I've a lot of photos and videos of my children. I feel that losing those pictures would be a real pain for me and my family.

In the past I use to make, from time to time, a DVD with all my digital photos, but nowadays, my gallery is just too large to make DVDs of it.

So the way to go is to have a backup on Hard Drive. That's right. I have a external USB Disk dedicated to Time Machine. This situation is safe. For disk failure. But not for instance for robbery, or a fire/water damaging both disks at the same time, since thay are almost located at the same place.

Some of you are almost ready to tell me about the cloud, but I don't to go that way.

So my question is: What kind of procedure do you use to keep a safe copy of your stuff?

  • 1
    Did you create the tag 'disaster'? Lol.
    – gentmatt
    Jan 4, 2012 at 15:02
  • Yes. I wonder how long he will survive ;-)
    – Rabskatran
    Jan 4, 2012 at 15:03
  • 1
    how about disaster-recovery? ;) Jan 4, 2012 at 15:09
  • Not a whole solution since it requires some work but having a time machine disk in a waterproof fireproof safe might do the trick. Although you need to connect the disk from time to time. But backing up every month/week just might do the trick. you can also setup a dropbox or other cloud service account to also backup your latest data.
    – FLY
    Jan 4, 2012 at 15:15
  • I see a lot of questions dropped on community wiki, and didn't find a clue on meta. Is there a new policy around that ?
    – Rabskatran
    Jan 5, 2012 at 12:07

10 Answers 10


I have one hard drive connected to my iMac for use with Time Machine. In addition to the Time Machine backup, I maintain a bootable clone of my iMac's hard drive using SuperDuper. The hard drive with the bootable backup is stored at my in-laws' house (you could just as easily store it at a friend's house or at work). The off-site clone is updated once a week.

With this setup, I can recover individual files from Time Machine if necessary, but I have an off-site backup in case of a catastrophe (fire, burglary, etc.). Some people maintain a much more redundant backup scheme, but I think this provides adequate protection with relatively little effort.

  • 2
    Good answer. This setup is simple and it gets the job done. I believe that any downsides to having a week-old offsite backup really do offset the risks of using any online solution. Like @Rabskatran, I too prefer something like this rather than 'cloud' backup. Jan 4, 2012 at 15:23
  • 3
    A safety deposit box at a bank is also a good place to store the cloned drive. Yes, it's more difficult to update regularly but it's also very secure and probably very safe from any natural disasters.
    – EmmEff
    Jan 4, 2012 at 16:18
  • 1
    If you're being really paranoid about your data, an external HD a few miles away isn't enough since all sorts of regional disasters could take out both your house and the storage location. A second drive stored farther away (different watershed, geologic zone, etc) is really needed, even if it means your sneakernet transfers only happen once or twice a year instead of weekly. Alternately an online backup service with an overseas facility should cover you against all but the most apocalyptic disasters. Jan 4, 2012 at 16:52
  • +1 for simplicity of just storing a backup in another physical location (work, relative's house, etc). This covers many disasters such as theft, fire and flooding.
    – Josh
    Jan 5, 2012 at 2:48
  • 1
    The only thing I'd add is to have more than one SuperDuper clones of your internal hard disk. External hard disks are inexpensive so why not have two: one in a desk drawer and one in the basement in a fireproof box. Every day backup onto the one in the desk drawer than swap it with the one in the fireproof box. If you want the second one offsite then keep the box in the garage or someplace else. The idea is to come up with a process that you can easily do every day. This is what I do and have been for many years. Works quite well.
    – Richard
    Jan 5, 2012 at 12:20

You do not like the cloud - yet, I will suggest online backup solutions for a worst-case-scenario, because I believe that they're the most reliable.

  • better data retention and preservation, after all your hard disk is prone to data loss since it's a magnetic device
  • online backups are not prone to house robbery since they are stored in a different location
  • online backups are flexible - access from anywhere

If you care about privacy, you can still encrypt your backup.

