NAS? RAID? SSD? Help! rImac external backup solution

Discussion in 'iMac' started by UKingdom, Nov 2, 2014.

  1. UKingdom macrumors member

    Apr 28, 2007
    Preface: I am upgrading from a 2008 2.16 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo iMac (back when they were white, lol) running Mac OSX 10.6.8 to the new retina iMac.

    I currently have 2 main external HD attached to my old Mac; one is a Time Machine to backup the Mac's internal 250GB; the other is a larger external designed to archive older files like pictures and videos. It got to the point where i was running out of space on the internal HD so photos and videos were automatically being saved to externals.

    Recently, however, the larger external failed. Unfortunately, because I didn't have an automated backup solution (Time Machine only backs up the main Mac HD), I needed to resort to a very expensive data recovery solution, something I hope I never have to do again, I learned my lession.

    My question is: now that I am switching to a new computer with internal 512GB SSD; what recommendations do you have for file management. I basically will keep as much on the main SSD if possible but large video files and archived photos will have to go to externals, which I need to have backed up.

    1) Is there a way for a huge capacity Time Machine to backup BOTH the internal iMac SSD AND an external?
    2) is there an automated solution for backing up external SSDs? Otherwise it's very annoying to have to copy everything from one external to another
    3) I have read about NAS vs RAID vs SSD; to me speed is not critical and external SSD just do not seem to offer much value in terms of storage space. I will some day be working with 4K video and large video files but not in the near future. My priority is convenience of file management, and maximizing safety/backups ever since my external HD debacle.
    4) I have heard about the benefit of RAID setups and Thunderbolt; if speed isn't critical to me right now, is USB 3.0 sufficient? Thunderbolt drives seem extremely expensive from what I have seen.
    5) Any thoughts on Microsoft Onedrive or any cloud based storage solutions? Probably not the most efficient means of storage, right?
    6) Strongly considering at least one form of cloud based storage since it would be nice to be able to access photos and things even when I am not at home. Any suggestions?
  2. UKingdom thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 28, 2007
    Anyone? Perhaps share what your current data storage management /backup regimen is?
  3. rkaufmann87 macrumors 68000


    Dec 17, 2009
    Folsom, CA

    Time Machine now backs up external EHDs. Get yourself a large enough EHD to backup your complete system. I recommend a OWC ( Mercury Elite Pro and connect via USB 3.
  4. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    Yes TM can backup internal and external drives in a single operation.

    External SSDs are just like any other external drive. They can be backed up by TM in an automated fashion or by other backup apps like Carbon Copy Cloner. You obviously must have yet another backup drive to store those.

    USB 3 drives can be OK -- IF they are 7200 rpm AC-powered drives. In general bus-powered USB drives are too slow to do video editing from. They can be OK to backup to if you don't need high performance. There is a 7200 rpm bus-powered USB3 drive, the HGST Touro S. It is pretty fast.

    A number of users have reported unpredictable disconnects when using USB 3 drives. I have seen that a few times myself on bus-powered drives, but not on AC-powered drives. There is a DC current and power limit USB can provide; maybe some drives exceed that and the port goes off line. I'm just speculating.

    I've had pretty good experiences with USB 3 drives on my Mac, but I feel that Thunderbolt is more reliable. The 4TB G-Raid is only about $550:

    Cloud backup is OK for some things but it has two big problems:

    (1) It's a lot slower. You can only upload at your ISP-supported rate. This is typically no more than 1-2 megabytes/sec.

    (2) Many ISPs have a monthly data cap. I have the highest version of Comcast Xfinity available in my area -- 105 megabit/sec, but my monthly data cap is 300 GB. It is totally unusable for any serious backup.

    There are many options, including iCloud.
  5. hfg macrumors 68040


    Dec 1, 2006
    Cedar Rapids, IA. USA
    Re: Time Machine and external drives

    Time Machine will backup your external drives just fine ... however, external drives are automatically excluded by default. Simply open the Time Machine preferences and click the "Options..." to reveal the Excluded list of drives, then remove the external drives you wish to have in your backup from the list.
  6. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    Good advice from joema.

    I had some bad experience with USB 3 even with AC connections; turned out to be some Energy settings (power nap). It will be plenty fast for backup. And with that bigger SSD you probably don't need Tbolt unless you are doing a lot of video stuff with big files.

