This post isn’t about some fancy new research. Consider it a friendly nudge to floss.

I’m pretty Type A about backing up and have data going back 20+ years at this point. I’m especially particular about my family photos. Until yesterday (this is called foreshadowing) my strategy was:

  • Time Machine running on a Drobo for my main Mac
    • Drobo as a company is dead, but this is a direct attached 5D, which has worked well and has enough capacity that I can lose drives and recover (which has happened).
  • The Drobo as mass storage for the large files I don’t store on my SSD. Archives, VMs, videos.
  • A WD MyBook with 12 TB, also directly connected to my Mac. Data replicated from there using Carbon Copy Cloner.
  • Backblaze for cloud backups. With a personal encryption key.
  • iCloud (I’m on the 6TB plan) for all my photos and related iCloud stuff.
    • iCloud is synced across multiple systems.
  • Box for Securosis corporate documents.
  • Some older S3/Glacier archives.
  • Probably more. I’m old and forget things.

My entire house could burn down and I shouldn’t lose anything. But I broke the 3-2-1 rule.

The 3-2-1 rule of backups is 3 copies of everything, at least 2 of them local, and 1 offsite.

My Drobo died. Completely and suddenly. Not a single drive, but the entire thing. And the moment it happened I couldn’t remember whether I was backing up ALL of the Drobo anywhere else. It was RAID — what were the odds of losing the entire device? I knew I needed to replace it soon because the drivers weren’t being updated, but I kept putting it off.

Well okay, I should be fine with my CCC backups… except that wasn’t set as a scheduled job, and I was only replicating one of the Drobo partitions.

The other partitions? Well, one of them had my in-progress CloudSLAW video for next week and a demo video for the new CSMM feature we are releasing at work (remember, foreshadowing). Two time-sensitive things I REALLY didn’t want to recreate.

Cloud/Backblaze to the Rescue and My New Strategy

It turns out I really was sending everything from every drive to the cloud, and keeping versions for a year. It cost me just over $100 (for a single machine). I’ve never thought much about it, but all the data was there. The clincher was fast, selective restore. I was able to directly what I needed, including the video files, and download a .zip in less than an hour. Then I ordered a Synology, and I’ll go through the longer restore process once that arrives.

Does this mean I can skip keeping 2 local versions on separate devices? And doesn’t RAID count as 2 devices?

Nope and nope. But here’s my strategy and reasoning: an evolution of the 3-2-1 rule:

  • Family photos and things I never want to lose are stored on 2-4 local devices and at least 2 different cloud providers, with occasional archives to a third provider. My iCloud Photos sync to my Mac. That’s backed up to via Time Machine and to the (soon to arrive) Synology. It also goes to Backblaze, and a couple times a year I archive to S3.
  • All critical business documents are in 2 cloud services. That’s Box, and since I sync the files locally, they also land in my cloud backups of my local drive.
    • Code and other documents are in places like GitHub and OneDrive, depending on which hat I’m wearing. I just make sure there are 2 of everything at 2 different services.
  • A bootable image of my working Mac. I use Carbon Copy Cloner for this. I’m not as religious about it because I can fully work off my laptop when needed.
  • Archived and media files are single copies on the RAID, but the RAID is backed up to cloud, from where I can selectively restore. These are the things I am okay with not having right away.
  • UPDATE: I will now keep my working video files on a second local drive. This will be directly attached to my Mac, and backed up to both the cloud and the new RAID (Synology), which will be network attached instead of directly connected.

So, 3-5 copies of all files. 1-3 local based on priority, 1-3 in cloud, also based on priority. Baby pics are 3 local, 3 in different cloud services. Full system is 2 local, 1 bootable. Work documents at 2 cloud services, at least one with versioning. Large “working” (media) files are 2 local, one on fast storage and the other RAID. Mass storage is 1 local (RAID) and 1 versioned copy in cloud. All critical work applications should be on 2 systems (laptop/desktop, and for me I do a ton on iPad).

I lucked out this time. I really did not remember sending the Drobo files to Backblaze, and had a brief panic attack. And I hadn’t used selective restore previously, which helped me rapidly find and download the working files I needed.

I’m gonna go floss now.