Methodology to protect your data. Backups vs. Archives. Long-term data protection

Last modified: Mar 8, 2021 6:53 PM
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The Tragedy that will be, the tragedy that never should be

Always presume correctly that your data is priceless and takes a very long time to create and often is irreplaceable. Always presume accurately that hard drives are extremely cheap, and you have no excuse not to have multiple redundant copies of your data copied on hard drives and stored away several places, lockboxes, safes, fireboxes, offsite and otherwise.

RULE #1 When (not if) your internal HD / SSD or external HD crashes or fails, and this creates a bad problem, or any problem for yourself regarding worry about your data, ... then you have a problem that must be fixed in your data protection plans.

Hard drives aren't prone to failure…hard drives are guaranteed to fail (the very same is true of SSD). Hard drives dont die when aged, hard drives die at any age, and peak in death when young and slowly increase in risk as they age.

Never practice at any time for any reason the false premise and unreal sense of security in thinking your data is safe on any single external hard drive. This is never the case and has proven to be the single most common horrible tragedy of data loss that exists.

Many hundreds of millions of hours of work and data are lost each year due to this single common false security. This is an unnatural disaster that can be avoided by making all data redundant and then redundant again. If you let a $60 additional redundant hard drive and 3 hours of copying stand between you and years of work, then you've made a fundamental mistake countless thousands of people each year have come to regret.

Countless people think they're safe and doing well having a single external backup of their vital data they worked months, years, and sometimes decades on. Nothing could be further from the truth. Never let yourself be in situation of having a single external copy of your precious data at any time.

External data redundancies for your internal HD or SSD is a professional foregone necessity never to be questioned

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Data redundancy is one of the extremely few aspects of life where it can be accurately said that paranoia is both prudent and strongly advocated by professionals

Never do it !

1. Never connect your external HD thru an external USB hub!

2. Never simply yank your USB / Thunderbolt etc. HD connection cable out before unmounting your HD from your Mac, doing so can cause serious corruption!

3. Do not use included HD "software" that came on your new external HD. All such free software is useless, and often causes issues. Unless you have a RAID array that necessitates using software for the external system, always format your new HD from the box and erase its contents.

4. Do not perform data transfers to or from your external HD while its being moved, bumped, twisted, in a car / train ride etc.

5. Never drop your external HD. Consider it to be handled like an egg.

6. Never fill your external HD completely full, problems are known to manifest when you leave only a few gigabytes free on your external HD. Try, out of practice, to leave roughly 10-15GB free minimum, regardless of the HD size, on your external hard drives.

Frequent data offloads to multiples devices, platforms, and locations ensures near-100% data protection

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Archive vs. Backup Philosophy

Few people make any distinction between a backup and an archive, but this lack of differentiation has led many countless 1000s of people down a road that led to a cliff of losing vital data that they have spent months and sometimes years working on. Far more consideration should be entertained regarding your data preservation than you ever gave to the computer you purchased, however almost nobody does this.

We give general connotation to all copied data, important or not as a “backup”, or as often heard “always backup (singular) your data” and most of us think no further: “is this right? Why is it important to know such a vitally important distinction exists?”.

We backup our data which is like our bank accounts, a coming and going influx and ever-changing, subject to possible theft, or otherwise. But what about your valuables that must be ‘secured at all costs’, in a safe deposit box where it cannot be accessed by anyone but you, doesn't change, and is for all intents and purposes safe and permanent.

Likewise if Time Machine is a backup, which it is, where then does the common practice of archiving your vital data onto Time Machine come into play? It is the position of the professional, and should also be of the common user who also has much time and effort into his data creation, that it is imperative to separate out first in ones mind, and lastly separate out in hardware, your system backup (OS) and your data hub archive.

The confusion partly comes from the fact that both backups (system hub) and archives (data hub) are “on storage media”, but it ends there when people conclude this therefore means its ‘ok to store system backups and data in the same place’, or in the worst case, only in one place.

It is correct to create and say “I have a backup of my system (OS and APPS)”… but it is incorrect for the purpose of your data’s protection to both create and say, “I have my files (valuable data hub) copied on my backup” (therefore its safe)!

This, superficially seeming nuance, is like a giant Redwood tree seen from afar as a mere speck, but closely seen and examined, as the professional has, is a giant monolithic entity of great importance not to be lightly considered much less ignored.

The single worst mistake is thinking any backup (or archive for that matter) counts as “a second copy since the first is on the computer SSD/HD itself”. That position should never be taken. Any data on any computer never counts in the 2-copy scheme of preservation and archiving.

One should on a daily (or hourly) basis “backup their system (OS and settings) with Time Machine”, and separately in a timely manner as needed “make an archive of their (vital files, pics, documents, etc.) data” on separate storage devices or drives. But regardless of how you say it, all that is important is that the distinction is made in where data is directed to and distinguished.

In the case of a Macbook Air or Macbook Pro Retina with ‘limited’ storage on the SSD, this distinction becomes more important in that in an ever rapidly increasing file-size world, you keep vital large media files, pics, video, PDF collections, music off your SSD and archived on external storage, for sake of the necessary room for your system to have free space to operate, store future applications and general workspace. You should never be put in the position of considering “deleting things” on your macbook SSD in order to ‘make space’.

Professionals who create and import very large amounts of data have almost no change in the available space on their computers internal HD because they are constantly archiving data to arrays of external or networked HD.

Or in the case of the consumer this means you keep folders for large imported or created data and you ritually offload and archive this data for safekeeping, not only to safeguard the data in case your macbook has a HD crash, or gets stolen, but importantly in keeping the ‘breathing room’ open for your computer to operate, expand, create files, add applications, for your APPS to create temp files, and for general operation.

Hard drive / SSD compartmentalization methodological approach for data protection, and fast recovery from HD / SSD failure.

This hard drive compartmentalization is purely method-based, not physical partitions.

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The first realization is that your data on your computer is highly vulnerable

The second realization is that you need a HD backup of your OS and data

The third realization is that you need at the very least a secondary HD backup

The fourth and final realization is understanding the fragility of any and all HD & ferromagnetic storage, and that vital data needs to be “frozen” on unassailable redundancies across multiple storage platforms including multiple HD, online backup, archival DVD burns comprising at the very minimum triple platform redundancy of data you have been working on for years or decades that cannot be replaced.

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Simplex Premise of Backups vs. Archives

The B.A.R. “rule” (backup-archive-redundancy)

Backup: Active data emergency restore. Backups are moved from backups to archives; or from backups to the computer for restore or data retrieval.

Archive: Active and static data protection with the highest level of redundancy. Archives are only moved from itself to itself (archived copies). Generally a “long-term retention” nexus.

Redundancy: A fail-safe off-site or protected and “frozen” copy of your vital data and foolproof protection against magnetic degradation and HD mechanical failure. A likewise failsafe from theft, house fire, etc.

Redundancy has two points of premise:

A: redundancy (copies) of data archives.

B: redundancy of data on different platforms (optical, online, magneto-optical, HD).

Send your backups to your archives (as often as possible), and your archives to self-same redundancies.

*When referring to backups and archives here, this is in reference to your data saved/ created/ working on,... not your OS, your applications, and your system information / settings,...which is the idealized premise for use of Time Machine as a system-backup after internal data corruption or HD-failure.

Here we are referring to data backups and archives, not system-backups for restoring your OS-system.

If your data on your hard drive is the cash in your wallet, a backup is your bank account/debit card, and an archive is a locked safety deposit box.

Its easy to get your wallet emptied (corrupted) or stolen, your backup checking account is somewhat easy to get corrupted/drained or damaged, but your bunker security is in the lockbox inside the vault, where your vital data and archives reside. In the premise of preventing data loss, you want as often and as much as possible one-way transfers from your “wallet” to your safety deposit box archives; and further still a minimum of two copies of those archives.

Highest priority (archives) requires highest redundancy. In the premise of often copying data from backups to archives, backup redundancy plays a minor role.

Long-term active file backups (a book, a major time-involved video creation etc.) requires double-active redundancies, preferably a minimum of Time Machine and an autonomous external formatted HD, so there are at least three copies of this data: internal drive, Time Machine, and secondary non-TM HD backup.