    TM is all around a great backup utility. But I have a lot of photos too, and sometimes I just archive them in their final exported form. I have a lot in the cloud; since they don't have to be edited, and sometimes need to be accessed by others it's a good solution. But not as a day to day backup.

    In choosing a backup for both the internal and external (with photos) get as big as possible. I really like using bare drives and a Plugable caddy that allows swapping them in and out. I swap the basic TM backup drive every couple of days and store one offsite.

    I also just copy and archive lots of photos I don't regularly backup with TM. This means my TM backups are smaller. The photos (like raws I wanna keep but only need to access once in a while) go onto another set of swappable drives. I can catalog those in Lightroom, so even preview are still accessible, and it's two minutes to swap that drive in. You could do the same thing with a NAS or file server on another Mac.

    So, in sum I have TM on two removables I swap to offsite storage doing all my day to day stuff.

    And I keep those relatively slim by archiving, with a simple copy, of lots of big photo/media files, that I store elsewhere as well, but leave off the regular TM backups.
  7. tom0511 macrumors member

    Nov 1, 2014
    I am reading so much about backup, double Backup, Raid1, dying HDDs, the evil spinning parts in a computer,...

    I can understand that data security is important if it comes down to professional work, but as a pure private user, isn't this a bit overstated?

    I mean, I am doing backups on a 50 bucks bus powered external HDD, even though I never had a dying HDD in 20 years of computer usage.

    Let's be fair: for a non-professional user, to which degree are all of those sophisticated backup options only for peace of mind?
  8. UKingdom, Nov 3, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2014

    UKingdom thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 28, 2007
    Well, I can tell you from personal experience...there is always a first time, and having just plunked $1300 to recover 1TB worth of priceless photos, etc from my failed external HD, I have vowed never to do that again, which is why I started this thread.

    I appreciate the ideas and responses, please keep them coming!

    So far what is most beneficial to me is learning Time Machine can backup both internal and external drives in one operation.

    This means an extra large 4TB Time Machine for example, can backup both my imac's 512 SSD + overflow external, good to know. Does anyone have a recommendation for a good external Time Machine compatible HD? What are the benefits of Apple's Wireless Time Capsule? Sounds like a RAID setup is not really necessary for my needs, right, if I'm just looking to regularly backup the main 512 SSD + overflow on external

    I probably should get an additional USB 3.0 powered 4TB Backup drive, however, to do monthly backups of that 4TB Time Machine and store offsite, do you reckon, since if something like a electrical shortage were to fry the main computer, since the Time Machine is always plugged in, that would also ruin the TM, right?


    What's this plugable caddy, do you have a link to more info?
  9. tillsbury, Nov 3, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2014

    tillsbury macrumors 65816

    Dec 24, 2007
    You should also consider NAS, particularly if there are other users on the network at your house.

    The fastest drive is internal, the next fastest externally attached, then NAS, then cloud. With the honourable exception of the LaCie LBD2 (external but fastest).

    NAS over gigabit ethernet is not quick enough to use for things such as video for processing, but is more than capable of serving video and music (and can do so to other devices such as your HTPC, tablets and so on). It is great for Time Machine backups and most can handle multiple macs simultaneously. I also use it for long-term storage that rarely changes (ISO images, installation stuff, backups of old computers, old video projects).

    On top of that, it can do things on its own with additional software, so it can happily be a plex, web, or email server. And private cloud server should you wish. Mine also acts as a surveillance camera video store.

    Yes, you need to back up a NAS, but it's most likely you will only need to do this very rarely, and not all of the data needs backing up.

    So I use my internal SSD for anything I'm likely to edit in the next few days, and an external TB drive for non-time-critical files (which could just as well be USB3). Both of these are backed up via TM to the NAS (4 x 3Tb drives giving 9Tb usable in Raid 5 on a Synology 413), and this Time Machine backup alternates to a cheap USB3 external 3Tb drive (one of a pair, swapped with one in the garage). My son's mac mini and the mac mini I use as a HTPC also back up to this NAS. The NAS data is backed up to another external USB drive (excluding those things I could re-download or recover another way from original discs, such as ISO images and DVD rips). The NAS's Time Machine backups and video surveillance isn't backed up, so a 3Tb USB drive is easily enough to handle what is required here.


