How-To: Create an infallible backup

The title itself is nearly impossible to obtain but we have one solution for you that might actually come close. It’s as easy as Time Machine (well, it sort of is Time Machine) and one piece of hardware. Most people are perfectly suited with an external hard drive connected to their Mac via firewire. With Mac OS 10.5 or 10.6 you can turn on Time Machine and have it take periodic snapshots of your machine. After the initial backup, it will check your computer each hour for changes and backup only those changes. Time Machine keeps a backup each hour for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for everything older than a month. It’ll keep the backups as long as you have space — if you run out, it will start deleting the oldest snapshots.

When you start considering laptops, it becomes very easy to forget about your backup. Plugging in an external drive isn’t very accessible if you’re dragging your laptop everywhere you go. It becomes a little less of a hassle with a portable firewire drive. Backups are quick and they’re tiny enough to fit in your bag… but you still have to plug something whenever you want to back up. So how do we fix that?

A great way start is with NAS (Network Area Storage). NAS allows you to connect to your storage space over the network. Depending on your setup, you can drag and drop important files to your NAS or use a Time-Machine-compatible device that will allow you to run full backups over the network. With NAS, you could come home each day and backup your computer without ever thinking about it. Time Machine will recognize that your backup drive is available once you connect to your home network and start backing up that day’s activity. It’s really a set it and forget it option. Pretty cool.

Apple offers a NAS solution that most people have deemed unworthy of data protection: Time Capsule. It offers all of the network and backup features we outlined above, but what happens when it fails? You lose your backup. There’s no way to access the hard drive in the Time Capsule without voiding your warranty. Apple is happy to swap it for a refurbished device, but you’re not getting your data back. What happens if it fails at the same time as your internal hard drive? You lose all of your information. You could take it to a professional data service like Data Tech Labs: they’d try to recover the information but at that point you’ve lost a $300+ device and a bunch of money on data recovery. So, that doesn’t really keep everything safe… there has to be something better, right?

There is. This is not a cheap solution and wouldn’t necessarily be the best solution for at-home use but it is very practical for your business… or even a tech-oriented family. If you have a lot of computers in your business or on the same home network, this would be an ideal backup solution for you. You can have all of the network and ease-of-use features as we listed above… but with a little more data integrity.

In April, Data Robotics introduced a NAS called the Drobo FS. Let’s cover some of the features that will make this more stable than any other option currently available to the average consumer.

Drive Redundancy — We won’t get into everything that is RAID in this post, we’ll just tell you that this device allows you to choose what type of protection you want. You don’t have to mirror drives at all… you could give yourself up to 10TB of network space if you’re not concerned about redundancy. If you want extra protection, you could install four 2TB hard drives for a nearly infallible system with 4TB of network space.

Self-Healing Technology — The redundancy this product features would allow two separate drive failures without any loss of data. If you find yourself with one, even two failed hard drives… don’t sweat it. You can just toss in another hard drive and it’ll start rebuilding your RAID without any stress from you.

Time Machine Support — Just yesterday, May 20th, Data Robotics announced full Time Machine support for the Drobo FS. This means that you can use it just like any other drive via Time Machine… but over the network like the Time Capsule.

Drobo Apps — This one is more for the media enthusiast. Drobo has applications that will help you stream media from computer to computer and even setup an iTunes media network share.

We realize that this backup solution isn’t for everyone… it’s just the best solution we’ve seen in a long time. The enclosure itself starts at $699. If you want to order it with hard drives pre-installed, that could run the total up to $1,499. That may seem like a lot for data integrity, but let us remind you that data recovery can run you upwards of $1,000 per drive. We’re not trying to scare you (maybe a little), we just want everyone to take data backup seriously. In fact, we’ll make less money if you follow our advice. So, what does that tell you?

That’s about it. We know that’s a lot to take in. We want you to know that we’re here for you. If you decide to grab a Drobo FS, we’d be happy to come out and help you set it up. This article was part of our How-To series. We’ll keep updating it with helpful information all the time. Soon, we’ll have a step by step guide for a regular time machine backup with a normal external hard drive. Should we have done that one first? Maybe… it just not as interesting.
Here’s a video from Data Robotics about the Drobo FS. If you’re at all considering the device, you should watch the video and be amazed.