RULE #2 Everything begins and ends with redundancy of your data.

Data redundancy begins at...

1. All data on the computer is just that, your data.

2. All data on the first external HD is your backup.

3. Only the second external HD is your first safe data redundancy.

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Protected data redundancy begins at the second external copy due to:

1. It not being connected. Any drive connected, backup or otherwise, is not to be considered a safe data redundancy.

2. Being the backup failsafe to the first external HD, not to the data on the computer which never should be counted in terms of data protection as "a copy".

3. External drives will invariably fail, and since most people falsely believe their external HD is their "safety", this error of perspective must be countered by yet another external copy of ones data.

Ones vital data must always be considered wholly independent and irrelevant of any data on the computer itself. Failure to look at one data in this matter is a failure which often can and does culminate in data loss.

Instantaneous dual backups

An ideal desktop method to protect your data until safeguarded unconnected redundancies can be made is to always have a minimum of two autonomous drives or systems connected to which all data saved, created, or working on is instantly backed up to both drives from your computer.

1. Dual data backups to A: Time Machine backup B: secondary drive containing only data saved, created, or working on excluding any system APPS & data.

2. Second option being: Dual data backups sent to two always-connected external drives for instant external redundancy.

The safest methodological approach to data protection is rapid copying of data from the computer and then vigilant redundancies made of that data.

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When even a second external HD copy of your data is "still just not good enough"

As I have personally witnessed on more than one occasion, someone has two exact copies on two external HD of their priceless data. The drives are both maybe a couple or few years old. No worries, there are two independent copies; still not good enough.

One of the two drives fails or crashes, so the person goes to copy/clone the first drive, and without realizing it, the last remaining 'good' HD copy hasn't necessarily failed but is seriously corrupt and just as good as dead/useless. In which case, two independent copies of ones data is still just "not good enough". All hope is lost, even with 2 external copies!

The advantages of data redundancy cannot be stressed enough

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Park it!

75% of the data that's stored on someone’s computer from countless studies has not been accessed for more than one year. Keeping this ‘dusty’ data on your computers HD/ SSD is bad due to:

1. Internal SSD/HD bloat.

2. Encourages the dangerous and lazy practice of pivoting important data on the most untrustworthy and likely to fail point, your internal drive.

3. Such data needs to be parked immediately into passive archives.

Backups (your system files and OS)

Your backup philosophy should be considered to be either a Time Machine backup of your system hub (OS) or preferably a HD clone of your entire internal drive onto an external bare drive or USB HD in an enclosure. Time machine however is not an idealized archive storage option, nor permanent in the sense in that the data stored to TM is a ‘revolving door’ that expands and changes as it reflects changes on your computers HD. Time machine is an entry-level backup option that is very simple to use and operate, but it is not a serious storage option professionals with priceless data rely on other than as an emergency backup of their system hub (OS and related APPS installed).

This is very important when you have, for example, 2 generations of a corrupt file, a very common occurrence. In the case of a computer and TM backup, there is finality in that you have only 2 generations of a file, sometimes only one if the TM backup is recent. A HD clone or active archive in this common situation is a life saver in going back to a third or fourth earlier generation of a file before accidents or corruption occurred.

In the case of ever changing files on your system, bookmarks, and working files, your Time Machine is perfect at backing up this revolving data; however at the very same time all important data, files, pictures, documents, and data you do not ever dare lose, should be additionally redirected to an external drive or optical media for archiving; either as active or static storage.

Archives (storage, priceless data)

Archived storage is a designation given to any and all storage options which contain the most permanent, trustworthy and long-lived data preservation options for priceless data, documents, pictures, audio, music etc., and anything saved or created in which replacing said data is either impossible (pictures of family, dead loved ones etc.) or comes at very high risk of time and money to replace.

Large external hard drives are great! Large external hard drives are horrible

It is a common premise that people are overjoyed at the dropping prices per terabyte on external hard drives, and the first thing that enters most peoples minds is "great, I can put all my stuff on one drive,... all of it!" However considerations need to be made in creating a giant single choke point for not mere data loss, but seriously large data loss. If there is at the very least yet another redundant copy, this is fine, otherwise do not consider it whatsoever. Some 3TB and 4TB drives of all mfg. have, at the time of this writing, reliability concerns currently and best recommendation is staying at 2TB drives or less.

Advantages and disadvantages of larger 3TB and 4TB external drives must be weighed

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Streamlining thought about data protection, or C.A.R.D. (compartmentalized autonomous redundancy of data)

I coined this acronym about a decade ago for people to remember. Four words: "compartmentalized autonomous redundancy of data" or C.A.R.D. What this means regarding your data is “centralize it, isolate it, and multiply it”. This easy acronym to remember about how to approach your data is a great first approach to keep in mind.

Compartmentalized: separating out your data from your system files, centralizing all static and active files into a location or two to make backups, and archived data easier to update and locate. Centralizing your data collection is the primary hazard to overcome for what usually is the case of data that is scattered everywhere throughout your internal hard drive.

Autonomous: Isolation of data from changes, theft, decentralizing data to safes, fire boxes, offsite and online locations. Importantly ‘freezing’ data onto independent storage media for protection and from alterations, such as DVDs, hard drives, and online encrypted files, or .DMG created files of static data collections.

Redundancy: making copies of all autonomous isolated data such that data is decentralized not only in place and in media storage type (DVD, HD, online) for safety and protection as a failsafe, but each aspect of that failsafe has at the very least two redundant copies.

Data: all files made, saved, created, modified or working on. Important pictures, documents, videos, PDF, financial, personal. Any data large or small which you would not dare lose, which is private, important, hard or impossible to recreate, or most importantly, would take tremendous time to regenerate. Essentially anything important to you, your company, your loved ones (will, medical records, financial information, etc.), friends or otherwise.

When hardware isn’t ‘hardware’ ?

When is hardware not to be considered hardware? When that hardware and your data (either system [OS] hub or data hub) are one and the same, namely as meant your SSD or HD. The data archiving philosophy presents itself that one should consider the computer hardware one thing, and your HD/ SSD another; and further still dividing the HD/SSD into 2 ‘hubs’ to optimize your recovery, protection of your data, and quickly return to work in no time in case of disaster, crash, theft, accident etc.

This 2-part secondary division of the HD/SSD is between that of your system hub OS, and your data hub which both occupy your HD/SSD. Your OS as occupying your HD/SSD in whole, whereas your data either in whole or in part on the HD/SSD. Some users may have very little valuable archive data and all of it may fit on the internal HD with ease.

Compartmentalization and redundancy are two keywords all professionals keep in mind when it comes to vital data archiving and protection, and it would behoove the casual and serious user alike to reflect that position in his or her personal valuable data.

An internal HD is a hard drive, but only an external HD is storage

Some would superficially consider this a ‘distinction without a difference’, but in fact the difference is huge. As stated one should “never consider any computer a storage device”. Concerns especially with notebooks regarding drops, thefts, accidents, and spills make this distinction vitally important and that one considers any internal HD/SSD as fragile as a glass egg in a stampede, not only for sake of the drive but your important data on same. Remember too, all the insurance money can buy for your computer is useless when it comes to your data if it is lost, stolen, or destroyed.

In this instance ‘active storage’ takes on a double meaning in which we are referring to portable drives that are subject to environmentals, thefts and other outdoor hazards, and therefore in connotation a notebook HD/SSD cannot be in any manner considered ‘storage’.

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Hard Drive Warning (all makes and models)

Ironically but logical, new hard drives are far more fragile than one that has been working for several months or a couple years. So beware in your thinking that a new hard drive translates into “extremely reliable”!

⚠ Hard drives suffer from high rates of what has been termed "infant mortality". Essentially this means new drives have their highest likelihood of failing in the first few months of usage. This is because of very minor manufacturing defects or HD platter balancing, or head and armature geometry being less than perfect; and this is not immediately obvious and can quickly manifest itself once the drive is put to work.

Hard drives that survive the first few months of use without failing are likely to remain healthy for a number of years.

➕ Generally HD are highly prone to death or corruption for a few months, then work fine for a few years, then spike in mortality starting at 3-4 years and certainly should be considered end-of-life at 5-7+ years even if still working well. Drives written to once and stored away have the highest risk of data corruption due to not being read/written to on a regular basis. Rotate older working HD into low-risk use.

