New redundant backup policy for multiple Macs. TM+Backblaze

Discussion in 'macOS Sierra (10.12)' started by pierat, May 2, 2017.

  1. pierat, May 2, 2017
    Last edited: May 3, 2017

    pierat macrumors member

    Dec 28, 2010
    Sorry for the really long post, but I wanted to put all the info here so it makes the most sense to you readers. For many years, I have relied solely on clone backups for my Macs. Carbon Copy Cloner has been my best friend who never let me down. However, in the past few years, I have admittedly been lazy with my backup practices, and I want to get back on track before anything bad happens.

    My setup has been two Macs, one for me and one for my wife, along with 3 portable, bus powered externals. For the past 5 years or so, these have been a couple 120GB Firelite firewire 400 drives and a 1TB OWC OTG firewire 800 drive. The general practice has been that I clone each of the two Macs on the Firelite drives and take them to work, leaving the OWC home. Every week or so I back up both Macs to their own partitions on the OWC drive and swap it with the smaller ones at work. Due to the ever growing size of our data, I have resorted to making a third partition on the 1TB drive to backup the data that won't fit on the 120GB clones or our internal drives. To make up for the lack of redundancy and access to files while the drive is at work, I added a 3TB drive to my Mac Mini HTPC that runs my home media and is on 24/7, sort of acting like a NAS. Its primary job was to hold media, but about 750GB is our shared data form the two Macs, mostly my photos and work files. This computer is also connected to Backblaze. So the data on the "NAS" is backed up constantly to Backblaze, along with the clones which get plugged into it once a month to keep the cloned data backed up to Backblaze servers too. What I have is a rather redundant setup, but the NAS is the only way to access my data when the 1TB drive is at work. So I have resorted to accessing my data over the LAN, which isn't as fast as being on my internal drive. To keep things backed up well, I did try scheduling a backup task in CCC to back this up when I connect the drive to my HTPC Mini, but I just don't find myself connecting it enough to run like I want it to. Plus, with all the different drives and machines, it's so convoluted that I don't know anymore what's backed up and what's not. The 3TB NAS drive also contains some of my most important data, so that has me feeling uncomfortable that I am not backing it up regularly enough.

    This whole practice was set up like this purely because I already owned the drives mentioned, and I wanted to save money by using what I already had. It seemed simple enough, but after a year or two became a hassle. Also, I ran out of internal storage on my MBP, which is where most of it is created and accessed from. Now, I have a new iMac with a 1TB SSD, which is much larger than my previous MBP HD, and I can manage to get a lot of the data from the NAS back to my own machine if I choose to. My problem is trying to figure out how to make a better backup practice that I won't forget to do. So I want to start using Time Machine, which I have never used before. Also, I no longer have a firewire port, so I am thinking it's best to get some new enclosures and larger drives now, to make it simpler.

    The new situation is an iMac with 1TB storage and a MBP with a 250GB HDD. I would like to figure out a way to make triple redundancy backups using a combination of external drives, local NAS, Time machine and clones along with Backblaze online backup. I prefer to have a clone at home and one at work for each machine. Along with something that remains connected to Backblaze at home. I would like to have one drive that I can clone regularly to, and it could stay at home connected to the Mini and backup up on the network with scheduled tasks so I don't forget.

    Now I just don't know how big of drives to get for Time Machine, because I don't have experience knowing how much space it takes for version backup with TM. I would say I have about 0.75TB-1.25TB of data to backup. To make it more confusing, I want to consolidate connectors, so I can use it on both the old MBP and the new iMac to avoid having to buy a different drive for each machine. I have settled on USB 3.0 or 3.1 type A. I have no interest in going to type C yet because I have 2 other PCs here that have USB, but nothing else. So I am willing to deal with the slower speeds of backward compatible USB in case I need to use the drives on my PCs. I have HFS reading ability on these drives, so I can share drives.

    I guess I should add the most logical thing to do would be TM both machines to the NAS and clone that by plugging in one a week with the alternating drives, but from my understanding, there is no way to make a bootable clone from TM, which I need in case of catastrophic failure. So this means I think I need both clones and TM of two machines.

    Hope this makes some sense and someone can help me feel less overwhelmed!
  2. BarracksSi, May 3, 2017
    Last edited: May 3, 2017

    BarracksSi Suspended


    Jul 14, 2015
    TM doesn't make a bootable clone, that's right, but booting the computer into Recovery mode will give you the option of restoring from a TM backup -- same with starting from a fresh drive and fresh OS installation. (I went through this in December; much less painful than it sounds)

    TM recommends that the backup drive have double the space of whatever you're backing up.

    Here's what I'm doing now: One 3 TB portable drive that I periodically plug into my wife's 512 GB MB Air and my 1 TB MB Pro, running TM backups when I do. The drive enclosure itself has a USB-C socket, but it came with USBC-to-USBC and USBA-to-USBC cables, so it'll be ready for whenever we move on to newer USBC-only laptops.

    ... That's pretty much it. I don't expect one of the laptop drives and the portable to fail on the same day, so I'm not [yet] freaking out about not having triple redundancy.

