Backup plans on the road

I’m so very grateful to work in an industry that allows me to work whilst on the road. That is as long as I have the essentials such as power and wifi.. but what if your hard drive decides to give up?

Well that’s just happened to me. The symptoms were random periods of beach ball spinning and a frozen machine for no obvious reason. A check in the Console log and I found Disk I/O Errors – oh dear. I ran Disk Utility and it found errors that needed Recovery Mode to repair. Long story short the repair process failed and now I can’t boot my Mac up in anything but recovery mode.

Oddly I wasn’t too phased by this considering I’m 3,000 miles from my external backup drive and all the kit needed to restore my Mac. Also the timing was OK as I was preparing to move on so had been putting projects off therefore my work schedule is clear.

Backup Plans

Before I left the UK I’d been using ARQ to do daily backups of all my client and essential data to Amazon AWS Glacier & S3 for quite some time – as well as doing monthly full-machine backups using Carbon Copy Cloner to an external drive. However I made the decision not to bring the external drive with me as it was bulky and heavy (plus I wanted to keep my kit list short).

But there’s more to this than restoring my Mac with all the apps and project data – I’d lost access to all my site logins and emails. I have every confidence that I will get my machine back up and running but what about keeping in touch and being able to access anything in the intermediate period?

Road to Recovery

Having a backup plan is more than just having the data backed up in multiple places – it’s also about having the right tools to get back up and running quickly.

People who know me are aware how much of an app geek I am – well it’s paid off in this situation.

I use Dropbox which gives you 5Gb of free ‘cloud’ storage. Any files you have in your dropbox folder are immediately synced online effectively giving your files immediate backup. Many apps are able to sync their data in your Dropbox folders. One such app I’ve been using for a long time to store all my private data and logins is 1Password – I highly recommend this app. So I was confident that I could access my passwords and logins easily.

At this point of writing I realise it’s not just about having the setup all in place for such events because if you’ve only got one computer which is dead, you’re not going to get far at all in the recovery process. Luckily for me my girlfriend also has a MacBook which she kindly let me setup another user. This meant I could login to Dropbox and recover my 1Password data putting me back in touch with email and giving me access to all my sites.

After some reading around and internet shopping my replacement hard drive is being sent via Amazon UK at very reasonable despatch costs i.e. £7!

Lessons Learnt

I’ve put together a kit list that I’ll be making sure I have with me from now on which I thought I’d also share.

  • External backup drive with all the software needed on it
  • Firewire cable for Mac to Mac target disc mode
  • 2 Macs! or at least iPad / iPhone for 1Password & Dropbox access
  • Use ARQ to backup data online daily
  • Tools – screwdrivers and torx
  • 8Gb pen drive to reinstall OSX

For me, my setup has meant that I’ve not felt the horrible sinking feeling in your gut which I’ve had many times before and I guess has led me to setup my computer in this way.

On a footnote I will also mention how handy iCloud is for syncing contacts and bookmarks as well as other data.

2 Responses to “Backup plans on the road”

  1. Wendy

    Wise words of wisdoms and nice writings, but yes, you are indeed a geek… x (thank goodness!) The last time my laptop died you came to my rescue and then look what happened! So, glad my laptop died! X

  2. NCAT Solutions Ltd.

    Your backup plan is a good start for self employed single user scenarios and can also be applied to multi user small businesses. As well as dropbox Google drive is also a good option with 15gb storage per email account. The beauty of google is that if you do not have a spare computer you can borrow one or use an internet cafe or mobile device to work on the documents within the browser meaning that you do not need to worry about the loan computer having the right software installed. Also using cloud base software for accounting also mitigates the risk of losing financial data



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