July 15, 2003

Backups Made Simple

For the first time in years I finally have a backup solution that I really like.

Some history is in order here: I remember (barely) when backing up your computer meant making another copy of the paper type with your BASIC program on it. That was nasty. It was followed by the floppy disk era, when backup meant copying your data floppy every so often (your system floppy was already a copy). Later, I knew the joy of buying a new program and spending an hour copying all of the program disks as a backup.

All that changed when we got our first hard disk. At 10 MB, it was so much bigger than any floppy disk that backups were nearly impossible. For a while I backed up my hard drive using a program called Fastback that copied the data on to floppies more quickly and safely than the DOS backup program. Later I got a tape drive--that was a joke. It was slow as molasses, and the only way be verify that it had worked was to copy it back on to the hard drive. No thank you.

Eventually I gave up on backing up the whole hard drive; I just started copying whatever I was working on onto a floppy from time to time. As my projects got bigger, I moved up to a Zip drive and used 100MB Zip disks. Then I got into digital photography--it was time for a CD burner. I've been through two of those, now, neither of which worked reliably; the third one, which came pre-installed in my PowerBook, seems to be OK.

But all of these solutions have been stopgaps. They preserve my data--but if my hard disk goes south it could be weeks before I'm back up again, depending on how soon I get a replacement machine, and how long it takes to re-install everything.

But now, finally, I have a backup solution that really works. I went out and got an external LaCie firewire hard drive. It's plug and play with Mac OS X: I plug it in, and there's another drive. It's an 80 gigabyte drive; it cost less than a third as much as an 80 megabyte drive once cost me.

Now here's the cool part. It's big enough to hold everything on my laptop's harddrive. I just use a program called Carbon Copy Cloner to copy the contents of my laptop's disk to the external drive.

And here's the really cool part: I can boot the laptop from either drive. (Thank you, Apple!) So if my laptop's drive fails, I can boot from the external drive and go on working. When I get the main drive replaced, I just have Carbon Copy Cloner copy everything back over.

Way Cool.

Posted by Will Duquette at July 15, 2003 07:41 PM