For Carbon Copy Cloner, you will want to setup a regular, weekly automatic clone. To do so:
- Hit Save. You may have to unlock in order to enable the Save button.
- Now you should run the clone job right away. To do so, simply hit the Clone button on the CCC main window. Your job config should still be there.
- Go get a coffee, tea, or beer, because it’ll take a bit to complete the first time.
Setup the Incremental Tool
To reiterate, the purpose of the incremental tool is simply to keep a close-to-realtime backup, and also has the added benefit of providing historical copies of the files on which it operates. To be useful, you want this backup to be quick, small, and an unnoticeable drain on the CPU. The reason I don’t use a clone tool for realtime backups is mainly because of the drain that it causes on the CPU. That’s where TimeMachine (or another useful one is the tool that comes with the WD drives — WD AnyWhere) comes in.
I do realize that TimeMachine could be used as the only backup software tool and backup the entire drive. However, since it’s not a clone of the HDD, I don’t trust it for the heavy lifting. In order to rebuild a system from the TimeMachine backup, it requires that the backup files be translated, which is just one more iron in the statistical fire of potential problem areas. I’ve also had a couple of issues with TimeMachine that lead me to be a little untrusting.
Since we have a reasonably recent full system clone, we can configure TimeMachine to operate on a subset of the whole file system. This will significantly shorten the time and space required, and also limit the drain on the CPU. We can confidently exclude the System, Applications, and Library folders from the TimeMachine backups because a recent enough copy of these exists on the clone drive. You’ll want to think about which directories have files that are changing on a daily basis and make sure that these are still included. Typically this will be the /Users directory, but it may include others as well on your system.
To configure TimeMachine:
- Open System Preferences -> Time Machine
- Turn it ON
- Click Select Disk…
- In the window that pops up, selection your Storage disk, and choose Use Backup Disk
- Select Options… and then exclude (with the “+” button) as much as you can. Here is a recommended list: /Storage, /System Clone, /Applications, /Developer, /Library, /System. Note that you are keeping the /Users directory, which is likely where files are changing daily.
- Click Save and now your done.
- The first time it runs, it will take a while, depending upon how large your /Users directory is.
Another benefit to the Storage HDD is that you may use it as a scratch area for copying or keeping files that you don’t want on your internal drive. TimeMachine, or other incremental backup tools, does not initially require the whole Storage HDD to keep its files. This means that there is space left over that is available to use. Keep in mind, however, that unless the Storage HDD is a RAID drive, these files are unprotected.
Setup the Offsite Tool (SugarSync)
This step is optional, but I highly recommend it. The reason is because this is how you are able to maintain an offsite backup for any super critical files, plus you get the added benefit of automatic sync’ing of files and folders across multiple machines. I use SugarSync to ensure that I have an offsite backup of my business’s QuickBooks file, and all of our business related files on the computer. This way, if the house burns down with both of my computers and external HDD’s in it, I can still recover these important files. I also use it because every document I create and store in a SugarSync shareable folder is automatically transferred directly to my other machines and my mobile devices.
It doesn’t really matter which of the many cloud storage and sync’ing tools and services you use. The point is that you should use one, especially because many have very useful free options. I use the offsite backup/sync only for critical files and files to be shared across platforms. My needs easily fit into the 5GB free account on SygarSync. However, I must acknowledge that my media files (ie, photos, movies, music, etc) are not backed up in cloud due to space restrictions. This means that if the house burns down will my machine and external HDD in it, then my media is lost. This is a risk that I take.
The procedure varies for this step based on the tool that you are using, but the basic steps are:
- Download and install the client
- Setup your account
- Choose which folders/files to be backed up and sync’d
1-HDD vs 2-HDD
If your computer is portable and is always with you, and you use it often in a variety of places, then the 1-HDD system is likely to be more practical. You will want to make the HDD portable and powered by the bus. If your computer, or the area where you mainly use it is stationary, then a 2-HDD system might offer you a bit more flexibility and safety. With 2-HDD’s, making one of them a RAID is more practical, plus you may already have an old one lying around that doesn’t meet the double capacity requirement, but would suffice as one of the drives in the 2-HDD system.
For me personally, I use the 1-HDD approach for my work laptop, and the 2-HDD with a RAID approach for my home iMac.
RAID vs non-RAID
It certainly doesn’t hurt to use a RAID drive (or 2) for your backup HDD’s. However, choosing RAID vs non-RAID for the external drive(s) comes down to answering 2 questions:
- Are you using 1 or 2 external HDD’s?
- What do you plan on doing with the “extra” space on the Storage drive?
Let’s first analyze it from a safety standpoint, and we’ll assume that if at least 2 copies of a particular image/file/directory exists on separate drives, then that image/file/directory is safe. Everything that is being backed up exists, by definition, on the internal HDD. That’s copy #1 of every backed up file.
For a 1-HDD system, the Clone HDD contains a copy of every file that existed on the internal HDD at the time of the backup. So, until that machine is used again, everything is safe. However, as soon as the machine is used, then files are changing and some of Clone HDD files will become unsafe. To cover this, the Storage HDD contains realtime versions of the changed files. Therefore, the system is safe as a whole, without the need for RAID or a second HDD. However, there are 2 categories of files that are in jeopardy if the external drive crashes:
- TimeMachine history. i.e., if the backup drive crashes, then all of the version history that is stored in TimeMachine incremental backups is lost.
- Any files that were placed on the Storage HDD that do not also exist on the internal drive. The Storage HDD can also be used a place to keep files other than the internal HDD. In a 1-HDD system, without RAID, these files are unprotected and will be lost if the external drive crashes.
This same level of safety is true if using a 2-HDD system without RAID. The only additional safety item is that there are 2 HDD’s, so it will be less of an inconvenience if one crashes.
For a 2-HDD system, it’s a great idea to make the Storage HDD a RAID drive. The Clone HDD can be a non-RAID drive, because you always have 2 copies of each file, just like the 1-HDD system: 1 on the internal drive (these may actually be newer than the ones on the Clone HDD), and 1 on the Clone. If the Storage HDD is RAID, then not only are TimeMachine history files preserved, but so are any extra files that you are keeping externally only. This preservation occurs via the RAID process.
How to Recover From Disaster
The answer to this question is based on what type of disaster you had. If you had an internal HDD crash, then recovery is easy:
- Install new internal HDD.
- Boot machine from external Clone HDD.
- Use Carbon Copy Cloner to copy from Clone HDD to internal HDD.
- Reboot system from internal HDD
- Use TimeMachine, via Migration Assistant, to copy latest versions of User accounts and any other incrementally backed up directories to the internal HDD.
- You should be fully functional back to the spot where internal HDD crashed
If the house burned down, you have a bigger road ahead, and you’ve lost everything that you didn’t put into the 100% Safe backup category, but you can still recover all of the critical files that were backed up offsite.
- Install new system
- Install all applications you require
- Install the SugarSync client application
- Configure SugarSync to sync your cloud-based files onto your new system