    [adding on]
    I used to do clones of complete drives and burn CD-ROMs of certain folders, but I could see that over time, the act of backing up would become its own time sink, and I would get lost in an activity of my own creation. When Time Machine was unveiled, I was super excited, and I used it with a then-new Time Capsule, too.

    My Time Capsule seems to have failed, but that's okay; there was nothing on it that I hadn't already deemed unnecessary. I have a feeling that a hardwired drive is better (or at least more convenient) to use when restoring from a backup, too.

    I only recently learned about Git and how it's great for version control of my little coding projects. Time Machine is, at least in concept, like Git on a system-wide scale. If you're not familiar with Git, check up on it.
  3. pierat thread starter macrumors member

    Dec 28, 2010
    I have read TM drive should be between 2-4 times the data being backed up, but maybe that was from users opinions, not official Apple. I would like to be able to fit everything on one drive to keep it simple. Yes, backing up does really become a chore, especially when there are multiple computers involved. So with TM, I can boot into recovery, restore my OS from there like it's meant to do, then I boot into the system and restore from TM? And I assume you have the option to restore any point in time that is saved on your TM? But does it really fully restore everything including system updates, system files, preferences, etc.? Even so, it sounds like a longer process to restore with more "moving parts". If my main objective is to get back up and running after something goes wrong, I think I still would want to have clones. For example, right now I am running next to me a clone off an external FW drive because I fried the logic board on my old MBP. It's so convenient. But I do think TM sounds like a good option for version management, like you said, sort of like Git.

    It still seems like restore from CCC is simpler. So maybe I should just get a new 3TB HD, plug it into my 24/7 running Mac Mini media center and use that as my time capsule for both computers and let that one back up to Backblaze. This way I have TM backup and all versions are in the Backblaze cloud for remote access if I need it. Then, stick with a couple more portable drives for the rotating clones as I have always done. This way, I can restore from a weekly clone and just grab newest versions of files I'm missing on the clone from TM. Would that be an easier restore option? Will TM show me all files that are newer than what's on my system and allow me to select only those to restore like that? Sound good in theory to me if it would work.
  4. BarracksSi Suspended


    Jul 14, 2015
    It can restore completely in one step. You'll have the option to restore only the OS, or you can restore everything you've backed up.

    I don't know, because I didn't try it that way. I just wanted to get back to what I was doing earlier that day.

    Everything that you've chosen to not exclude gets restored, including preferences, system updates, etc. One thing I chose to exclude from my regular backups was Applications, with the plan that if I needed them, I could re-download them. I made this choice to save space in the backup. However, you could choose to not exclude anything at all, so the entire system gets backed up.
    (see System Preferences -> Time Machine, then click the Options... button in the bottom corner)

    For near-zero downtime, yeah, I see what you're getting at. My laptop isn't work-critical, so I can afford to have it down for repairs for a couple days. But to plug in a different drive and reboot in a matter of minutes, that's cool.

    I'm... well, I'm not sure. I haven't tried it yet. I believe TM will normally show you whatever's newest in its backup/restore view.

    One thing I took advantage of was keeping a bunch of documents in the cloud (iCloud for me). For these, if forced, I could continue working on them on my iPhone or iPad -- or a different computer entirely -- while my Mac gets fixed.

    Sounds to me like you've got an additional external drive laying around (and if you don't, I'm overestimating how many peripherals you have). If you can, configure it as a TM drive and let it do its thing for a while, then see how it fits into your routine.
  5. pierat thread starter macrumors member

    Dec 28, 2010
    Yes, I have a bunch of various sized hard drives laying around, and on top of that, they're cheap enough to go buy more. I just bought a second WD Red 3TB this week just for backups. But now I am starting to wish I had bought a bigger drive, so I will probably just end up buying another one! I have hot swap enclosures on both my Mac Mini media PC and on this Mac I'm on now, so I can easily jump a drive around machines for cloning. I also have been running Carbon Copy Cloner on network drives for many years, similar to the link you just posted about Time Machine. So I can clone on the network, and take the drive out to boot from it on either machine that needs it.

    I will do just as you suggested. I will just give Time Machine a whirl and see for myself. I think it will be useful to have time machine running multiple version backups for specific file restores, along with clones for total disk failures. I can then fall back on either one, if one suits the restore needs better than the other. I guess I'm saying, it doesn't sound like Time Machine will be able to replace clones for me, but I think it sounds like a valuable tool to use since it's built in and ready to go on all my Macs. Besides, it provides the version backups that cloning doesn't.

    Thanks for the responses here, I appreciate you taking your time to help me out on this.
  6. BarracksSi Suspended


    Jul 14, 2015
    I probably wouldn't have had anything worth writing if I hadn't gone through a backup-and-restore process myself recently, so my near-disaster is your benefit. :D

    I think you'll be in better shape for data recovery than I am, too. Maybe I should add a clone backup. I think I've got a 1TB drive somewhere that I could use as a straight-up clone (unless it's 500GB, in which case I could simply clone my Home folder).

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6 May 2, 2017