The implication of this is that you should not trust a new hard drive completely (really never completely!) until it has been working perfectly for several months.

Given the second law of thermodynamics, any and all current mfg. HD will, under perfect storage conditions tend themselves to depolarization and a point will be reached, even if the HD mechanism is perfect, that the ferromagnetic read/write surface of the platter inside the HD will entropy to the point of no viable return for data extraction. HD life varies, but barring mechanical failure, 3-8 years typically.

Hard drive failure and handling

The air cushion of air between the platter surface and the head is microscopic, as small as 3 nanometers, meaning bumps, jarring while in operation can cause head crash, scraping off magnetic particles causing internal havoc to the write surface and throwing particles thru the hard drive.

⚠ Hard drives are fragile in general, regardless, ... in specific while running hard drives are extremely fragile.

PDF: Bare hard drive handling generic instructions

hard drive moving parts

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Some of the common reasons for hard drives to fail:

Infant mortality (due to mfg. defect / build tolerances)

Bad parking (head impact)

Sudden impact (hard drive jarred during operation, heads can bounce)

Electrical surge (fries the controller board, possibly also causing heads to write the wrong data)

Bearing / Motor failure (spindle bearings or motors wear during any and all use, eventually leading to HD failure)

Board failure (controller board failure on bottom of HD)

Bad Sectors (magnetic areas of the platter may become faulty)

General hard drive failure

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Immediate backup (OS), and active archive vs. static archive

Immediate backup (your Mac OS) as idealized by Time Machine

Your immediate backup comprises your operating system, its preferences, bookmarks, personalizations, changes or additions in applications, and general personalized structure of your desktop, Itunes, and other daily changing files, software updates to the OS and other applications. Time Machine is an ever-morphing copy of your internal HD contents. What is ideally needed additionally is a ‘frozen’ clone of your internal HD, and a dual archive at the very least of your data hub.

This is what Time Machine is built for, as changes and updates are stored (can be set for) hourly or as you deem fit. However in case of a crash, Time Machine cannot be booted from, and great forethought says that having a clone of your internal HD is the quickest manner to recover from a crash or be back up and running in a matter of seconds or minutes.

Active archives as idealized by autonomous quick access HD storage

Working documents, files, development work, texts, and anything that is both vitally important that you have much time and effort invested into and which is also ever changing as pertains it being updated, expanded, worked on or otherwise. These types of files would be stored on your HD archive data hub, which is kept out, and close by for constant updating to this autonomous archive for these active files.

It has been studied that the internal HD of consumers typically contain 80% static data which should be offloaded onto external archives, not only for sake of storage preservation of your data, but for clearing space on the fluid hard drive of your computer system.

Many consumers hold the false conviction that their computer and their data is one entity, mostly due to the fact that both are hardware based, or hardware-centric, and this is something professionals both do not enjoin and cringe at the thought of. Great consideration should be given to this fact by anyone who would retrospectively grieve over the loss of data that took a long time and effort to collect or create! Further still data which could never be replaced at any cost.

Compartmentalizing both in mind and lastly in actuality, your computer as one entity and your data as wholly another entity is likely the most important consideration computer users in general should make and bring to bear in safeguarding what is most important. As in the case of a disaster where people take shelter it is said, “things can be replaced but people cannot be”; while data is certainly not people, it is very similar that any computer can be replaced in case of a crash or theft, or disaster, but your data often times cannot be.

Static archives as idealized by archival DVD or HD storage

Static archives come under the definition of anything that cannot or does not need to be changed or updated, is important to save and keep safe at all costs. Such examples being pictures, music, video, and other general data you know needs no modification or updating. Static archives should be idealized as very long-term and best directed to archival quality DVD blanks if at all possible; preferably those rated for 60+ years guaranteed storage life, since optimally best stored hard drives will begin failing past the point of recovery under ideal conditions at 3-8 years. If however the collection of static data is too large, then an array of conventional hard drives.

Given the second law of thermodynamics, any and all current mfg. HD will, under perfect storage conditions tend themselves to depolarization and a point will be reached, even if the HD mechanism is perfect, that the ferromagnetic read/write surface of the platter inside the HD will entropy to the point of no return for data extraction.

HD life varies, but barring mechanical failure, 3-8 years typically. Unlike the case of a fire extinguisher and smoke alarm to protect yourself from a potential fire that “could” happen but probably wont happen; a HD failure is a ‘fire’ that is 100% guaranteed to happen within 3-8 years. This makes multiple archives an unmitigated necessity. To think multiple archives are ‘paranoia’ as some have approached this view would only be true in the analogy of a house fire. But imagine if you were told “you have 100% chance of a disastrous house fire in 3-8 years”. Prudence therefore must be very high.

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Computer Hub System – System (OS) Hub – Data Hub

Computer Hub System

Logic board, CPU, GPU, battery, ports, monitor, RAM, optical drive, cables. Any and all hardware related to the operation, integrity and display of your data as meant either processing or transferring of OS and data files, other than the HD/SSD and its contents.

System (OS) Hub

Your HD/SSD contents, meaning your computers OS, its applications, bookmarks, desktop personalization, history and systems preference settings etc. Though stored on physical hardware, either HD or SSD, your system hub should be considered autonomous to the computer and its processing hardware whose sole task is moving around your system data OS and your personal stored data files. A system hub is always active.

Data Hub

Your HD/SSD (or externally stored) data. If you saved it, made it, collected it, worked on it, regardless of what ‘it’ is, that should be part of your data hub archive. Important files, passwords, financial information, in essence anything you don’t dare lose and/or you have invested any or a great deal of time in getting, creating, or working on.

Though stored on physical hardware, either HD or SSD, your data hub should be considered autonomous to the computers hardware, and additionally autonomous to the system hub backup (on TM or HD clone). A data hub (if large) is mostly passive, and partially active.

Your data hub needs to be compartmentalized and separate from your system hub (OS) for primarily two reasons.

A: You need at the very least 2 copies (preferably a 3rd offsite & online) of your vital data you’ve spent years collecting and working on.

B: A HD clone of your internal drive is not large enough in most instances, nor is it reasonable to try, to keep both your entire OS and its applications in addition to your large and growing data collection on any single clone to use in case of a crash of your internal drive.

In compartmentalizing as separate, your computer hub, your system (OS) hub, and your data hub, you can fully recovery from a total failure of either your HD, or your computer and HD faster than anyone, faster than you dare hope for; removing stress, data loss, confusion, and needless waste of time and effort almost completely!

Compartmentalize your internal HD data contents for simplicity

Keeping all created data on your mac in just a few places

A very easy methodology used by many is to keep one or two files on the desktop where all their active data, files, and personal pics, documents, and created work is stored rather than it being haphazardly scattered about various folders and subfolders throughout the internal HD. When it comes to quick archiving of your ever-changing data creation and files, dragging one or two folders to an awaiting HD archive or DVD burn is extremely simplex and hunting down valuable data in countless locations on the internal HD is eliminated.

As stated before, professionals and prosumers cannot use Time Machine as a single source backup even if they have autonomous archives, since data is quickly expanded in size well past the internal drive, which likewise, even if the TM backup drive is twice, or three times the size as the internal HD, is also very quickly outpaced to backup the contents of same. The idea of, even if multiple archived copies are made, or the conception of “an entire backup (of everything)” is both unrealistic and ill advised.

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Keeping virtually all of ones data off the internal HD unless immanently necessary simplifies the HD clone premise, and makes data vs. system OS compartmentalization very simplex. Additionally to the clone, this cuts down immensely on an ever-bloating Time Machine backup which should, as ones data is concerned, be centered around active data, and eliminating most if not all static data from being copied or ever directed to Time Machine. Time Machine’s 90% premise is the backup of your system, its updates, new and deleted APPS, and immanent data creation which is either active or very active.

Those countless many who are using or inclined to view Time Machine as a central (or at the very worse ‘only’) data ‘backup’ are not only putting valuable work in a choke point of failure, but are also creating a ‘growing giant’ where Time Machine can very easily outgrow its HD capacity with the bloat of big data files the likes of which include pics, video, music, PDF and likewise.

