, meaning that the basic cloud backup is for one CPU. More cost fractionally more per year. Crashplan will also let you backup to another Crashplan customer's drive for free (I haven't tried this).

  3. I use Arq for more refined hourly backups of photos and important documents. Arq has saved me several times. You can use Amazon's Glacier storage with Arq and it runs about $10 per terabyte per month. Recovery times from Glacier can be costly and time consuming if you attempt to recover a lot of data though. I use this primarily to recover a few files from time to time.

These three approaches should offer reasonable protection from someone stealing your laptops, robbing your house of all your hardware, and meteors. It emphasizes rapid recovery of what's on the laptops. 1 and 2 together will be comprehensive. 3 adds some convenience but is basically covered by 2.

One other thing to consider is data security. Arq encrypts data with a password it stores in your OSX keychain. Crashplan uses your login password, which they know obviously, and may also use a longer passphrase only you know. You can also fully encrypt the drives from (1). The idea is to protect yourself from the other side, namely anyone getting hold of your drives or accessing your data in the cloud.

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