Offsite Backups


My wife and I both have big storage needs, tens of terabytes each. She takes pictures—many pictures—as a nature photographer. Plus all those game cameras around our property clicking away all night haven’t helped. I have all my stories, all the research and all the publication and layout data, not to mention years worth of entertainment videos and music and home movies.

It would be… difficult… if this data were lost.

Trail camera Beaver and Cub

I’ve been digitally inclined for decades now, so I have my horror stories of lost data. I think everyone has, or will have, those. My backup plans are elaborate; Time Machine runs on our Macs. Our phones and iPads do backups to the cloud. In addition, I run CarbonCopyCloner to make backups to other external drives.

I haven’t been neglecting offsite backups altogether. I have Backblaze, an online backup service, running on our Macs as well, sending copies of our data off to that nebulous cloud out there for a few years. On our trickle of internet bandwidth, it takes a while, but it gets the job done.

But… it isn’t quite enough. I’m a little bit cautious. Back when I worked at Motorola, offsite backups meant taking physical copies of the backup tapes to a different place altogether across town. I’ve always had an inclination to do that for my home as well. I mean, tornados do happen, and the house is underneath the flightpath of all those airplanes traveling from Dallas to Austin. All my external drive backups are within arms reach of the Macs themselves. If the house burns down, none of those backups will be of any use.

So… here’s my new plan. In addition to all the other backups, I’m nearly complete in my physical offsite backups.

For many years now, my wife and I have been using Drobo RAID systems which use a large number of drives in a common box to provide large capacity storage. The use of these RAID systems have successfully protected us from individual drive failures. Hard drives do fail. It happens. But the Drobo just blinks some lights and I swap in a new drive and life continues.

Not good enough. Individual drive failures were covered, but one by one, the Drobo boxes themselves began to fail. Power supplies and other internal failures took out three of the four-drive boxes over time. No data was lost, due to my backups, but when it came time to deal with the last failed Drobo, I just moved to quasi-mirrored (via CarbonCopyCloner) duplicates of everything on Western Digital external drives.

This left me with stacks of individual bare drives, all full of Drobo’s proprietary Beyond-RAID formatted data. This provided me with a new opportunity.

Voyager S3 Drive Dock

I purchased a Voyager S3 Drive Dock by Newertech which allows me to plug in these bare drives like heavy fat floppies and reformat them for use.

Offsite Storage Drives

Then over the past few weeks, I’ve been making CarbonCopyCloner duplicates of all my data and putting them in these storage boxes. As soon as that’s done, it’s off to the self-storage place to park them. I’ve put a reminders in my OmniFocus todo list to revisit them from time to time to refresh the backups, but that’s a chore for another time.

I realize this is a bit of overkill, but I did have all those unused bare drives, and the blinking light on the drive dock as the data is sucked off to safety makes me feel good.