My Backup Strategy

Time Machine Preference Pane

We all know backups are important, but they’re not as flashy and interesting as the next Apple Silicon Macs or nifty new piece of software. So they don’t really get discussed as often as they should. But in honor of World Backup Day, which I didn’t know existed and just happened to conveniently take place while I was already working on this piece, I thought I’d share my current backup strategy.

Macs

We have three Macs currently in use in our house — my work MacBook Pro, my wife’s MacBook Air, and our Mac Mini home server. The Mac Mini has an OWC ThunderBay 6 connected with a handful of drives inside — an SSD boot drive, a couple of 4TB drives for storing media, and a couple of 8TB drives for storing backups.

The Mac Mini shares the backup drives over the network as Time Machine destinations. And every Mac in the house backs up over Time Machine to these drives. So all of our local backups and media are stored in a single box — the ThunderBay.

We use TimeMachineEditor to have a bit more control over when our Time Machine backups take place. I have the Mac Mini setup to backup in the middle of the night and the MacBook Pro setup to backup at lunch time on weekdays.

The Mac Mini and my MacBook Pro are also setup with Backblaze to continuously backup all relevant data to the cloud. We will likely setup Backblaze on my wife’s MacBook Air too, but she only recently started using it again and we just finished the initial Time Machine backup.

iOS Devices

I pay for a 2TB iCloud storage plan that is shared with my wife. Our iPhones and iPads all backup to iCloud nightly. We store all of our documents on the service too.

We don’t use iCloud Photo Library, though. Instead, we use Google Photos — the primary reason being their excellent Partner Sharing feature. The feature automatically shares each photo and video to each other’s library. This means we don’t have to worry about who took a given picture or where the full version is stored — we both have access to all of the.

And seriously, Apple, get that feature figured out so I don’t have to maintain an additional service.

But Google Photos doesn’t give us the option to store local copies on the Mac, so a few times each year we manually backup photos from our iPhones and iPads to the Mac Mini server using the Photos app.

So every single photo we take and video we record is stored in six locations — the original device, Google Photos, the iCloud device backup, the Mac Mini’s media drive, backup drive, and Backblaze. It might seem like overkill, but our family photo library is almost certainly the most important data that we have and I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Overall

The pillars of my backup strategy are Time Machine, Backblaze, iCloud, and Google Photos. As I mentioned above, it would be nice if Apple finally introduced a solution for family photo libraries. Then we could eliminate Google Photos from our setup and we’d no longer need to manually backup photos to the Mac Mini, since the Photos app offers the option to store full size local copies of everything in your iCloud Photo Library.

But in terms of locally stored backups, I’m pretty happy with the setup. Since everything is stored inside the OWC ThunderBay 6, if there was ever an emergency, I could grab my iPhone and the ThunderBay. Those two items contain all of the important data in my life.

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iPhone Home Screen

It’s been a little while since I published my home screens. But after seeing my buddy Josh Ginter publish his, I thought I’d share what my current iPhone Home Screen is like these days. It’s undergone quite a lot of changes over the past month or two — at least by my standards.

iPhone Home Screen — February 2021

I’m using an iPhone 11 Pro with the linen wallpaper and the following apps on my Home Screen:

  • Messages
  • Fantastical — I’ve tried a lot of calendar apps, Fantastical is the best.
  • Jetpack — a shortcut that launches a modal view of site stats in the WordPress app.
  • Camera
  • Headspace — an excellent meditation and mindfulness app. Full disclosure, Automattic allows me to expense the costs of the subscription.
  • Ulysses — my favorite writing app on the platform. Everything I publish on Initial Charge starts in this app.
  • LookUp — I don’t think most people have a dictionary app on their Home Screen anymore — Siri does a lot of that work for many, I suspect. But I still prefer a dedicated app for looking up definitions and LookUp is the best one I’ve found.
  • Simplenote — I do support for Simplenote at Automattic and I may or may not be running a beta version with a different icon. I use this to store all of my work-related notes.
  • Things — there’s no to do list application that has ever clicked for me like Things has.
  • Reeder — I use this app to follow a single RSS feed — the one generated by Shaarli. I have it configured to only mark items as read manually. It syncs read status over iCloud and acts as an excellent read later client.
  • Day One — the best journaling app on the market. I use it to save thoughts, long term storage of my bests photos — with context — and to generally document my life.
  • P2s — this is a custom icon for ReadKit, setup through Launch Center Pro. I use it to read P2s, the internal weblogs that we use at Automattic for company-, team-, and division-wide communication and documentation.
  • Edit — a simple, in a good way, text editor by Kyle Dreger.
  • Photos
  • Balance — a shortcut that combines all of my finance-related apps into a single launcher. Like a folder, but with a nifty icon.
  • Bear — my personal notes app. I’m actively looking for alternatives at the moment — ideally, I’ll find something that’s self-hosted or works with markdown files on an FTP server.
  • Clock
  • Calzy — I go back and forth between this and Calcbot. I’m in a Calzy-type of mood at the moment.
  • Spark — I’ve spent far too much time switching between email clients. None of them do everything I want in exactly the way I want it to. But Spark comes the closest.
  • Prism — I’m not much for streaming audio services. I like owning my audio files. Prism, combined with Plex is the perfect setup for me.
  • Unread — my favorite RSS application. It’s the best for reading feeds. I use Tiny Tiny RSS as the backend service with the Fever API.
  • Icro — with my newfound adoration for Micro.blog, it’s only natural for me to have a client app in my dock. I’m cycling through the options now to see what one is the best.
  • Safari
  • Overcast — I’ve been getting the itch to try out other podcast clients lately. But I sort-of expect I’ll come back to Overcast when I’m done. It’s solid.
  • Pandora — I use the service for their excellent customized radio stations. I have a 90s Alternative station that has been meticulously tuned for years.
  • Maps
  • 1Password — the best password manager available.
  • iTunes Store — I default to purchasing CDs, but when I buy digital, I use iTunes. I also launch the app regularly to look up artists and albums for the previews.
  • Screens — I use this to manage our Mac Mini home server and to help out my mother-in-law with tech support.
  • TestFlight
  • Find My
  • Code Editor — I wrote Initial Charge’s WordPress theme on my iPhone and iPad, all in Code Editor. It’s also invaluable for managing files on my web server over FTP.
  • Shortcuts
  • Airport — a nifty app that allows you to discover joinable TestFlight betas.
  • App Store
  • WordPress — another app that I do support for at Automattic. I use it for work as well as publishing on a few private family sites.
  • Prologue — from the developer of Prism, Prologue is an audiobook app that syncs with Plex.
  • Settings

I’m hoping to start publishing these more regularly again. I really enjoy sharing my home screens and reading about others’ too. Perhaps doing one device at a time is the best way to lower the barrier to entry.

YouTube Over RSS


—February 15, 2021

Web Hosting


—January 18, 2021

The Invisible Hand


—January 1, 2021

Thoughts on M1 Macs


—November 14, 2020

Digital Social Distancing


—October 10, 2020

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