Save Your Data and Sanity by Backing Up Often

A few weeks ago when I accidentally drowned my computer with a fresh glass of Crystal Light grape drink, the first person I called was my Mac guru, Chelanie Israel. When I met with her so she could pronounce my laptop officially dead,  I asked her to write a guest post about how to back up data, especially data that’s too valuable to lose.

Guest Post By Chelanie Israel (aka Miss Mac)

Clients often come to me after their hard drive or archive drive has died and when I ask them if they have backup, they give me a “No, of course not…why do you think I came to you?” look.

I can’t stress back up enough.

How often do I backup? Every day, every week, and anytime I’m doing something I don’t want to lose. For me, that’s everything.

I keep three copies of everything and sometimes four if it’s something I just can’t live without (i.e. my client database, the things that help me do my job: passwords, settings, Quickbooks, and the projects I’m currently working on).

Keeping Data Safe

Some of the things that I do to keep all of my data safe is:

  • Replace my drives every two years. Why? Because a hard drive is just like an engine. When it gets to total time it will crash. The average life span of a drive is 3-5 years if you use it like a normal person. If the drive is being worked 7/24 (most servers, web servers, and backup drives) cut the life span in half. So replace those drives every year-and-a-half to two years to keep your data safe. I get a new drive and copy the data to the new drive. Then I keep the old drive as my second copy. When I get to the third generation…then I consider deleting the data, but usually just stick it in the safe.
  • Back up often. TimeMachine will backup once an hour. It keeps 24 hours of hourly backups, and then it keeps one backup a day for 30 days and then a weekly backup until the hard drive is full. When my drive is full, I replace it. Then when I’m ready to replace it again, I take the old drive and erase it for use again. (Be sure to write the original date of service on it so you can replace it appropriately.) This gives me 6 months of backup that I can go back to at any given time.
  • Manually backup once a week on another drive. These drives become my archive drives. They don’t get erased until I feel like the data will no longer be needed. In my business, that’s never. But you know how long the information you need should be kept.I also backup to an offsite server once a week, or whenever I feel like I have something I can’t afford to lose. If it will take more than two hours to recreate, I back it up offsite. For the average person, that’s an external drive that you can swap every couple of weeks somewhere offsite. Great offsite storage ideas are relatives, a safety deposit box, friends or a virtual drive.
  • About every 3 weeks, check my backups. I check a few documents, my calendars, etc. to make sure that they are working in the old format. That way if something happens, I can go back and rebuild if I have to.


Archiving Information

Archiving information is not the same as backing up information. Remember, you have to backup your archives just like you backup your current data. You just have to decide how long to keep backup of your archives.

If you are going to keep your data for a long time, you might consider investing in a fireproof safe to store your backup drives. Of course it’s a great idea to have a copy of your backup drives locally and a copy somewhere else as well, in case of disaster.

If you are using a Mac and you have 10.5 or 10.6 it’s as easy as getting an external drive and plugging it in. If you are using a windows machine, almost all external drive comes with some type of backup software and if they don’t, hit Google.

There’s always manual backup, which I suggest you do even if you have back up software on the important and mission critical data. Mission critical is something that if you don’t have, it would make staying in business hard or impossible. It’s always good to have a minimum of two copies and three is better. Why, because there is always a chance of corruption in your backup.

Virtual backup is another option. In part 2 of this post, I’ll share tips about virtual drives.

Chelanie Israel, aka Miss Mac, has worked with Apple Computer since 1986. She worked for Apple for 16 years, Adobe for 9 years and has worked with Intel, View Sonic, and Sling Media as well as many other leading technology companies as a vendor representative over the last 20 + years.


  1. This is a great post. A key point you brought up is the need for offsite backup. Backing up every 5 minutes does you no good if your whole office goes up in flames and you don’t have an offsite copy.

    We recommend that our clients use image-based backup. With image backup, restoring an entire hard drive, complete with the OS, programs, settings, and data, is a one step, headache-free process.

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