  • 8
    You should use both an external hard drive and the cloud. Data stored on the cloud is not entirely safe... the company could lose your files or go belly-up, etc. However, it's unlikely both your hard drive and the cloud would go in failure at once.
    – user606723
    Jan 4, 2012 at 17:50
  • 1
    While I agree that data stored on the cloud is not 100% safe, their backup system is still a lot more refined. As you suggest, I backup both to the cloud (provided by the university) and locally with Time Machine.
    – gentmatt
    Jan 4, 2012 at 17:55
  • heh, University 'cloud' sounds even more risky =p. But to each their own. Either case, practically I am sure you're fine.
    – user606723
    Jan 4, 2012 at 17:58
  • I don't see cloud backups as practical, given current bandwidth caps on upload/download for residential broadband connections. And how long will it take to do a full restore from the cloud of your 40-100GB of photos/videos? Jan 4, 2012 at 18:44
  • 1
    Only the first back will take a long time. If you backup using curl it will check for changes first and only backup changes. The cloud is the way to go. Its an offsite backup and accessible from anywhere and don't need to rely on someone bringing in a backup tape.
    – lennard
    Jan 4, 2012 at 22:30

Absolutely! I plan for the worse!

As a first level of defence I'm running Time Machine against all my important files. Photos and videos. Things I wouldn't want to lose. This gives me some "stupidity insurance" -- if I delete something accidentally, hopefully I can get it back from a Time Machine snapshot.

I also push all my data out to the cloud. I'm a CrashPlan subscriber. Their rates and service sat well with me so that's why I went with them. So far I've only had to use them for individual file recovery and not whole-drive recovery. It's plenty fast for individual file recovery. For whole-drive I'd probably pay to have them send me the data on a new drive.

And finally, I keep two hard drives: one is in my safe deposit box, one is here on site, and I clone my important data to the drive and rotate the drives. So this week I'll clone my important data to the drive I have here. Drive to the bank and swap that drive with the one in the safe deposit box. I do that every 3 or 4 months. Between this and CrashPlan I'm feeling pretty smug about my data security.

  • Good idea. Having two rotating off-site backup drives is a nice extra layer of redundancy without sacrificing convenience.
    – Peter Roe
    Jan 4, 2012 at 16:27
  • Crashplan will also let you back up to an external drive at a friend's house. That would be safe even against theft/fire/flood etc in your house. Depends on just why the original poster doesn't see the cloud as an alternative. Personally, I use Crashplan to back up both to a hard drive at home (quick backup, quick restore, redundancy) and to Crashplan's servers (slower but offsite).
    – Henrik N
    Jan 4, 2012 at 21:49

I had exactly the same fear. I try to be redundant. I described more in depth how I do that in a blog post but, to condense

  • backup to hd at home

  • backup to hd at work (encrypted)

  • backup with spideroak (encrypted, on line)

  • local copies to my Macs.


I actualy have a Time Capsule plugged into a power source in another room in the house.

I also have the same setup at work so that any images I am working on would be safe if say someone broke in and stole my mac, as the TC is hidden away happily plugged in it works as an External HDD but it's not connected to the machine.

That way if someone broke in they wouldn't know to look for it. (unless they read this first)

You can also use two external HD's but it would be a bit of a faf.as you could store all info on one, keeping the other in another building, then next week update the sencond one, taking the 1st away.


Store one backup disk in the attic and the other in the basement. Then a disaster happens only if you have both a fire and a flood.

Alternatively, keep a monthly copy with your in-laws, and then there might at least be some solace should a disaster happen over there.

Yet a third possibility is to store five-stared photos and five-stared songs in the cloud, but then each of us is probably wondering why he's keeping around anything else in the first place.


Get yourself maybe 3 or 4 USB hard drives, a suitable shipping container for each and a backup program that creates full-drive images. If your file collection is volatile and subject to daily change, then do an image backup every day and then pop it into the shipping container and UPS ground it to yourself. That way you get your backups off premises each day without even having to leave the comfort of your abode.