Time Machine is best utilized as protection for the ‘traveler’, as meant the system OS and immanent data; the ‘luggage’ or static data archives, large files of little access are best ‘carried’ elsewhere on other HD archives/ storage and/or DVD media.

“My computer is OK, therefore so too is my data” or, faulty perspective

Literally thousands of times, regardless of make or model of computer I have heard “my data I have spent months on is all gone”; or likewise “my computer with priceless data was stolen/in a fire and the backup (singular) was with it and is gone too”. When we fail to plan, we are planning for certain failure in neglecting data redundancy. At the very minimum of $10,000 a month, anyone who has lost ‘months’ worth of data has trusted a very valuable payload, sometimes $100,000+ of work at the end of a very weak chain.

How so very weak? All HD/SSD, even the very highest of quality, are at best considered ephemeral by professionals and a single backup is merely a rope in the case of a ‘fall’, as in the case of drive failure. In addition to a rope your data needs a net and additionally a cushion underneath it all for safety to be considered in place.

None of us would consider working hard for months and then taking the money from that work and placing it on the curb in a paper bag; yet most people never second guess leaving that level of work on our computer drive or a single backup. Separation in place and unassailable redundancies is mandatory. It takes a matter of mere minutes to safeguard priceless data, therefore proper consideration and action needs to be taken.

Double down on your archived data to be copied, and don’t ‘copy your copy’ if possible

We all know about the pitfalls of a copy of a copy and how an error can easily transfer or magnify when copying a copy. When archiving data, preferably use two autonomous targets, as meant hard drives for your important archives so there is a ‘fresh’ redundant dual copy, rather than a copy of a copy.

This is especially important when keeping out of date DVD archives of your data which are ‘frozen’ in time and if an error appears in your magnetic storage, you can retrieve an uncorrupted copy from an older obsolete copy that was burned onto a DVD before an error or corruption occurred on your important file(s).

There is need of only one system hub backup (on TM). There is also only need of one cloned HD backup for returning to immediate operation easily after a HD crash. However there is imperative need for multiple data hub archives, which do not involve a clone of the HD.

Why? Both active and static data hub archives should be autonomous to infrequently updated HD clones. Additionally mixing in system hub files with vital data hub files adds to both confusion and runs contrary to best-case philosophy of data compartmentalization. Further still professionals have huge file archives that could never fit on 10+ hard drives much less one, and the concept of a HD clone encompassing both the system hub and the data hub is both not possible and ill conceived.

If you follow the simple rules below, which are very easy to implement, 100% of the reasons in the chart below can be eliminated.

Data loss in general (not Mac OS specific)

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Idealized minimum backup and archive

The best minimum idealized storage of your entire system hub and data hub are 4 autonomous copies.

First that of your system and APPS (and any resident data) as kept on an ever-updating Time Machine backup (preferably also a clone of the entire drive, for faster return in case of HD crash).

Secondly a HD archive of your data hub (vital files).

Third (unless too large in size for same) a copy archive of your data hub as stored onto archival DVD media, or if this data is too large, on a third (or additional hard drives) drive stored safely away in a firebox, safe, or safe deposit box.

Fourth and final is a secure online archive on a private website. Cloud based storage should not be considered for this due to security concerns, and the transient ephemeral nature of cloud storage which can only be quasi-possessed.

*On a very important note, always let disk utility handle a RAID array if you need one, and secondly never install any bundled software that came on your HD, or is recommended as a download from any hard drive manufacturer.

This is always a bad idea to consider installing such hard drive software designed to “improve, help etc.” your use of your new hard drive. All simple USB non-RAID hard drives need to be considered new from box as “format it immediately and ignore anything that might be on the HD from the mfg.”.

RULE #3 Decentralize your data off your computer ASAP to external, online etc. backups and archives.

Bare hard drives and docks. The most reliable and cheapest method of hard drive data storage, archives, and redundancies

The best method for your data archives and redundancies, which is also the least expensive, the most reliable, and the most compact option is the purchase of naked hard drives and at least one USB 3.0 HD dock ($40 roughly).

While regarding Time Machine and your Macbook or desktop, your primary backup is best saved to a conventional USB (or Firewire / thunderbolt) hard drive inside an enclosure, the most important part of your data protection begins after your 1st / primary Time Machine / backup; and these are your secondary (most important) data storage devices, archives and their redundancies.

However bare hard drives and docks (below) also work perfectly as a Time Machine backup, this is for home use, since the docking station is certainly not very portable as a notebook Time Machine backup device should be; nor should bare HD be packed around with a notebook, rather remain at home or office.

Six terabytes of 2.5" HD pictured below in a very compact space.

Bare hard drives and docks have the lowest cost, the highest reliability, and take up the smallest storage space

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1. Care and knowledge in general handling of naked hard drives (how not to shock a bare HD, and how to hold them properly). Not a genuine drawback.


1. By far the least expensive method of mass HD storage on a personal basis. Highest quality naked HD can be purchased in bulk very cheap.

2. Eliminates the horrible failure point of SATA bridges and interfaces between external drives and the computer.

3. Per square foot you can store more terabytes of data this way than any other.

4. Fast, easy, no fuss and most simplex method of data storage on hard drives.

Data Storage Platforms; their Drawbacks & Advantages

#1. Time Machine / Time Capsule

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1. Time Machine is not bootable, if your internal drive fails, you cannot access files or boot from TM directly from the dead computer.

OS X Lion, Mountain Lion, and Mavericks include OS X Recovery. This feature includes all of the tools you need to reinstall OS X, repair your disk, and even restore from a Time Machine

"you can't boot directly from your Time Machine backups"

2. Time machine is controlled by complex software, and while you can delve into the TM backup database for specific file(s) extraction, this is not ideal or desirable.

3. Time machine can and does have the potential for many error codes in which data corruption can occur and your important backup files may not be saved correctly, at all, or even damaged. This extra link of failure in placing software between your data and its recovery is a point of risk and failure. A HD clone is not subject to these errors.

4. Time machine mirrors your internal HD, in which cases of data corruption, this corruption can immediately spread to the backup as the two are linked. TM is perpetually connected (or often) to your computer, and corruption spread to corruption, without isolation, which TM lacks (usually), migrating errors or corruption is either automatic or extremely easy to unwittingly do.

5. Time Machine does not keep endless copies of changed or deleted data, and you are often not notified when it deletes them; likewise you may accidently delete files off your computer and this accident is mirrored on TM.

6. Restoring from TM is quite time intensive.

7. TM is a backup and not a data archive, and therefore by definition a low-level security of vital/important data.

8. TM working premise is a “black box” backup of OS, APPS, settings, and vital data that nearly 100% of users never verify until an emergency hits or their computers internal SSD or HD that is corrupt or dead and this is an extremely bad working premise on vital data.

9. Given that data created and stored is growing exponentially, the fact that TM operates as a “store-it-all” backup nexus makes TM inherently incapable to easily backup massive amounts of data, nor is doing so a good idea.

10. TM working premise is a backup of a users system and active working data, and NOT massive amounts of static data, yet most users never take this into consideration, making TM a high-risk locus of data “bloat”.

11. In the case of Time Capsule, wifi data storage is a less than ideal premise given possible wireless data corruption.

12. TM like all HD-based data is subject to ferromagnetic and mechanical failure.

13. *Level-1 security of your vital data.


1. TM is very easy to use either in automatic mode or in 1-click backups.

2. TM is a perfect novice level simplex backup single-layer security save against internal HD failure or corruption.

3. TM can easily provide a seamless no-gap policy of active data that is often not easily capable in HD clones or HD archives (only if the user is lazy is making data saves).

#2. HD archives

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1. Like all HD-based data is subject to ferromagnetic and mechanical failure.

2. Unless the user ritually copies working active data to HD external archives, then there is a time-gap of potential missing data; as such users must be proactive in archiving data that is being worked on or recently saved or created.


1. Fills the gap left in a week or 2-week-old HD clone, as an example.

2. Simplex no-software data storage that is isolated and autonomous from the computer (in most cases).

3. HD archives are the best idealized storage source for storing huge and multi-terabytes of data.

4. Best-idealized 1st platform redundancy for data protection.

5. *Perfect primary tier and level-2 security of your vital data.

