Clone backups is the other popular backup method. Sci-Fi fans will know that a clone is an exact copy of the original source data. (In the sci-fi world, clones are usually evil, this is not the case with clone backups.) There are several Mac applications that will create a clone backup of your computer. My favorites are Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper!. With these programs you plug in an external drive and the data on your Mac will be duplicated to that drive.
The benefit of a clone is that you have an exact copy of your data, as it existed on your computer. In a pinch, you can take that drive to a similar Mac and boot from it as though you were working from your own machine. A clone drive is also typically faster to restore than an incremental backup drive because it only contains one full copy of your data.
Of course, the downside of a clone is that it is an exact duplicate of the data on your Mac. If a file is deleted from your Mac, it will be deleted from the clone. (Generally speaking, programs have different configuration options.) One common problem with clones, if your Mac’s hard drive was failing without your knowledge, it was possibly corrupting your data. If you clone that corrupted data to your backup drive, your backup will be corrupted as well.
For this reason, I recommend a combination of backup methods that incorporates at least one clone and one incremental copy of your data.
So far, the backup strategies we’ve discussed have been geared towards the Mac. But what about iOS? Most of us have our data spread across a number of devices. I personally have a desktop and laptop at home, a desktop at work, an iPhone and an iPad. If your iPhone and iPad isn’t backed up properly you’re at risk for data loss. I could probably write an entire article on the topic of iOS backups (in fact, I may next month) but for purposes of this article I will cover iOS backups briefly.
There are two primary methods for iOS Backup. iCloud backup and iTunes backup. I suggest that you use both. I personally prefer iCloud backup to be my default backup method and encourage you to turn iCloud backup for every iOS device you own, manage, or support. Do this by tapping Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup and turn iCloud backup on.
Turning on iCloud backup will turn off automatic backups to iTunes, but you can still run manual backups anytime you choose. To do this, plug your iOS device into your computer, choose File > Devices > Back up. I suggest you perform a manual backup on a regular basis and prior to any major change to your device. Personally, I’ll backup to iTunes once a month, before I travel out of town, and before any major update.
If you need more information about how to backup your iOS device, or how to choose your backup method (Hint: use both) Apple has support articles that will go into more detail.
Backup vs. Archive
I should take a moment to distinguish “backup” from “archive.” Since so many of us are moving from traditional hard drives to lower capacity SSDs in our computers, hard drive space is now at a premium. I have a 256 GB hard drive in my primary machine, therefore I need to be judicious with my use of disk space. When I’m finished with a project and don’t expect to need it, I will “archive” it and remove it form my primary hard drive.
You can archive data to any number of places, external drive, network attached storage (NAS) or even burn to disc. (I don’t recommend using discs for backup or archive anymore.) I choose to archive my data to a Drobo 5N network attached storage device because Drobo’s “Beyond RAID” technology is designed in such a way that if a single drive in the Drobo should fail, the data is still safe. You can purchase NAS or hard drive systems with similar RAID technology.
However, I do not consider files that live only on a Drobo or any other archival solution to be backed up because these devices are a single point of failure and susceptible to hardware failure, theft, or other problem that would cause data loss. You must also consider these archival sources of data when planning your backup strategy. To keep things simple, I encourage you to consolidate your archives into as few places as possible.