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I admit it – I can be pretty cheap sometimes.  One way I’ve been cheap for quite some time now has been in regards to backup – specifically, off-site backup. I have a few key files on iDisk and Dropbox (encrypted separately from those services), but for the most part, all my backups are in my house all the time.

Of course, that’s just plain crazy. I spend a lot of money on a new Mac, but won’t spend the extra to get a couple of disks for off-site storage? Well, I finally broke down, because one of my drives broke down. One of the drives I use to back up one of my internals died, and so I knew I’d have to buy a new one. It finally got through my thick skull that if I’m going to buy new backup drives, buy enough for off-site backup as well.

So I ordered a pair of Seagate GoFlex 3 TB drives from Amazon. This particular model is a Mac version – it comes formatted for Macs, and has a special, optional driver package so that you can turn off the activity lights if you want (just for Terry) and some supposedly high-performance drivers. The other interesting thing about the GoFlex drives is the drive interface – it’s a detachable base, and you can get different types of interfaces. This particular model comes with USB 2.0 and FW800, but you can also get a USB 3.0/2.0 version or eSATA if you want.

Since this is for backup, I figured FW800 would be fine. However, the drive keeps choking and going read-only after about 20 minutes in FW800 mode. But if I connect up via USB, it works fine. I lose nearly half the speed, but it hasn’t failed in a couple of days. It didn’t matter if I used the Seagate drivers or just connected up without them – the drive dies after 20-30 minutes, and you have to pull the power on it to even eject it (or use the Terminal and force eject).

I haven’t contacted Seagate yet, but I did see that the drivers on their site are no newer than the ones with the drive. At some point I’ll give them a holler, but right now I want to get this thing going with my backups.

I’ve decided to try something different. In the past I have bought an external drive to replicate each internal. This time, I bought 2x3TB drives, and plan to swap them weekly off-site. I still have the backup drives that haven’t failed yet that I am still using too, so I am doubly backed-up (except for one of the drives – the one that originally failed). Instead of making 5 partitions to backup up the 4 internals and 1 eSATA drive, I’ve made 2. One is a backup of the boot drive, at 1 TB, same as the internal. The other is the remaining 2 TB, and I am backing up the other 4 drives to Sparse Bundles.

For those not familiar, a Sparse Bundle is a disk image that can be set to be read/write. It is only as big as it needs to be at any given time. For example, one of my internal drives is a 500 GB drive, with 200 GB in use. When I back up, it goes to the 200 GB image. If I add 50 GB of data, the image will grow. If I remove data, the image will shrink. So I’m only using up as much as I need to at any given time. This way I can sort of cheat and even back up a couple of other drives that never get very full.

I’m using SuperDuper for backups (the latest version is Lion-compatable, so if you are looking to upgrade to the soon-to-be-released Lion, get a copy). SuperDuper can be set to start a backup when a drive is mounted or at a certain time. I have SD backing up my boot drive at 12:30 AM. At the end of the backup, SD can run a script. I have it run a script that loads the first Sparse Image I want backed up. Then SD goes away, but the watcher program it uses sees the disk mount and starts the backup. At the end of the backup, I tell it to dismount the drive and run a script to mount the next drive. The end result is that I get all the drives backed up and dismounted each night.

Now, I just started this, and it’s worked for a couple of nights. Once it’s worked for a week or two, I will add in the second drive and swap them weekly. That way, worse case, I’ll be a week behind, which while bad, beats being wiped out.

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  • http://tiny.cc/hunterdesigns Chita

    Several months ago, I was about to purchase a GoFlex for Mac, but read too many really bad reviews about them. Let us know how you fare.

  • http://yourmacexpert.com Steven Klein

    Jack, I hope you’ll post a follow-up after you contact Seagate. I want to know how they fix the problem (if they can).

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