What is the smartest on-site backup strategy for my house?

Question: What is the smartest on-site backup strategy for my house? Time Machine? NAS? External SATA? DVD-R?

“There’s almost no end to backup solutions and configurations these days, and virtually no excuse for not backing up your computer,” Casey Johnston writes for Ars Technica. “Even if you have only a few important files, it’s worth it to shell out for an 8GB USB flash drive to store copies on; if you don’t, you’ll cry out that $20 you saved in anguished tears.”

Johnston writes, “For the most part, backup storage solutions vary on three axes: speed, cost, and flexibility. We’ll go over a few different types of storage, and you can determine what’s best for you based on your setup.”

Read more in the full article here.


  1. Whilst I can’t tell you what’s the smartest strategy, a choice among NAS, Time Machine and others that suits your pocket and ability to manage network storage, I CAN tell you what’s NOT the smartest: entrusting your backup storage to the Google cloud. 

    That’s the equivalent of advertising for free services that comes with a rape warning: your ass is not free from being raped by Google.

    1. That’s my strategy as well.

      But the key is for at least one of those to be somewhere else, otherwise a fire or flood screws you as surely as if you had no backup at all.

      I also have key files on Dropbox.

  2. Whatever you do as a primary backup infrastructure, you should *never* have keep your backup drives plugged into your home electricity. I do consulting work for insurance companies, and you wouldn’t believe how many home electrical systems get fried by strong surges from the grid (short), or from nature (lightning).

    You should always have one drive with all your data unattached to your computer or electricity. Do this emergency backup once a month or so, depending on how much new data you generate.

    Oh, and surge protectors are useless for strong high-voltage surges.

    1. While that’s good advice, most people would never remember to unplug the drive. That’s why an offsite solution is imperative, plus all the redundant on-site backups melt just as easily as the next in a fire.

      Here’s my setup:

      1. Time Machine
      2. Backup to iDisk of imperative documents (QuickBooks files, etc.)
      3. CrashPlan offsite backup

      Between the 3 of these, my critical documents are backed up both onsite and offsite basically as they change. Plus, Time Machine gives me historical restore capabilities should I need it. I also love that CrashPlan encrypts on my iMac before securely transmitting to their servers.

    2. Thank you for that sound advice. Very sensible. Always use an AVR when plugging a computer or NAS into your home electricity circuit. Never can have too much protection against lightning and electrical surges.

  3. I had two extra laptop hard drives and bought external housings for them from meritline for like $3. I use one of them to backup my laptop with time machine. I have another computer a mac mini that I use to store videos and stuff and just bought a Promise DS4600 and 5 HD’s from newegg. Total was like $600, but its a RAID 5 and plugs in with Firewire 800. Haven’t used it yet it should be delivered here in about 1 more hour or so. But picked up that DS4600 for $250 at BHPhoto when it was like $800 and still is on Apple’s store and other places. Can’t wait to try it wish UPS would get here!!

  4. Time Machine is the best. I used it when I accidentally ruined my hard drive. I then bought a new hard drive and used Time Machine to restore from the last back-up which was luckily a day before. It backed up everything as I had left perfectly. I didn’t have to re-install anything. Even the files on my desktop where exactly in the same location as I had left them. It was so easy, it was creepy.

  5. Yes it is!

    I do software support. I see too many cases of intelligent people trusting data to the latest and greatest hardware and software, without having considered all the Bad Things that could happen.

    A good backup strategy should be redundant. Cloning a drive is good, but doesn’t help if a burglar makes off with your computer equipment or your home or office burns down. But don’t forget that there are circumstances that could make total reliance on backups to the cloud a mistake.

  6. I use LokkBox (www.lokkbox.com) for my business offsite backup. They offer a fantastic service (designed for businesses only) and the prices are really reasonable. We’ve been with them for a few years now. You can backup any number of hosts and all you pay for is storage. It works really well with all of our Macs. We don’t even have local backup because we just set our Macs to backup every 60 minutes. Since the system does incremental backups, it only takes a few seconds.

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