#3. HD clones (see below for full advantages / drawbacks)

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1. HD clones can be incrementally updated to hourly or daily, however this is time consuming and HD clones are, often, a week or more old, in which case data between today and the most fresh HD clone can and would be lost (however this gap is filled by use of HD archives listed above or by a TM backup).

2. Like all HD-based data is subject to ferromagnetic and mechanical failure.


1. HD clones are the best, quickest way to get back to 100% full operation in mere seconds.

2. Once a HD clone is created, the creation software (Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper) is no longer needed whatsoever, and unlike TM, which requires complex software for its operational transference of data, a HD clone is its own bootable entity.

3. HD clones are unconnected and isolated from recent corruption.

4. HD clones allow a “portable copy” of your computer that you can likewise connect to another same Mac and have all your APPS and data at hand, which is extremely useful.

5. Rather than, as many users do, thinking of a HD clone as a “complimentary backup” to the use of TM, a HD clone is superior to TM both in ease of returning to 100% quickly, and its autonomous nature; while each has its place, TM can and does fill the gap in, say, a 2 week old clone. As an analogy, the HD clone itself is the brick wall of protection, whereas TM can be thought of as the mortar, which will fill any cracks in data on a week, 2-week, or 1-month old HD clone.

6. Best-idealized 2nd platform redundancy for data protection, and 1st level for system restore of your computers internal HD. (Time machine being 2nd level for system restore of the computer’s internal HD).

7. *Level-2 security of your vital data.

HD cloning software options:

1. SuperDuper HD cloning software APP (free)

2. Carbon Copy Cloner APP (will copy the recovery partition as well)

3. Disk utility HD bootable clone.

#4. Online archives

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1. Subject to server failure or due to non-payment of your hosting account, it can be suspended.

2. Subject, due to lack of security on your part, to being attacked and hacked/erased.


1. In case of house fire, etc. your data is safe.

2. In travels, and propagating files to friends and likewise, a mere link by email is all that is needed and no large media needs to be sent across the net.

3. Online archives are the perfect and best-idealized 3rd platform redundancy for data protection.

4. Supremely useful in data isolation from backups and local archives in being online and offsite for long-distance security in isolation.

5. *Level-1.5 security of your vital data.

#5. DVD professional archival media

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1. DVD single-layer disks are limited to 4.7Gigabytes of data.

2. DVD media are, given rough handling, prone to scratches and light-degradation if not stored correctly.


1. Archival DVD professional blank media is rated for in excess of 100+ years.

2. DVD is not subject to mechanical breakdown.

3. DVD archival media is not subject to ferromagnetic degradation.

4. DVD archival media correctly sleeved and stored is currently a supreme storage method of archiving vital data.

5. DVD media is once written and therefore free of data corruption if the write is correct.

6. DVD media is the perfect ideal for “freezing” and isolating old copies of data for reference in case newer generations of data become corrupted and an older copy is needed to revert to.

7. Best-idealized 4th platform redundancy for data protection.

8. *Level-3 (highest) security of your vital data.

[*Level-4 data security under development as once-written metallic plates and synthetic sapphire and likewise ultra-long-term data storage]

#6. Cloud based storage

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1. Cloud storage can only be quasi-possessed.

2. No genuine true security and privacy of data.

3. Should never be considered for vital data storage or especially long-term.

4. *Level-0 security of your vital data.


1. Quick, easy and cheap storage location for simplex files for transfer to keep on hand and yet off the computer.

2. Easy source for small-file data sharing.

#7. Network attached storage (NAS) and JBOD storage

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1. Subject to RAID failure and mass data corruption.

2. Expensive to set up initially.

3. Can be slower than USB, especially over WiFi.

4. Mechanically identical to USB HD backup in failure potential, higher failure however due to RAID and proprietary NAS enclosure failure.


1. Multiple computer access.

2. Always on and available.

3. Often has extensive media and application server functionality.

4. Massive capacity (also its drawback) with multi-bay NAS, perfect for full system backups on a larger scale.

5. *Level-2 security of your vital data.

JBOD (just a bunch of disks / drives) storage

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Identical to NAS in form factor except drives are not networked or in any RAID array, rather best thought of as a single USB feed to multiple independent drives in a single powered large enclosure. Generally meaning a non-RAID architecture.


1. Subject to HD failure but not RAID failure and mass data corruption.


1. Simplex multi-drive independent setup for mass data storage.

2. Very inexpensive dual purpose HD storage / access point.

3. *Level-2 security of your vital data.

Time Machine is a system hub backup, not a data hub backup

Important data you “don’t dare lose” should not be considered ultimately safe, or ideally stored (at the very least not as sole copy of same) on your Time Machine backup. Hourly and daily fluctuations of your system OS, applications, and software updates is the perfect focus for the simple user to conduct ‘click it and forget it’ backups of the entire system and files on the Macbook HD.

Bootable clones are the choice of professionals and others in that Time Machine cannot be booted from and requires a working HD to retrieve data from (meaning another computer). Your vital data needs to be and should be ‘frozen’ on some form of media storage, either in a clone, as an archived HD containing important files, or on DVD blank archival media.

A file that is backed up to Time Machine is unsafe in that if that file is deleted off the computer by accident or lost otherwise, that file will likewise vanish from Time Machine as it reflects changes on the internal computer HD/SSD.

Time Machine has an ideal use parameter, learn what that is, and what that isn't

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Clone VS. Time Machine. A System Clone, portable desktop and recovery perfection

Nobody should be intimidated by making a clone of their HD to a blank HD hooked up externally either inside a USB enclosure or as inserted in a HD dock. Use Superduper or Carbon Copy Cloner to clone your drive, depending on size this averages about 40 minutes to clone an internal HD that contains 140 gigabytes of data.

SuperDuper (free)

Carbon Copy Cloner

For example, I have 4 cloned Macs on 4 HD in a package only 40mm thick, and 2.5”, a very tight package perfect for recovering any of my primary Mac computers very quickly, and stored away securely in a firebox.

Some advantages of a cloned HD:

In case of an internal HD crash and failure, there is absolutely nothing quicker to getting back to 100% operation than having a HD clone handy to either boot from, or within 20 mins. installing and removing the bad HD. Nothing to install software-wise, and a speedy immediate return to your computer use and productivity.

If you do an option key startup at boot you can directly boot to your cloned drive externally and operate from same like normal.

Sandboxing: With the help of the Cloned Drive, you can perform sandboxing, or the testing of new software, their updates and applications before they are installed on your Mac system. Moreover, if there are issues with the system, you can troubleshoot them by booting off the Clone. Many people test new APPS or experiment with a secondary clone and never worry about a failure or serious issue since the internal HD is untouched and the secondary clone can be wiped afterwards if any major issue occurs in testing. This is an invaluable tool in many instances.

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If you sell you computer for purchase of a new one, you can take the clone you have on hand and install same or clone it to the new internal drive of your new Mac.

As it turns out one of the huge positive benefits of a clone is that people were seeing faster HD speeds; with APPS booting up from the clone than they had seen with the internal HD. The cloning applications in cloning the drive defragments the data to the clone and remove the “holes” in the cloning process.

With a small portable HD clone you can take your ‘computer’ anywhere to most any other current Mac and boot from your HD clone and have your entire system and its data immediately there for use. In case one is across the world and their macbook gets stolen, or damaged, with another Mac you can be up and 100% in the time it takes to boot to the new or borrowed Mac!

You can clone from your external clone to the internal HD/SSD in case of corruption.

The best thing that can be said, ideally, when your HD crashes with all its data is “so what, I’ve got a clone right here” and you can return to normal operation within seconds (by booting from the clone) or minutes (by swapping drives).

In separating out your system hub (OS) and your data hub, and storing them separately, is if you make only periodic clones (every month or so), and have a HD crash, the worst case outcome is that what is lost on your clone are some bookmarks and preferences since your data hub containing your vital files is constantly archived separately as it should be.

HD docks will fit both 2.5" HD and 3.5", perfect for either HD clones or data storage

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Disadvantages of a cloned HD:

A HD clone takes a rather long time to update since it checks all files for changes.

Ideally you would erase and create a new clone of your updated system every 2 weeks or month, which would therefore leave a gap in data integrity and OS files and system changes.