    The failure sequence is as follows:

    The first backup is from the local USB3 external drive (if I have deleted a file or whatever, or for an immediate restore of the entire machine). In case of this failing there is a TM backup on the NAS too (which is in another room). In case of this failing or (more likely) a fire or theft of all equipment, there is a backup not more than a couple of weeks old in the garage. In case of a NAS drive failure, it should be able to handle this easily (which it has done once already). For a twin drive failure or NAS system crash (or theft or fire or whatever) I can populate a new NAS with the backups on physical media and its own USB backup device. While I'm doing this I still have the local USB3 backups on and off-site for my main machine.
  10. MRrainer macrumors 6502a

    Aug 8, 2008
    Zurich, Switzerland

    If all your data consists of 16T of games, moviez and tv-series downloaded from ..errr.... various sources on the internet (and watched exactly once), then I agree: a backup is a bit of a luxury.
    But the average user nowadays has his whole digital life on a hard-disk (if he wasn't careless enough to upload it to some cloud-service-provider where they can be very difficult to get back in original form).
    So, it's photos, documents, emails, electronic receipts, scanned-in stuff.

    Your data does have some value (greater than zero) and I advise everybody to triage carefully and exclude stuff that is not completely irreplaceable.
    E.g. I usually don't backup VMs and various download-folders.
  11. UKingdom thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 28, 2007
    I will be the only user, no one else at home.

    NAS via Airport Time Capsule was something I was looking into but reviews are very sketchy.

    So you can set Time Machine to backup to 2 different destinations? For example I can set Time Machine to automatically backup my (internal 512 SSD + overflow USB External) to BOTH a External USB HD AND Network HD like a Time Capsule?

    I basically just need a reliable solution to backup the internal SSD + overflow External, and will do intermittent backups of that Time Machine for offsite safety.

  12. tillsbury macrumors 65816

    Dec 24, 2007
    Yes, just add another backup device to TM. In fact, if you plug another drive in I believe TM will ask you if you want to do this. It alternates the backups (each hour) to one device and then the other. A very nice feature indeed...
  13. hfg macrumors 68040


    Dec 1, 2006
    Cedar Rapids, IA. USA
    Yes, you can use Time Machine to use multiple destination disks. Simply add the additional target disk to the TM list, answer the prompt to "use both disks", and Time Machine will alternate backup to each disk on the list each hour. All data will be backed up to each disk, although 1 of the disks will be 1 hour (backup) behind the most recently used one.

    I use 3 targets for my cMac Pro Time Machine backups ... 1 internal, 1 Synology NAS, and 1 MacMini with RAID-5 disk as NAS. All of the home computers backup to the 2 NAS units as well.
  14. tom0511 macrumors member

    Nov 1, 2014
    Agreed, this is why I am doing backup on a simple external USB drive. But reading through here in different threads, one might get the impression, that everything else but a 12 rack full-blown, earthquake-proof and fire-protected server for backups might be a bit unsafe...

    I just want to get the right focus.
  15. UKingdom thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 28, 2007
    Is it possible to migrate Time Machine backups to expand to larger capacity?

    I have a 250 GB Time Machine (I know that's paltry) that's just about full. I understand a simpler solution would be just to add a new larger Time Machine and keep this old one offsite but if I could copy the data to a new Time Machine and resume backups, then I can use this USB HD for other things.
  16. hfg macrumors 68040


    Dec 1, 2006
    Cedar Rapids, IA. USA
    #16 time machine to new disk
  17. tillsbury macrumors 65816

    Dec 24, 2007
    Be aware that no rack mount fire protected system is earthquake-proof. When we had the quakes here in 2010 and 2011, damaged buildings were sealed immediately, and all local power disconnected (so no remote access possible). Three-quarters of the CBD was immediately cordoned off. You might well have no access to your building for several years, and/or have them demolished for you with all their contents inside. You need backups off-site to be even remotely quake-proof (or, presumably, tornado-proof in certain parts of the world).
  18. tom0511 macrumors member

    Nov 1, 2014
    OK, got me. ;)
  19. bradl, Nov 3, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2014

    bradl macrumors 68040


    Jun 16, 2008
    Something else to think about here, and for the record, I'm a 20-year Linux sysadmin. But I'll keep it more down to the plain-and-simple instead of overly paranoid (as a sysadmin, you have to be paranoid, hence the amount of security you have around your servers).