While it is in transit,it is safely off premises. This way, if you take a worst case hit, the next day, a guy in a brown truck will drop a backup on your doorstep ready to be restored even if you no longer have anything workable to restore it on or a wall to plug it into. There is a cost involved. But, what the hay...there's no free lunch these days.

UPS grounding to yourself is probably 98% reliable and it is relatively cost-effective and simple to do even though it might be a bit over the top for most people. But, expecting to reach 100% is an absurdity. Each increment toward 100% becomes exponentially more complex and costly. However, only you know where you are willing to draw the line. Unless your name is Trump, Buffett or Gates, fugeddaboudit.

Good luck.

From a retired disaster recovery player with a LARGE Federal agency.

  • This is wow. :-)
    – Rabskatran
    Jan 5, 2012 at 12:09

Time machine at home, SuperDuper for a daily full clone at the office. The separation of backup methods and locations doesn't provide a super-redundant backup plan, but it's robust enough to protect against theft or undetected failure of one of the backup methods.


Ideally, you want multiple copies of your backups in multiple locations. This protects you from N-1 devices failing (all but 1 device). The issue with multiple-location backups is that they're typically not very easy to create. They require some sort of physical activity that you have to consciously have to do to create/update/maintain them.

No matter how bullet-proof you claim your backup strategy is, if it contains a human element it's not bullet-proof. We're lazy and forgetful, many of us are procrastinators, so 'backups' will eventually end up breaking, becoming stale, or just not get updated any longer.

To this end, your backup strategy needs to be 100% automatic. This is exactly why Time Machine was invented. Time Machine automatically creates backups for you, with no intervention from you (as I'm sure you already know).

There's tons of software products out there that manage backups, and most all of them have 1 common trait: they're automatic. You set them up, and you let them go. You don't think about it, until you need to access them.

You may say you're "against the cloud" or you're just not into it, or you don't want to rely on it, whatever. Those are all fine reasons for not relying on using "cloud" services as your primary backup destination strategy. All the arguments for bandwidth and caps are completely legitimate. However, the "cloud" is the easiest way to get data from one location to another, without physically needing to transport it yourself.

You're missing out on a very reliable set of tools by not leveraging the power of "the cloud." I understand it will take a long time to upload your data initially (and probably even moving forward if you take a lot of movies), and also a painfully long time should you ever have to RESTORE your data from the cloud. However, if you use it as a secondary backup, then both of those points are moot.

Most users don't saturate their internet connection very often, and especially not in the wee hours of morning, or while they're at work. If you schedule your backups to happen during these times, then you should experience very little pain by leveraging these services.

To summarize; having an off-site backup (or two) in conjunction with your on-site backup(s) will provide you with the most reliable backup strategy. Replacing those memories is impossible once they're lost (the torture of digital media!). It's definitely worth the extra peace of mind knowing that your backup strategy is robust, reliable, and most of all SIMPLE!


I have two USB drives, 1 TB costs about $100 these days. I keep one in the house, and do backups of important files approximately weekly (the most important files, like family photos, tend not to change much on a daily basis). The other stays in the safe deposit box at the bank. Every three months, I swap the one at home for its twin at the bank, giving me a safe, relatively recent, off-site backup, and I don't have to use a "cloud." My house can burn down and I still have everything but the last couple months safely stored.

Approximately yearly, I replace the oldest of the backup drives with a new one (hard drives do have a limited life) and give the retired drive to my parents next time I see them, to store at their house. They live on the other side of the continent, so even after a region-wide total disaster, I've still got copies of most of my important data somewhere.

Oh, and those portable drives are encrypted, so I also do not fear them getting stolen. To anybody else, it's just a brick. (Details: the backup itself is in an encrypted sparse bundle on the drive, which I mount when it's time to copy the files, for which I use rsync to do incremental backups.)

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