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My Mac Backup System

Crashplan backup

In our last post I wrote about the 3-2-1 backup rule, a backup method that builds in a few layers of redundancy, so that you have peace of mind knowing that your backups are safe. I have a system in place with my iMac that has served me pretty well. Depending on your interpretation, it doesn’t strictly follow the 3-2-1 backup rule.

Here’s an overview of my system:

1. My frontline backup of my iMac is my Time Machine backup. This actually backs up over my network to an Apple Time Capsule. I was using an external hard drive before buying the Time Capsule, but my desk was getting too crowded, and I wanted to free up a USB port on the iMac. Time Machine is great for going back and seeing your files as they existed at different points in time.

2. I also use SuperDuper to keep an updated clone of my internal hard drives, on a drive next to my machine. The free version of SuperDuper creates a clone of your drives. If you pay $27.95 for the full version, you can set the app to perform a smart update of your clone image at preset intervals. I can actually boot from this clone drive if there’s a problem with my main drive. This has saved my bacon on a couple of occasions.

3. My main offsite backup is done via CrashPlan, which we’ve previously covered in detail. The Family Unlimited plan is a great deal, allowing you to back up 10 computers for $119 per year.

4. I also use Dropbox, and typically save any important (but non-sensitive) file in my Dropbox folder. I then have extra redundancy, with that file stored not only on the Dropbox servers, but also synced automatically to two other machines.


The 3-2-1 backup rule requires that you backup to two different types of media. Depending on whether you consider an online backup to be a different type of media, my system might not follow that rule. The worst kind of backup, though, is one that isn’t performed. If I had to back up to a different type of media, such as tape or DVD, I probably wouldn’t perform that step at all. So my system, with a fourth layer of backup, has worked well for me. I’ve had a few occasions where I’ve had to dig out a backup of a file that I accidentally deleted, and two occasions where I had to completely restore my iMac from a backup.

My system is Mac-centric, though. We have covered four Windows options previously.

What is your backup system?