Hard drive failures, they are my worst nightmare. In my 20 years of computer usage I've encountered 1 failure and it happened to be the hard disk in my first Apple computer (2006). Ever since that moment I'm doing my best to keep my data safe. Apple computers like the Macbook, iMac or Mac Mini share great looks with stunning performances but they have one mayor drawback. They are fitted with only 1 hard drive, and most of them will crash at some point. The reason why Apple created Time Machine in my opinion. It is the easiest way to securely backup your entire internal hard drive with all the documents, applications and settings. But what if you're running out of space or use an external drive for mass storage? Throughout the years I've tried more than a few ways to backup and secure all my data, and I found a way that works best for me.
HDD vs SSD Let's start with the internal hard drive. I purchased a brand spanking new 27" iMac late 2011 with a 1 terabyte physical drive. Not that I needed the space but it was the smallest disk available back then. I only use this drive for the installation of OS X and other software like Photoshop, Cinema 4D and apps from the Appstore, together they take up about 35 gigabytes. Less than 4% of the drive and from 2011 till 2013 the drive never passed the 50GB mark. The low amount of data usage convinced me to swap the hard disk drive for a faster and smaller solid state drive. I took out the 1TB drive and replaced it for a 180GB SSD and after a clean install I'm back to the same old 35GB but my iMac is 5x faster in operation.
BeyondRAID So where do all my photos and other documents go? They used to be stored on a LaCie RAID system with 2 drives, but I was never satisfied with the performance of that external drive. I did some research on storage systems for personal/home office usage and finally I ended up with a Drobo. A simple but flexible mass storage device that goes 'BeyondRAID' as they say it. I added the 2 1TB drives from my LaCie and the 1TB drive from my iMac into the Drobo and it results into 1.8TB of storage. All this space is used/reserved for the storage of my photos, documents, temporary files and most libraries from the software that's installed on my iMac. This way I'm never running out of space and when I do I'm able to take out one drive and replace it with an even bigger drive. I could run Time Machine on this Drobo as well but it is a bit useless when the internal drive is only used for applications. Having all my data stored on the Drobo system feels secure, but what if? What if lightning strikes and my entire system turned into a pile of ash? What if all my drives fail at ones? What if I accidentally wipe one of my drives? No Time Machine or Drobo thats able to fix such a problem when they are toasted.
BeyondBeyondRAID To fix the problem of loosing all your drives you need to have a storage place elsewhere located in another house, city, country or continent. It's what we better know as Cloud Backup or Online Backup. There are many services out there that provide this BeyondBeyondRAID service and they all have their pro's and con's. I choose to subscribe to Backblaze because it is the most integrated and invisible online backup system on the market for the Apple operating system. It's relatively cheap and the upload/download speeds are above average. Backblaze runs in the system preferences and it continuously uploads new files that are added to the drives you selected for the online backup. The storage is unlimited so you can add as many external drives as you want on a single license (as long as they are connected to the licensed computer). I'm using Backblaze in the background only, it uploads all my data into my account and it might sit there forever. For $50 a year all my data is stored on a remote location and I am able to restore all the data that might get lost for one of the reasons I mentioned earlier.
Summarize An iMac with SSD for the OS and apps + Drobo (or any other DAS/NAS system) for documents, photos and libraries + Backblaze for online backup is the safest and most flexible way to store and protect your files from getting lost. Need a new Computer? disconnect the Drobo and connect it to your new computer and you are ready to go. Need more space? add or swap a drive. Lost a drive or did your house/ office burn down? Simply restore your data via Backblaze.