What's your back-up method of choice?

I’m new to both Mac and Scrivener and don’t have an “old reliable” method for backing up my work yet. So I thought I’d throw the question out there for anyone who wants to answer: what’s your favoured back-up method?

On-line or off-line, Scrivener-centric or general to any program: I’d like to hear about my options, so I can weigh the pros and cons of each and decide which one I’d like to use.

Apple Time-Machine backs up main hard drive incrementally every hour to an external hard drive.

Weekly, I clone the Macbook Pro’s entire hard drive using SuperDuper to another external hard drive.

All Scrivener projects Zip in their entirety on closing to my Dropbox folder on my Macbook Pro. This folder gets Time-Machined, too, of course, and weekly SuperDupered, but those Zip files also exists wherever Dropbox exists, some server farm far, far away. In addition, certain key files–finances, taxes, stuff like that–I send to save to DropBox manually once a week.

When I finish a milestone in the WIP, such as finishing a Part (as opposed to the relative insignificance of finishing a mere Chapter), I tend to Compile to a Word file and email it to myself to two different addresses, so that it exists on two different servers.

Not quite as paranoid as some folks I know, but it’s good enough for who it’s for, as we say in Maine.

For guidance on this, I recommend Joe Kissell’s Take Control ebook here: http://www.takecontrolbooks.com/backing-up.

I would look at some of the online offerings to also provide a secondary offsite solution. I like Crashplan (http://www.crashplan.com/) (with local backups to other machines in the house) and also offsite to other friends/family/their data center. Not affiliated except as a satisfied customer.

Wow, Ahab, you really don’t take any chances do you?

Thanks for the book recommendation, Hugh. I checked out the link you provided and I’m going to see if I can find it locally.

I like the look of CrashPlan too. Do you use the regular or the plus version, Bdillahu?

A word about CrashPlan: it’s one of the cheaper online backup offerings and is endorsed in Joe Kissell’s book, but unless your backup needs are quite small, or you’ve got big upload capacity on your broadband, any online service is still going to be slow and expensive in ISP charges (as the book also points out).

BTW, as far as I know, the only way to get the book is from the Take Control website - but from there you can download a pdf you can read on your Mac or print off.

I use two external hard disks, each partitioned for a clone (Super Duper) and a versioned copy (Time Machine), and each in turn circulated offsite (i.e. taken to work by another family member).

In today’s age, I also recommend getting two or three external hard drives and keeping at least one of them outside of your home with someone you trust ultimately, or if failing that, in a very well protected safe, such as a bank vault or a personal fireproof safe. It’s just not feasible to use DVD-Rs any more, unless you are willing to lose significant quantities of your drive in a crash. External hard drives are cheap and reliable, and if you look around you can find drives that offer encryption. Western Digital carries cheap drives with hardward encryption. Give them a 16+ letter passphrase you won’t forget.

Wouldn’t a mirrored DropBox folder on a friend’s computer across town be pretty much as secure as an external hard drive?

If your friend used their own DropBox account, would DropBox allow two separate folders under different accounts? Or doesn’t DropBox allow a shared public folder of some kind that might work for this?

Well yes, perhaps, but caution: when I first started using DropBox, I shared it with my wife. Then one day, for reasons of needing space on her much smaller MacBook hard drive, she cleared out the Dropbox folder … wiping out all my files too in the process. Fortunately, I had other backups.

In consequence, I persuaded her to set up her own Dropbox account, with a shared folder for the two of us. But that folder now contains a lot of legacy shared material of hers, which I daren’t delete and have yet to persuade her to clear out, and which is therefore cluttering up my Dropbox space.

And I’m not sure what would happen to all our files if Dropbox were to have a monumental crash and all the files were lost. I don’t use Dropbox for back up. I use Chronosync every week to make a bootable back up of the HD in each of my computers on a partition in a portable hard disk — which I usually have with me — and then when I’m in the UK also make another bootable back up on a static hard disk at home.

Having the primary back up with me wherever I go means that I have access to files from the MBP (which is in England) while I’m here in China with only the MBA, and that wherever I am I have access to the MBA back-up in the event of a failure of any kind. I have a second portable, on which I intend to set up a second bootable back up of the MBA hard disk. One of them will remain in my flat while the other I will always have with me.


I consider the files on Dropbox to be about as good of a backup as my Time Machine drive. In 95% of cases, it’ll work fine and it is terribly convenient, but it it shouldn’t be relied upon. I don’t know, I’m just not a big fan of trusting an external corporate server to protect my files. Companies fold, get bought out, change their policies, etc, and file storage services seem to be a bit more risky right now than usual. Governments have been cracking down on file storage web sites—a bit like blowing up a square acre to take care of the one hornet nest of pirates in it. Perhaps it’s an outdated way of thinking, but I guess I just prefer a physical thing that I can protect physically.