Which broken Backup would you like to restore?

I've always been someone who understood the value of a good backup, but never really went the whole crazy obsession with backing up every five minutes.

Most of the time I will backup my main files every few months to CD / DVD.  I have a great collection of vaguely titled discs sitting in a pile, while some have even made it to a disc folder I purchased especially for the job.

For several months I ran the Backup program you can use as part of being a .mac subscriber.  Great program.  Very easy to set and forget.  Except every couple of months I noticed it stopped backing up at the scheduled time for some unknown reason.  When it did work it was filling my external drive at an alarming rate.

Most recently I've been using offsite storage via my iDisk (another .mac feature).  I save files to a special part of my hard drive, it backs them up offline, and I can access these files from any Mac I care to use.  It's been great for letting me work on the same jobs and documents from different macs and in different locations.

Plus I figured it was a great default backup solution.  Should one mac die, my documents are on the other macs and the iDisk as well.  Easy to restore - it recovers them itself!

Well somewhere along the way it all went pear-shaped.  Due to some combination of the new OSX Leopard, sync problems, trying to do 5 things at once including editing a website, convert videos, run Warcraft, plus my external drive not behaving properly with USB connections.  Throw in solar flares and something went wrong - badly.

My files for this very website got corrupted somehow, and while I was trying to fix a few other things, I didn't realise it until too late.  By then the corrupted file had been backed up offsite, then copied to my other macs.  All versions were duds.  Even the manual backup refused to open.  So much for the "easy" backup solution.

At the moment I am putting the problem down to my upgrade to OSX Leopard and it's initial hissy fits with anything USB that was a bit unusual - especially on older macs.  Running the same external hard drive on Firewire only the last few weeks and there hasn't been a single problem.  My old iBook now refuses to play with my USB KVM switch, something it happily worked with for 12 month previous.  A new MacBook I have been testing works fine with it.

One thing I learnt from 15 years of Windows upgrades - Backup manually!  Don't expect the shiny new version of your operating system to want to talk to backups made only yesterday by the old and busted version.  When upgrading to OSX Leopard, not only did I use the Apple Backup program, I also copied across my Documents and other folders to a separate drive.  So eventually I was able to find a version of this sites files that were manually saved into some cryptic folder system that obviously made sense at the time.

So now I can spend the first few weeks of 2008 working on new products, rather than rebuilding the old ones.  Having wasted a lot of 2007 on such things, I'm much happier about doing new stuff in the new year than treading water again.

My new backup solution?  Well I am dumping iDisk for now - even though the problems were seldom, the recovery time was far in excess of the advantages it was giving.  I'm trailing the new Time Machine in OSX Leopard and so far it looks awesome - something that would have fixed my problem in 5 minutes if I had it running from the start.  If a file gets corrupted again, I can always go back "in time" to a point where the file was ok, and recover that one.  Assuming it doesn't blow out the hard drive space like Backup used to - and so far the signs are a good - it looks like a winner.

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