    The thing to also take into account is the frequency of the backups you want to take, especially when it comes to storing something offsite. As I migrated my home machine from a Linux box to a Hackintosh, and then again to my MBA, I also worried about how I was going to keep backups, as with Linux, I could cram in as many drives as I wanted, and make multiple copies there.

    I built a Hackintosh mini (literally), but I was only restricted to a 1TB drive, with the rest of my files sitting in state on my windows box. Then I paired it down even more with transferring what I needed to my MBA. But the same problem will exist in either place: All are single points of failure. If the HD dies, I'm screwed. Yes, I can take backups, but again, if a fire or something takes out my house, I'm screwed. Cloud? again, not everything is tornado/earthquake proof (I was born in Tornado Alley, and live 100 miles from both the San Andreas and Hayward faults).

    So we know that you can't control natural disasters, and how much are you going to trust the Cloud?

    What I did was went with the NAS route (helps for the very few things I have on my windows box as well), and Synology at that (DS213j; 2-disk, RAID1). It can serve as a destination for Time Machine backups, and I back up to that. But additionally, I back that data up to a drive connected by USB, and store that with all other sensitive data I have (birth certificates, Social Security cards, titles to the house/car, etc.) in a safe deposit box at my bank. That way I have access to what I need, in case of disaster, and I or my family can get to it.

    But the unanswered questions is: How much do you want to dance with the devil when it comes to your data? How much do you trust your drives? How volatile is the data (read: constantly changing/updating)? The OP already had one crash on him. Depending on how cautious you are shows how frequent you should back up that data. How long should it be? a week? a month?

    Once something is too long, it is too late. Find out what is comfortable for you, or what you think is too long, select something you feel is frequent enough, and stick to it. Back it up to something, and then back up that backup. Store that second backup somewhere secure (even a fireproof safe would work, if not a safe deposit box.

    For me, I'm backing up to my NAS via Time Machine once every other week (may increase to once per week), then every month, taking a backup of the NAS, putting it on an external drive, and storing that in a safe deposit box. I'll rotate that drive out with another external one each month.

    I use 4 internal drives for this (all the same size for RAID 1), and a external docking station. That way in a pinch, if a drive crashes in the NAS, I can swap it out with another, and the RAID will rebuild. For me to have catastrophic failure, I'd have to lose both drives in the NAS, which I could restore the data from the offsite drive. Finally, keep in mind that a NAS is not a backup solution, as the NAS is also a single point of failure, so you need to have a backup to the backup.

    But with pictures, music, online banking, doing taxes, etc., you can't keep that just on your internal drive forever, and you're still screwed if your backup drive is dead, too. So if you go the NAS route, which you could use to back up all other data, back that up, back up as frequently as you need, and keep a copy of it somewhere not in your home. That's right - your home is a single point of failure, too. :p

  20. mdelrossi macrumors member

    Jun 22, 2005
    Never used TimeMachine.
    As a photographer and motion graphic artist (title treatments for motion pictures) I only depend on backups that I can plug into my machine and keep on working with.
    Hence I use a usb3 attached raid 5 (some data protection without too much loss of speed) with Carbon Copy Cloner set to do automatic backups at a predetermined time.

    I also backup the raid to 2 separate drives offsite that I rotate as often as I can.

    Short story:
    One day when I was sorting through a stack of drives to merge all of my photos and associated media, I thought I lost all of my personal photos (my daughter growing up) all I had were the thumbnails in Aperture.
    Luckily I had overlooked one drive that I had squirled away as a tertiary backup.
    But those 2 hours were the most anxiety ridden hours I ever experienced.

    Now I label everything ;)
  21. tillsbury macrumors 65816

    Dec 24, 2007
    Have a look at Time Machine, it's better than you might think. As well as backing up hourly, you have permanent access to any file or folder you like back in time. And, in the case of total failure of your machine, you can set up your new or replacement machine directly from the TM backup. I appreciate it's different from having an external drive that you can run from, but once you get used to it it's way better.

