Don’t be an April Fool—Back Up Today!

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #377

World Backup Day has passed  (March 31), but this is still a good time for my annual admonishment about backups, namely: If you don’t have a backup, your files could disappear forever in the blink of an eye.

don't be an April fool

When I wrote my first book, Dr. Macintosh (1989; Addison-Wesley), I said,

“There are only two kinds of Mac users — those who have lost data, and those who will lose data.”

I’ve been saying it for three decades, and while I think many (if not most) Mac users have gotten the message by now, some still have not.

According to World Backup Day, around 30% of computer users have never backed up. If that describes you, I’ve got bad news: You are going to lose all your stuff.

Notice that I don’t mince words by saying you might or could lose everythingI said you’re going to lose everything because without a backup you’re absolutely and positively going to lose all your files someday.

All Disks Fail (Eventually)

All hard and solid-state disks (and other storage media) fail eventually. There’s no question about that, the only question is when they will fail.

If you’ve been reading this column for a while, you know I am obsessive about redundant backups. But, in spite of relating the horrors of losing all your data at least once a year in my column, I still hear from readers and friends all the time, telling tales of woe about the data that they lost and the backup they were planning to make soon.

Don’t let that happen to you.

Take the Pledge

The World Backup Day pledge says: “I solemnly swear to back up my important documents and precious memories on March 31st. I will also tell my friends and family about World Backup Day – friends don’t let friends go without a backup.”

I encourage you to take the pledge if you don’t have a backup, but in my opinion, one backup isn’t good enough. So, in 2018 I proposed we rename April Fools Day World Redundant Backup Day: No Fooling because one backup is never enough.

If you’re a nut about backups like I am, take this opportunity to talk to your friends and family members. Help them keep their precious data safe if you can. Remind them a single power surge or lightning strike could fry their entire disk or Mac. And, remind them they could lose everything—every photo, video, document, and every other file on their Mac—in a heartbeat.

Do it While You Have The Time

I know we have bigger fish to fry these days, but this is important too. So, please remind your parents, children, friends, neighbors, and anyone else you care about that World Backup Day and World Redundant Backup Day: No Fooling have come and gone. Then, be a hero by offering to help them create a reliable redundant backup system.

I created yet another short public service video (under 2 minutes) on the importance of redundant backups, which you can watch (or share).

Finally, please tune in again next week for the thrilling conclusion, with tips, hints, and techniques for creating reliable backup systems.

10 thoughts on “Don’t be an April Fool—Back Up Today!

  • Bob:

    Humorous but apposite title, and a message that never goes out of season.

    While I have triple redundancy in my own backup regimen, including a total virtual backup on CrashPlan (business), I hadn’t really looked into my wife’s regimen in some time. For the longest, she was using her workplace Dell laptop as required by the university, and deliberately avoided using her MBA. Now that she is no longer working there, but working from home, I had to update her Mac’s software etc and realised, she needs a serious backup overhaul. I’m always alerting my household to software updates to keep our devices and network safe, but had overlooked this element of security.

    As a result, and while I’m still home, I’m also going through those of my kids (despite they’re being technically adults, they still look to me for their tech maintenance).

    In any case, it’s important to review other household members’ backup strategies as well.

    1. Just the other day I asked my wife to let me know when her last Time Machine backup was…. Because last year her backup disk died and she didn’t even notice for over a month… Her desktop is a mess, so I guess she never realized the disk icon was missing. And I never use her laptop so I never noticed either.

      This time said told me she checks it regularly, and her last backup was 40 minutes ago.


      My adult kids live in different states so I can only hope I’ve instilled the fear of data loss in them and that they’re backing up regularly. One of them doesn’t even have or use a computer, and now does everything on her iPhone or iPad.

    2. Years ago Crashplan had a great plan that allowed multiple family members to join and back up the whole family’s computers. They pretty much abandoned personal users though and appear now to just offer business plans.

      I’ve been very impressed with Backblaze. Not affiliated in any way, for the record. But I look at the cost as cheap insurance, not to mention the timesaving of the simplicity of cloud backup. Good article here on Backup vs. Sync:

      Look Before You Sync: Cloud Backup Vs. Cloud Sync

      Bob mentions the move to tablet-only users now…that’s a tricky one. I guess a user would have to pay for the higher tiers of iCloud to get complete cloud backups on an iPad or iPhone. I use iMazing to back up my iPhone/iPad to my Mac, backups which are then covered by my overall backup strategy. No idea about Android devices.

