At the end of 2021, I had the misfortune of needing to reinstall everything on my main computer. Something had crashed and the only way to get my computer working was to do a fresh install.
I was using Time Machine on a local HDD and a Popular Backup Service™ – let’s call it, I dunno, Blazing Backups – for remote backups. One of the attractions of Blazing Backups was that it also offered a service to send a physical drive in case of emergency.
As it turned out, neither of these worked particularly well and restoring was an incredibly time-consuming process. It took over a week to get things back to normal.
Firstly, Time Machine completely failed. I’m a little fuzzy on the details now: I seem to remember the drive could be seen by the new device but it either wasn’t possible to restore from it or it hadn’t been backing up useful things. Either way, it was unusable.
And Blazing Backups was not a great experience. The online interface for manually accessing files was clunky and download speeds were incredibly slow. It took a few days of back-and-forth to get the files downloaded, on 200mbps internet, to download a little over 1TB of data.
I considered asking them to zip up the files on a physical drive and send it, but I was told it could take 2–3 days for this to even be dispatched. The packing time, shipping time to the UK and poor-timing of needing the service around holidays meant that delivery alone could have taken two weeks!
Of course, Blazing Backups can’t do anything about these things: it’s reasonable for there to be some time in preparation and shipping times are out of their control. But if you’re unlucky with holiday breaks when you need the back up, the physical disk option may not be as useful or quick as it sounds.
In some senses, my backup strategy worked: my first backup failed, but I was still able to get my files back. There will always be some disruption when your system is wiped, but this whole experience was incredibly suboptimal. I knew there must be a better way.
Everything, except project files is stored/managed through Sync (not an ashilliate link – if you would like an extra 1GB use this link instead). It’s end-to-end encrypted and basically as easy to use as Dropbox local.
This entirely replaces my desktop. The beauty of this is that setting up a new computer is incredibly quick:
- Download the Sync app
- Choose the highest-priority folders to download
- Sync other folders later
- Download and install other apps as needed
I also use Super Duper for the local backup. This has the added advantage of also backing up applications not just files, something that Blazing Backups didn’t offer.
Project files are stored in git repositories, so those are synced very quickly.
The only downside of Sync is that, unlike Dropbox, you can’t run multiple accounts on the same computer through the local app...yet. But I’m willing to trade that for the end-to-end encryption.
I also wondered about the environmental impact of going all-in on a cloud setup. But this may actually have reduced my cloud use as I was previously using Dropbox in addition to the Blazing Backups service, so everything has been consolidated to a single place – no duplication.
Check your backups
The advice is always to test your backups. In particular, I’d suggest checking out your remote backup’s interface for restoring files: if it’s clunky and slow, moving to a cloud service might be a better option in case of emergency.