    Bradl, why do you only have TM backing up to your NAS every week? Why does it not just run hourly as the default does?
  22. bradl macrumors 68040


    Jun 16, 2008
    95% of the data I have doesn't change, so why take up the space for it? Storage for my pictures is already handled by another application on the NAS, so I don't have to keep them on the Mac. I'm currently going over the option of putting my entire iTunes folder on the NAS, so I won't have to worry about that. Outside of that, the only other volatile (read: changing) data, is my mail. My applications are fairly static (unless I install or remove them).

    Plus my Mac isn't always home, so while TM will pick up when it is on next at home and take a delta between the last backup and the new one, that is always going to be based on the last full one taken.

    That would be an incremental backup. If I backup full once per week (Let's call it every Saturday), if my mac died on Friday, I'd have to apply the full backup from Saturday, plus each incremental backup made from Sunday through Thursday to get back to where I was when my Mac crashed.

    However, if I did a differential backup (just the differences between what is currently there and the last full backup) on Saturday, and my died the following Friday, I'd only need to restore the full backup on Saturday, and the backup on Thursday to get back to where I was before the Mac died.

    Or even worse: if my MBA is static, that I haven't changed anything since May, I could take a full backup then. If my MBA crashed on 10/31, I would have to restore the backup from May, and take every incremental backup made each day from that full backup in May and apply it for restoration.

    If I did a differential backup based on that full backup in May, and I did that on 10/29, I would only have to restore the full backup and that differential backup.

    Two backups to be restored instead of 7 or more. The difference there would be the size of the differential, depending on how much data has changed since the full backup.

    Time Machine will take care of that and while it is recommended that it handles the backups as frequently as it possibly can, it also defeats the purpose of portability of laptops. That's why it is important whenever possible to take backups, especially after figuring out what you need backed up, why, and how frequently you need it.

    EDIT: IT World put together a good 5-part article on deciding what may be the best backup model for consumers to use for backups, pros/cons, how to implement it, and what it would take. Backup strategies are also included.

  23. Tpan2 macrumors newbie

    Oct 30, 2014
    Better to invest in external thunderbolt?

    Hi, This is a helpful thread as now I know I can use TM across both internal and external drives on iMac. I happily use TM today to backup my older iMac (to a Synology DS214play). I am about to pull the trigger on a new riMac and am now thinking I spend less on internal storage and apply those funds towards and external thunderbolt enclosure. I was going to get 1Tb fusion (with i7, m295, 8gb to 32gb later) but now i am thinking 256 Ssd instead. I would augment the lost capacity with something like an external Lacie d2 thunderbolt2. This would not be as fast as ssd, but I could l always add later. anyone have a similar setup they are happy with?
  24. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    That is a lot better than nothing. Many users don't backup at all.

    Time Machine is good and easy to use. However for important data I'd recommend two different types of backup, say TM on one drive and periodic Carbon Copy Cloner backups on another drive.

    One problem with TM is there's no built-in way to verify your backup. If your backup disk develops a bad block, you will never know this until you try to restore.

    Carbon Copy has an optional procedure to verify backups, but IMO it's not intuitive. The Windows-based Acronis software I use has a built-in option to verify backups.

    On any backup disk you can run the OS X Disk Utility verify function, but this does not read the entire disk, only checks the file system. There are other 3rd-party utilities that do this, such as DriveGenius and Tech Tools Pro.

    On average I have a HDD failure about every two years. However I have several computers and a lot of hard drives.
  25. cmm macrumors 6502a

    Apr 30, 2006

    In a previous life I have built hundreds of freeNAS servers and 50 or so synology enterprise NAS solutions.

    The benefits of a NAS (many listed above by the previous poster) cannot be overstated. Nor the ability to have ONE network drive appear in finder thanks to ZFS or RAID, rather than 6 single external drives. Nor the ability to have drive fails you replace it and all your data is fine (redundancy does not equal backups however). It will also take care of backups of your devices via rsync, mercurial and duplicity, or Time Machine if you insist.

    If you have a serious desire to go this route I am happy to work out the requirements and help you spec the right solution for you. Or any others.

    If not enjoy this emergency solution of several externals until you yet again outgrow this and come back in a year or two knowing you want a NAS. Rarely are people happy in six months when they deploy a new service in an emergency situation, let alone one as important as your data.

    Sorry for the brevity and any typos, I'm on my iPhone.

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