Autonomous constant data hub archiving fills this downside “gap” of HD clones, wherein which the worst that would be lost is a 2 week or one month window of application updates, or system changes irrelevant to your vital data.

If you have a HD clone (system hub clone), why do you need a ‘data hub’ archive?

Pulling and finding data off a data hub archive is much easier, quicker, and more trustworthy than pouring thru the convoluted file structure of a clone and more time involved still off a Time Machine backup. Regardless of the speedy nature of finding your important data on autonomous copies of data hub-only archives, you need this level of data redundancy and compartmentalization to safeguard your files, not only for sake of data corruption but vital compartmentalization.

Therefore it is not merely any matter of speed in finding data, but the necessitated system of setting up redundancy for what is most important. As stated earlier, professionals and power users have very large data collections and no single clone could possibly encapsulate their data, and must therefore be stored autonomously on separate collections of HD or storage archival media.

RULE #4 Make copies of the original data if possible at all times, and not copies of a copied copy.

My Time Machine backup is not big enough, therefore…?

As data becomes larger and larger each year, and now a terabyte is generally considered ‘not that much space’ a single HD backup of your system OS and large files is not feasible for a time machine backup. Keep your computer ‘clean’, meaning keep all your applications and important use files on your Mac, but large video, picture, and data collections off your Mac that you aren’t using on a regular basis.

Location, location, location

It is important to keep your system hub (OS) cloned (either TM or preferably a HD clone), but have your data hub and its copies separated preferably not only by multiple copies as protection, but also in place and type of storage. A firebox can be purchased at your local general store and costs very little. If you have a safety deposit box, is it wise to keep DVD archives or a HD archive of your valuable data stored there. The professional option as 3rd archive is offsite on a protected server (not cloud based) or a personal website. When it comes to your data hub, you must consider not only diversifying the media TYPE you store it on (HD and archival DVD) but also the PLACE you store it.

Best simple option is three copies at least of your vital data hub you “don’t dare lose under any circumstance” in three places, one copy of easy access (for active archives), one copy in a firebox or safe if possible (for static archives), or better still a safety deposit box, and lastly offsite storage on a personal private website which you can remotely access anywhere in the world; if you are traveling, and if your computer dies, you still have access to the data; or worst case scenario your house burns or natural disaster occurs. Losing personal belongings is a possibility in a disaster, but these are the very easy methods of making it such that data loss becomes all but impossible, and there is no longer any valid excuse for anyone to ever lose important data if a few of these steps are taken.

Portable box for archiving the storage of 3.5" HD

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Archive Diversity, Century-disk blank DVDs

As important as having multiple copies of your data hub (vital files) is having those copies somewhere that long-term data retention is a guarantee. As stated earlier, given the second law of thermodynamics, any and all current mfg. HD will, under perfect storage conditions tend themselves to depolarization and a point will be reached, even if the HD mechanism is perfect, that the ferromagnetic read/write surface of the platter inside the HD will entropy to the point of no return for data extraction.

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HD life varies, but barring mechanical failure, 3-8 years typically. Hard drive mortality spikes in the first month or so, and then falls to nill before, after time, rising gradually and assuredly. This initial ‘infant mortality’ needs to be check especially in instances of new static HD archives.

Archival DVD blank media only costs an average of 20% more than conventional low grade DVD media but has an extremely low reject rate and most importantly an extremely high life rating, many 60+ years, and century disks which are rated for 100, or 150+ years if stored under cool dark ideal conditions. There is little more frustrating than the thought much less the reality of losing years or a lifetimes worth of work over a $20 price difference between a 100-pack of low grade storage DVD media and professional DVD blank media.

It is ironic that many of us will buy expensive computers and spend years and great effort creating data but don’t think twice about buying unreliable storage media to safeguard our valuable work, pictures, documents, books, and things so important to us and others.

In the case of ‘large data’ where many 100’s of DVD blanks becomes unrealistic for your data hub preservation, having revolving HD archives copied and checked on a regular basis becomes vitally important but more importantly as supplemented by offsite storage hosting of your data in at least 2 locations where HD natural degradation is of no concern since there is no single HD at a hosting farm, typically, where data can crash and be lost.

In considering the idealized use of DVD archival media, archived hard drives, and offsite-hosting storage, each has its benefits and drawbacks. In the case of DVD media, one cannot typically archive large amounts of data in the 2+ terabyte range realistically since this would involve a very large number of disks amounting to 212 DVD blanks per terabyte archived. In the bottleneck limitation of DVD media, if one has large data, reserve at the very least priority “cannot lose at any cost data” for burning to this option for safekeeping.

Advantages of HD archives are obvious in that 2.5” are very compact, much more reliable than years past, and massive amounts of data can be stored securely with ease in a very small space. Roughly 60 terabytes of data can be stored in a volume the size of a shoebox. The drawback of this type of storage is natural long-term degradation of the ferromagnetic data stored on the disks, and a potential EM pulse can wipe out an entire data archive in a matter of milliseconds. Additionally these HD need to be protected from theft, and exposure by means of either a firebox, safe, or safety deposit box, or a likewise secure and environmentally isolated container. To safeguard against degradation, optimally you would upgrade these HD archives every year or two just as you would the batteries in your smoke detector, even if still good.

Advantages of hosting archives are that, as stated, there is no single location (in terms of large data farms) for HD degradation to bring down your archived data hub. The best advantage of online private and secure data archiving is that your data is protected from fires, and natural disasters at your location, and this data can be pulled from anywhere on earth with ease. The drawbacks of this type of storage archive is if you fail to pay and forget to update payment for your hosting storage, your data can be erased, additionally if you don’t take steps to safeguard this data by hiding it, encrypting it, or likewise measures, it can be attacked, erased, or corrupted by third parties. This offsite online archive option is best idealized as a third location to park a copy of your files to be archived.

Professional Archival grade DVD media is a necessity for anyone taking data protection seriously

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True longevity, long-term professional data protection. The Gold and Platinum standard

When it comes to long-term data protection, there is optical and there is NOTHING else, period. While modern notebooks and macbooks have forgone, for the most part internal optical DVD/CD readers/writers, this is most entirely due to the fact that commercial videos and movies have gone to online rentals and Itunes purchases, additionally nearly all software now is online purchase and download. The other reason for this is the removal of a 'high' failure point of an internal optical drive which is both mechanically complex, prone to dust on the laser diode lens due to users inserting dusty disks / media, and that the superdrive is not currently capable of fitting in the super-slim form factor machines such as the current Imac, Macbook Pro and especially the Macbook Air. However external USB DVD burners and readers are going nowhere anytime in the foreseeable future,... and until a new optical technology emerges for data preservation, DVD writers aren’t going anywhere.

Online media and software however has no bearing or impact on the fact that the fragile nature of ferromagnetic storage has not gotten any better now than it was 20 years ago aside from improved production specifications in physical hard drive builds. There are many that would point out in incorrect conjecture that “optical is a dying or dead medium”, such people don’t know what they're talking about and are directing their comments at optical based movies and software, not data archiving and protection which in fact is growing in scope, not declining.

While low grade consumer DVD blank media has a life between 8-15 years best case, professional DVD blank media has both a different standard of manufacture and chemically a different read/write layer that has serious professional longevity with 19 years real world testing and age-stress progression testing proving that at the very minimum, 60 years viable protection if stored correctly and in some patented mfg. standards, 100+ years data retention and preservation. While "gold" disks have been superceeded by even better technology manufacted disks, this is still a term of reference as implying professional DVD blank media.

In fact a new breed of disks that use a higher powered write-laser are commercially available and have a rated life of 1000 years and are referred to as M-DISK. Governments, military, and professional businesses have much time and money invested in high-importance data storage on optical media out of necessity given the extremely fragile nature of ferromagnetic storage. Such new optical technology creates permanent pits in the disk surface, which are not affected by light like consumer DVD media which uses a organic dye layer to write and read from of the data.

While DVD media are only 4.7GB single layer in scope, and cannot store massive amounts of data, not even by the 100-pack, most vitally important priority data people own are picture collections, texts, audio, and other small scale media. In such an evaluation, high priority data is necessitated out of prudence, to be written to professional archival grade DVD media, not low-grade consumer DVD blanks. Such professional DVD blank media is only roughly 30% more expensive than low grade consumer DVD blank media.

