I bought an Apple Time Machine. I have a home studio with several hard drives. I'm trying to find the best way to setup Time Machine to keep all my storage backed up all the time.

Studio Computer (12 Core Mac Pro)

  • 250 GB - Internal SSD System Drive
  • 2 TB - Internal Media Drive (Audio Samples, Sample Instrument Files)
  • 2 TB - Internal Storage 1 (Recording Sessions)
  • 2 TB - Internal Storage 2 (Recording Sessions)
  • (Note: Internal Storage 1 & 2 are used until full and then they are stored away and new drives are purchased to replace them)

MacBook Pro (13″ i7)

  • 250 GB - Internal SSD (OS X files and software only)
  • 1 TB - Internal Media (Audio Samples, Instruments, User Folder, Etc.)


  • What kind of setup do I need to back all of this up?
  • Do I need a big USB hub with a hard drive connected that mirrors every drive in my system?
  • Do those drives need to be larger than each of the primary drives?
  • Should I get a Drobo or some kind of RAID drive?
  • note: updated my Answer with thoughts on Drobo
    – Lee Joramo
    Oct 23, 2014 at 19:51

2 Answers 2


I have a similar environment here.

I would split the task into 2 distinct parts.

  1. For changing content, excluding all sample libraries etc. set up a Time Machine; internal, networked, AirPort Time Capsule or NAS-type. To keep any depth of history you will need a lot more space on the Time Machine than you have on the used drives.

  2. Copy the static content directly to new drives, keep those offsite.

I would then invest in Backblaze [or similar] to backup the entire studio machine. It will exclude 'system' & only backup 'data'. BB accounts are per seat, so you'd have to consider whether the MacBook needed that too.

This would allow you to no longer worry about the mass of unchanging content you acquire & concentrate on the system & project backups. I would also periodically clone the project drive & take offsite.

There's an article on NAS compatibility for Time Machine here

(I don't use NAS myself, I just Time Machine to one of my internal 2TB drives for on-site, short-term backup. I let Backblaze do the heavy lifting, plus physical offsite for projects & sample sets etc.)


I am a programmer. I create websites and perform analysis on large sets of data. I have also advised clients on setting up their own servers and designed backup systems for them.

I assume that these computers and data represent you business and/or your passionate hobby. In either case, I assume that loss of data would be devastating. Based on you brief description, backup is a complex issue for you. You need to answer a variety of questions:

  • How valuable is the data?
  • How expensive is down time?
  • How many version files do you need to keep?

For myself, I answer that data is very valuable, downtime is very expensive, and I need to maintain as many versions as possible.

I never trust my backups to just one backup software. I create a multi-layered backup system using tools. Here is what I do for my computers which I use for both business and personal tasks.

Build a dedicated Backup and File Server

I have an old Mac Pro, setup with 4 internal 3TB drives in two mirrored RAIDs. I run CrashPlan, Dropbox, and CarbonCopyCloner on this system. This also acts as file server for most of my large data files for past projects.

Continuous Archival Backups to Remote Systems

  • I use CrashPlan running on my work stations and MacBooks.
  • I backup my entire home directory and any other important data.
  • My dedicated Backup & File Server is also backed up via CP.
  • I backup to both CP's remote servers AND my own office backup.
  • I backup to my office server copy of CP every 30 minutes and to the remote site once a day.
  • I pay for CP's remote storage Family Package that provides for 2-10 computers with unlimited data AND unlimited versions. (this is better than many other remote backup providers.

I trust CP because I have used their enterprise level offerings, and think they provide more flexibility than similar offerings. However, CP's software lacks a polished interface, and is a Java application so it consume huge amounts of RAM. Additionally, other services may have better data transfer speeds. I know many people like BackBlaze, but it doesn't allow you to backup to your own systems.

Continuous Archival Backups to Remote Systems, Part 2

In 30 years of computing, I have seen backup software have bugs and companies disappear. So in addition to CP, I use Arq and backup to Amazon S3. This backup does not backup my entire home directories, but only key folders and I only run it several times per week.

Fast Recovery Backup

I use CarbonCopyCloner to make bootable full system backups to external drives. This runs automatically once per day. If my MacBook dies, I can be up and running in minutes by plugging the backup drive into any other Mac I own. Or I can use the backup to hook up to a new Mac and use Migration Assistant to get me running again.

CCC can run in a client/server mode. So CCC on my MacBook backups up to CCC on my server with an external hard drive dedicated to my MacBook. This is a very advanced setup requires knowledge of configuring SSH with key authentication for your servers root account. If I didn't do this, and only ran the backup locally I would use SuperDuper.

And then there is more...

These are more in the realm of increasing redundancy, minimizing downtime, and knowing that critical data is also being backed up somewhere else in addition to the above.

  • I use BitTorrent Sync to keep many of my files in sync between systems. In the past I used DropBox for this.

  • I use Git and GitHub for various programming projects.

  • I use FastMail for my email IMAP server.

Your backup situation is unique

Take the above as general advise. I don't do audio production and my workflows are different.

For your use case, I do not think that TimeMachine will be a good backup solution for you. I do recommend that for most of my friends and family's personal needs, TimeMachine is great. But I don't think it is really designed for the advanced needs of most high end computer professionals.

Given your huge data needs, I do think that adding a backup server & file server would be a good idea. This could be done via a NAS or a Mac. If you go the Mac route, I would recommend an old Mac Pro with internal HD's or a external ThunderBolt RAID. I think I could build an all new system with a Mac Mini, external RAID and all of the related hardware and software for under $2500.

Regarding Drobo...

I initially forgot to comment on the Drobo. I have not used one, but have followed the development closely. I think, these are pretty good systems, but if you research it, you will find plenty of people who also have had problems.

The problem for me is the time to rebuild or expand the volume size. It can take days for such systems to rebuild, during which time the performance of the system is slowed and the data is at a higher level of risk if there is an additional drive failure. For these reasons, I personally do not use a Drobo (or RAID 5 and similar solutions). That being said, in your case of needing to preserve HUGE amounts archival Audio files, these might have a place in your backup mix.


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