      1. Bartholomew:

        Those are all excellent points. BackBlaze is a great platform, and one of those that TMO have recommended as an option, if memory serves. Crash plan came recommended to me from multiple sources years ago, including Dave Hamilton here on TMO, and switching to the business plan was for me a no brainer. Given that my work takes me all over the planet, I really need a reliable but secure cloud back up service. The business plan allows me to back my wife’s computer as well, so I’m thrilled.

        As for iPadOS and iOS backups, so far iCloud has done well for me. I used to back up to my Mac, but as the devices, particularly the iPad have had storage capacity on par with the Mac, I long ago ceased that route, and although I have had to back up and restore from the cloud on multiple occasions, have never encountered a problem. And with my work product in several cloud options, have always been able to access work material from any device wherever I am, so conclude that with these options, it is safe to move about the planet. Pandemics pending.

      2. hi wab95,

        Sorry wasn’t trying to hate on Crashplan, just musing that a previous offering was ideal for a family. I’ll have to look closer at their offerings to see if they might fit better for a couple, than separate plans with Backblaze or similar. I’m an airline pilot (international routes only, currently grounded) so I too travel…a bit! So I have also had a good chance to test cloud solutions. As you say, for the most part they work wonderfully. Except occasionally when they don’t. 😉

        If you are backing up tablet/phone solely to iCloud, I assume you’re paying for extra storage? The 5gb free won’t really provide much of a solution for devices that now routinely have 128, 256gb capacities. Unless one micro-manages what is backed-up, which kind of defeats much of the safety net.

        A main issue is that any decent strategy involves some cost, which many people are unwilling to pay – the internet is “free”! (eye roll) And while it may be a generalization, many of the demographic who use a tablet or phone as their sole device won’t pay for the amount of storage required in iCloud to do a complete backup.

        And sadly, all of this is simply preaching to the converted anyway…

      3. Preach on, brother. Even the converted need revival from time to time. As for the cloud storage, yes, I purchase extra storage on iCloud. The first time the robustness of the iCloud backup for iOS became apparent to me was a visit to the Apple store, as I walked out with a reset device, had everything restored by the time I reached my car (okay, got a coffee on the way, but you get the point). I now keep what I do on the iPad in the cloud (eg Pages) and make an iPad – dedicated backup from my Mac to a Sandisk Extreme SSD for all my active work files (which I keep on active folder in Documents on the Mac) that I can load onto the iPad in case I do not have cloud access for any reason. I highly recommend, if you’re using your iPad for work, purchasing the extra storage, and spare yourself the headache of micromanaging your cloud backups. I anticipate iPadOS dedicated clouds services, just as we see with the Mac, as we see the iPad gaining traction as a more common work tool. Safe travels.

  • A robust backup strategy is more complex than people think. Here’s mine.

    “Last Resort” backup: I keep an encrypted disk image with the current copies of my absolute most critical files: my Banktivity data file (finances), Password Wallet (passwords), various spreadsheets with inventory of possessions, LogTen Pro data file (my entire aviation career record), scans of legal documents and similar. I group these files in a single (regular) folder for ease of copying into the disk image. Once a month I upload this file to my web server. These are the files that even if every single other thing was lost, I could carry on, on any other Mac.

    “Most likely needed” backup and until recently, “Offsite” backup: Main line of defence is against the main cause of data loss: hardware failure. I use two external portable drives with Time Machine and do backups roughy weekly on them. 2 for hardware redundancy, and may add another for the low price of external conventional hard drives. Unfortunately due the lockdowns have had to stop alternating cycling them offsite. So for now I’m forced to store them at two different hidden locations within my home to reduce the possibility of having them both stolen in a break-in, but this of course does not provide redundancy in the event of my home being destroyed by fire or flood.

    “Get Working Quickly Again” backup: I have another external hard drive reserved for making a cloned backup once a month, so that if the computer hardware dies completely I can at least boot off a recent image and then restore more recent files as necessary from a backup source.

    “Most Recent Files” backup: To kind of “fill in the gaps” between external drive backups is my Backblaze cloud backup, which is continually backing up everything on the computer. This also helps to fulfill offsite protection somewhat, although I look forward to putting that aspect back in my own hands completely again when (not if!) the world returns to normal.

    Data security: The clone drive and two Time Machine drives, like the MB Pro drive itself, are all encrypted using FileVault, and Backblaze also uses strong encryption for data transport and storage.

    Can anything really completely safeguard ones data from loss or theft? No. But the idea is to manage the risk and avoid an unnecessary catastrophic loss. Parallels to the current pandemic…

    1. I wish everyone “got it” but many don’t. And when things go blooey, there’s nothing I can do for them if they don’t have a backup that actually works.

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