Keeping it simple! Making huge data collections easy to handle!

While there are countless data file systems out there for keeping huge data organized, there are far simpler and low-tech option for even keeping collections as large as 20+ terabytes at handy and quick find access (as I can personally attest to with a 40 terabyte collection).

Using your Mac for screenshots or using a screen capture tool you can and should make a snapshot of each HD or DVD clone with the name of that specific HD or DVD number or name. After this you would then make an autonomous folder named, for example “data hub archived contents collection”; and inside this folder would be a picture of each HD or DVD, its designation, and its contents/folders.

As seen below, this is a screenshot of one hard drive, and its respective folders. The image of this HD contents is collected in a folder as mentioned above and a copy of that folder is placed inside every archive and clone location possible, so in case any HD crashes or any DVD archive is lost, you can look back as to its contents and make a new clone of the crashed or lost archive. Most helpful however is to use this picture folder to find folders and files quickly without docking multiple hard drives or DVDs to find a specific folder or file.

Screen capture of HD archive contents filed in multiple places for easily finding data and recovering files

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Bare HD, HD docks, or HD in USB enclosures?

Naked hard drives are optimal for use as data archives in the ideal scheme of your diversified data archive storage due to not only cost, but also the space they take up but most importantly the fact that this removes the SATA bridge card as found inside USB HD devices which has an extremely high failure rate.

Inside a USB hard drive, containing the HD and SATA card

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Countless 1000s of good external hard drives are thrown away each year because the owner thought the HD was bad when it fact it was the SATA bridge card which had failed. This card is removed in a matter of mere second once an external USB HD is cracked open from its plastic casing to reveal the bare HD and the attached SATA card which attaches between the HD and the USB cable.

If you have large data collections, in the range of 10+ terabytes, your best option is to get a reliable hard drive dock (roughly $40) which lets you snap in your 2.5” or 3.5” hard drives which connects to your computer via USB and which is powered. These HD docking stations are used by all computer repair stores and highly regarded and used by professionals and are the fastest most reliable means of entry-level cloning of hard drives, and backing up large amounts of data on a small personal scale.

If however your storage needs for your data hub archives are in the 1-5 terabyte range, a few conventional USB external HD will suffice!

On the left is a HD about to be put into a HD enclosure, and on the right is a HD docking station

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Buying some bare HD for your data archives

I will not advertise a particular HD mfg. but to say that some WD contain a SMS sensor that can conflict with a Macbook if installed in same, and recommend other options, either Toshiba, Hitachi, or Seagate.

For data archives, bigger is better in 2.5”, since typically 2TB 2.5” drives are only $40 more than a $80 1TB drive. These 2TB drives containing 4 platters are 15.2mm thick, and the 12.5mm drives contain 3 platters and are 1.5TB.

These larger 2.5” are perfect for data archives, but not for clones which would need to be potentially installed in your Macbook. In which case stick with 1TB drives that are 9.5mm thick or even 7mm drives which are currently 500gig in size, however 1TB 7mm drives are right around the corner.

Small 2.5” drives are no less reliable in examination than are likewise sized larger desktop 3.5” HD, and importantly take up far less space in a safe, or safety deposit box, or firebox in which more data can be either stored, or carried upon ones person.

The one precaution in the handling of naked hard drives is of course to never grip them top to bottom, rather on either side of their thin edge and store these bare HD inside the electrostatic plastic sleeves they came in when not in use. Avoid touching the circuit boards on the bottom of these drives and obviously always take great precaution in dropping bare hard drives.

An extremely handy device to carry with bare HD is a tiny enclosed SATA bridge with attached USB cable, which takes up no more space than a pack of gum and costs less than $10. When multiple hard drives are used portably, a HD dock is obviously too bulky and troublesome to pack, and a HD enclosure too unreliable and too much trouble when using multiple HD, these tiny USB SATA interfaces for HD are very small, quick and useful.

Typical bare 2.5" hard drives. 7mm left (250-500gig), 9.5mm right (500gig-1TB), and 15.2mm 4 platter drive at back (2TB)

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Use DVD+R for your archives, not DVD-R

Since your data is so valuable, its is a stated necessity that you not purchase low grade retail DVD blank media rather ‘century-disks’ as meant 60+ year or 100+ year professional archival DVD blank media (such as Taiyo Yuden or otherwise). These blank media average only 20% more than consumer level DVD blanks, but are extremely reliable, have an extremely low reject rate of bad blanks, and your valuable data and work is most certainly worth the cost of 100-pack of DVD blanks which are only $15 or so more than the typical blanks.

As to the type of professional DVD blank media: DVD-R is inferior for data preservation for several reasons: error correction, wobble tracking, and writing method. For a DVD to track where it is on the disc, it uses three things: the ‘wobble’ of the data track to tell where it is in the track, the position of the track to tell where it is on the disc, and some additional information where on the disc to tell where the track begins and ends. On –R media, the ATIP is stored as a frequency modulation in the wobble itself; since the wobble changes subtly to encode data, it is impossible to use with the small size of tracks DVD requires, as electric noise in the laser pickup and wobbles introduced by the electric motor spinning the disc, these could easily be read as frequency changes in the real track itself.

On DVD-R this problem had been attempted to be solved by ‘pre-pits’ where spikes in the amplitude of the wobble appear due to pits fully out of phase with the rest of the track (between two spirals of the track, where there is no data). This can be viewed as a simple improvement over CD-R as it makes it easier to track the wobble. This method has one flaw: due to electric noise in the laser pickup, it would be very easy to miss the pre-pit (or read one that wasn’t actually there) if the disc were damaged or spun at fast speeds. DVD-R traded hard to track frequency changes for hard to read wobble-encoded data.

On a DVD+R there is a better write method. Instead of changing the frequency of the wobble, or causing amplitude spikes in the wobble, they use complete phase changes. Where DVD-R’s methods make you choose between either easy wobble tracking or easy ATIP reading, DVD+R method makes it very easy to track the wobble, and also very easy to encode data into the wobble. DVD+R method is called ADIP (Address In Pre-groove).

Now, the third item on the list: how DVD+R discs burn better. ATIP/pre-pit/ADIP stores information about optimum power control settings. DVD-R basically fails on all three accounts because DVD+R simply includes far more information about the media in the ADIP data than DVD-R does in it’s pre-pit data. DVD+R includes four optimum profiles, one for four major burning speeds. Each of these profiles includes optimum power output based on laser wavelength, more precise laser power settings, and other additional information. With this information, any DVD+R burner can far more optimize its burning strategy to fit the media than it can with DVD-R, thereby providing better burns.

DVD+R also gives four times more scratch space for the drive to calibrate the laser on; more space can only improve the calibration quality. So DVD+R media exists to simply produce better burns and protect your data better, which when it comes to data hub archiving is of vital importance.

RULE #5 No computer, regardless of HD or SSD size is a data storage device, and should never be considered as such.

Solid State Drive usage and premise

There have been questions posed and positions taken by many people who are trying to use their Macbook Air or Pro’s solid state drive (SSD) as a mass media storage device, for either pictures, videos, massive music collections or all three combined; but this should not be the working premise of a ‘limited’ SSD and its use.

In which, it’s the case of those users with either 128GB, 256GB, or even 512GB of internal SSD space, that have or are running “out of space”, that questions are raised. The immediate premise of some users can sometimes be “(how to / if) upgrading my SSD” when in fact in nearly all instances another approach is the logical and sensible one that needs to be looked into and exercised.

Any Macbook containing a SSD should be idealized as a ‘working platform’ notebook containing all your applications, documents, and weekly or bi-weekly necessary files. All collections of media files such as pictures, music, and videos, unless directly needed should be kept off the notebook and on an external hard drive or likewise. While the ‘working platform’ premise is also the case with larger internal conventional hard drives of 1TB+, its implementation isn't as critical except in terms of data protection.

Realistically, you should at most coordinate roughly 20 to 25% of your total SSD space to all audio-video personal use media (picture / music / video collections), leaving the remaining amount on an external HD.

