Staying safe.

The Russians/North Koreans/Iranians/Iraqis/Hezbollah/Hamas/Al Qaeda/YouNameTheFlavorOfTheDay loonies just dropped a big one down the road and the fire or electromagnetic shock wave fried your computer. Or, more likely, Pacific Gas and Electric or ConEd just dropped a bigger one and the power surge and resulting brownout fried it ‘real good’.

No problemo, quoth you, I have my back-up in the cloud. Well, tough, ’cause the cloud storage facility was 100 yards from the epicenter and what was 40 years of your precious snaps is now so much molten whatever-they-stored-them-on.

I last mentioned backing-up in my piece titled Paranoia over two years ago and am happy to report that the Aluratek drive holder I profiled continues to do sterling duty many times a day. Given its absence of moving parts I would expect no less.

The Aluratek Docking enclosure remains available from B&H, now for $35, and the beauty of the device is that it can accept both 3.5″ and 2.5″ (notebook) hard drives. And nothing has changed for cloud storage of large photo catalogs, meaning forget about it. Too slow to upload or download and too dependent on a host of new variables, like did the guy running the cloud facility just forget to press the button because of the bottle of tequila he downed the previous evening right before crashing his car? Remember when Apple’s vaunted MobileMe went down and many users lost files? Uh huh. So much for the cloud.

So for my precious photo catalogs in both Lightroom3 and (legacy) in Aperture2 I adopt the following back-up routine.

  • Every hour or so to the Aluratek fitted with a 3.5″ 1.5tB Samsung whopper drive, stores a back-up using Apple’s TimeMachine which gives me access to legacy files rather than overwriting each with the latest version. That’s an automatic back-up which I check now and then to make sure it ran. By using a really large drive I preserve an immense amount of legacy versions should I ever need to go back – TimeMachine will start deleting the oldest files once the drive is full. (Roy Hammans convinced me of the wisdom of TimeMachine a while back when he explained how he had merged layers in a Photoshop file and needed to go back to the pre-merged version. Time Machine did the trick). I confess that TimeMachine has saved my bacon more than once when I was too fast saving an Excel/Word/whatever file.
  • At two in the morning Carbon Copy Cloner makes an incremental bootable back-up to the second internal 1tB 3.5″ hard drive in the HackPro which is my workhorse desktop computer. The beauty of a CCC back-up is that, if properly set up, the back-up contains the full OS X system and can be booted from if the main drive in the HackPro blows. By contrast, TimeMachine back-ups cannot be booted from. The CCC back-up is incremental, meaning the first one takes forever and subsequent ones need only a minute or two. I check that this one is bootable once a month, thank to iCal pestering me with a repeating reminder.
  • Notebook drives have become very inexpensive. MacSales will sell you a 500gB Samsung SATA for $75, a minimal premium over the much larger and heavier 3.5″ drive. Get the cheaper, cooler running, more reliable 5400rpm one – after all, what’s your hurry? Why a notebook drive? Well, first, it fits in the Aluratek (or similar) cradle just fine once the 3.5″ drive is removed. Second it’s small and light and is perfect for storage in the glove compartment of your car, or wherever is cool and off site. An envelope or pouch protects the exposed connectors. On this one I simply calendar iCal to remind me monthly to do a back-up, pull the drive from the old four seater, plug it in the Aluratek and do a simple back-up of the Pictures directory on the HackPro where my picture catalogs and related indexes and preview files reside. This is the ultimate failsafe when the Loony Of The Day has another go at the last bastion of freedom in the world, aka the United States. This solution should also work in Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, but I’m not too sure about the rest of the world.

CarBak – the notebook 500gB HDD next to my wallet. Not exactly large ….

Flash chip RAM drives with no moving parts? Nah! Too expensive, still working out teething problems, and you don’t need superspeed access times for a back-up drive. Wait a few years – the spinning disc drive may be nearing the end of its life but it’s cheap and reliable. And realize that the notebook drive is seldom working and it’s known to be extremely shock resistant. Sammy claims 400-900G shock resistance and 55C/131F maximum temperature for their notebook spinning disk drive, and I don’t even want to think about either of those.

Another benefit of the notebook drive back-up is that you can take it with you if you use something like a MacBook Air, as I do, which has very limited internal storage yet is more than capable for on-the-road Lightroom use. On of those Newer Technology Universal Drive Adapters, at all of $28, will allow easy connection. A related benefit of this device is that it will allow attachment of an optical drive, for DVDs and the like, to a MacBook Air, which has none.

CarBak running.

OK, you say, the Big One drops on your home where your car is parked. Bugger, says I. But do I care any more?