Nobody should consider any notebook a data storage device at any time under any circumstance, rather a data creation, sending, and manipulation device; and in the case of a SSD, this is more important for purposes of having sufficient working space on the SSD and reducing SSD ‘bloat’ in which cases someone is wrongly attempting to use the SSD space as a large media storage nexus.

The rare exception to the collective usage and premise of SSD use in which a much larger SSD is truly needed are for those in video and photography professions that require both the extremely fast speeds of the SSD and the onboard storage for large and or many video and photography files. However this also falls under the premise of a ‘working platform’ for such peoples rather than the intent of many who are using the SSD as passive and static data storage for media files very infrequently needed or accessed.

All on-notebook data collections should be logically approached as to necessity, and evaluated as to whether it is active or passive data that likely doesn’t need to be on the notebook, allocations of space-percentages to as-needed work and use, apportioning space for your entertainment media, and questioning whether it should it be on the notebook for more than short-term consumption.

Considerations should be made in the mind of any user in differentiating the necessary system data (System hub) comprising the Mac OSX, applications, necessary documents that both must and should be on your internal SSD, and that of the users personal data (Data hub) comprising created files, pictures, music, videos, PDF files, data created or being created and otherwise, that likely unless being used soon or often should be parked on an external hard drive for consumption, or temporarily loading onto the internal SSD.

You both can and should purchase whichever SSD size you need or see fit, but even in the case of the largest of SSD, unless use-considerations are made, and SSD spaces are allocated as should be the case indicated above, one can easily and immediately run into this quandary of “needing more internal SSD space”, in which instance a different approach in usage must then be implemented.

However it is almost always the case, that such large media files are wanted to be stored internally rather than actually needed, in which case the external HD is both prudent as well as necessary. Additionally costs per MB are infinitely less on an external HD than an internal SSD in any consideration of data expansion needs.

Macbook Pro or Air SSD

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Parking it

75% of the data that's stored on someone’s notebook from countless studies has not been accessed for more than one year. Keeping this ‘dusty’ data on your notebook SSD is bad due to:

1. Internal SSD/HD bloat.

2. Encourages the hazardous and lazy practice of pivoting important data on your SSD, which can fail, be stolen, lost, destroyed, and which would result in serious data loss.

3. Such data needs to be parked into passive external HD archives.

On any SSD drive, unless you are using the data at least every month or so, or more accurately on a regular basis every couple of weeks, it is extremely unlikely that data needs to be or should be on your internal SSD as static data and wasting space when it should be on an external hard drive instead.

The best use of large media files on external portable slim hard drives is to load the media when needed from your external HD to your Macbook, consume it, then delete it from your internal SSD, leaving it on your external for use again later at some point.

Slim USB3 1TB external hard drive

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External Hard Drives

External hard drives are both extremely cheap and regardless of the size of your internal SSD (or even internal hard drive if the case), you need an external hard drive with your SSD equipped Macbook for several reasons:

1. Data backup and protection.

2. Redundancy for important data.

3. Necessitated ideal space for large media files for collections of pictures, videos, and music etc.

While ever changing in price, typical portable 2.5” external hard drives in USB3 run roughly $65 for 1TB or $120 for 2TB small portable USB3 hard drives. Such drives range in thickness between 5mm and 15mm, with recent improvements in storage of 500GB drives in 5mm profiles.

There is almost no premise in which a small 12mm thick 1 Terabyte USB hard drive cannot be taken along with any Macbook as an external large storage extension inside any Macbook carry case or pouch. Typically such external HD profiles are not much bigger than a deck of cards.

External hard drives are a foregone necessity for purchase with any Macbook for at the very least Time Machine backups, data redundancies, and ideally for large media storage.

Your 'desk' vs. your 'file cabinet'

Very simply, you logically shouldn't have giant piles of year old and older files on your work desk; the same is the case with your notebook and its internal SSD. Have all the data you want, just dont put a lot of data you dont immediately or often need on your internal SSD / HD. That’s what your external hard drive, or ‘file cabinet’ is for.

Manage your data so static files are correctly on an external hard drive where they belong, and not cluttering your notebook's SSD

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Final simple rules to always remember about your important data

Data redundancy (copies) makes all HD crashes inconsequential, an irrelevancy.

There are only two kinds of hard drives, those that have failed, and those that will fail, regardless of quality of manufacture.

Always have a system (OS) hub copy (TM or a clone), and at the very least two copies of your data hub, and preferably a third offsite and securely online.

Always strive to "freeze" all or as much of your vital data as possible. Outside of permanent optical storage which cannot be re-written, freezing data is implied the total isolation of data from alteration either from manipulation by others, or corruption from either environmental or software based means. Just as your valuables go in a vault, so too should your data archives in one form or two.

Compartmentalize your system (OS) hub backup vs. that of your data hub archives, in so doing any failure in your computer (system [OS], data, computer) becomes quick to recover from!

Any Macbook or desktop should be idealized as a working platform computer system, containing all your applications, documents, and weekly-use necessary files; and all media files such as ‘big-data’ (music/PDF collections/video/pictures), unless directly needed in the near future, should be kept off the computer and on external storage USB or likewise bare hard drives.

Never consider any computer a data storage device at any time under any circumstance, rather a data creation, sending, and manipulation device. Anyone who thinks data is safe on any computer, even copied upon multiple partitions is making a mistake that will, without fail, strike.

Never backup your data exclusively upon magnetic hard drives or flash storage, nor consider same since magnetic storage degrades over time, roughly 3-8 years, even under ideal storage conditions.

Store important data on multiple servers on multiple continents. Private website domains are very cheap and yearly hosting costs are often under $100 for unlimited storage.

Burn important data onto multiple copies of professional grade archival DVDs (Taiyo Yuden or likewise) and store them in cool dark fireproof safes, a safety deposit box, or multiple places.

Most importantly know that 2 copies of your data is 1, and 1 is none, and 100 copies stored in one place or building is also the same as none due to fire or natural disasters.

Your data saved on the worst storage media with 5 autonomous redundant copies is superior to a single copy of your data on the best storage media made.

Since SSD are generally small, keeping your internal HD data as trim as possible is a big benefit for several reasons, namely it speeds up the cloning process, makes upgrading from a HD to a SSD a straightforward process by keeping the HD data size equal or less than the size of the SSD upgrade.

Always consider and expect your computer’s hard drive or SSD to completely crash anytime, at all times, and you should keep a cloned and updated hard drive handy of your system hub (OS and APPS) at all times to return to immediate productivity and utterly avoid application and parameter reinstallation and tweaking. Nothing is quicker than taking out a dead HD and installing in a new updated cloned HD for getting back to 100% in under 20 mins; or quicker still attaching the cloned HD to USB and booting from it to return to working condition immediately. This cannot be done with Time Machine.

When your data is decentralized, it becomes both everywhere and nowhere, accessible to yourself (and those whom you choose), destructible by none, cannot be collected together or permanently retrieved under any circumstances. In so doing, worries about data corruption, hijacking, loss, theft, erasure, degradation, and natural disasters or fire has been transcended and becomes a moot concern. Little effort is required to accomplish this, and given cheap costs of data storage, there is no excuse anymore for the loss of vital data.

Ultimately we spend 1000's of hours creating and saving data, however we spend a great deal of time protecting our computers and notebooks, with cases and insurance, accessories and upgrades,...but most give little to no consideration to their data which is the most important. In the thought of what a notebook costs vs. what 1000's of hours of work creating data is worth, the computer itself is worthless by comparison in cost. Therefore much more due prudence is necessitated in the thought towards protecting your data as was spent in concern over the computer itself.

When this is achieved and your data is best-possible situation protected, then you have an ideal state of data archiving and peace of mind regarding your hard work and important data.

Redundancy first (multiple hard drives, both active and static unconnected drives) but secondly Longevity (DVD professional media, 100+ year rated archival DVD media).

When it comes to your data, make sure to always keep it R.E.A.L. ( Redundancy Especially, but Always Longevity ! ) 😉

RULE #6 A correct data protection plan means never losing data, needing HD recovery software, and understanding your data is more important than your computer is.

Thank You & Peace 😊

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See my other tips:

Important considerations for the long life of your Macbook. Handling and environmental care tips

Your dead external hard drive is likely fine! Great hope for your 'faulty' external HD