ScreenCastsOnline Monthly Magazine - Backing Up: If you Only Do One Thing

This month’s issue of ScreenCasts Online Monthly Magazine is now available in Apple’s Newsstand App. In the September issue you’ll find an article from me about backing up your data. This isn’t a new topic for me but I decide to tackle a different angle based on a conversation. If you could only convince someone to do one thing to backup their computer - what should you advise them to do?

The monthly magazine is packed with streamable versions of Don’s excellent video tutorials as well as articles, reviews and tips from authors including David SparksAllison SheridanWally Cherwinski and more. The magazine is free for ScreenCasts online Premium Members or available as a separate subscription or you can pickup individual issues. You can download it in the AppStore or find more info at http://www.screencastsonline.com/magazine/

Backing up Network Attached Storage

I use a Drobo 5N (a Network Attached Storage Device) connected to my local network for a variety of purposes. I store a complete copy of my iTunes library, original source material for old projects, installer disk images, archived material, and more. Since I only have a 256 GB SSD in my primary machine I have to be judicious with my use of disk space I find myself more and more relying on my NAS for archival.

You can archive data to a number of places, but I choose a NAS because it allows me to archive all my data to one single place rather than having a number of various hard drives with different pieces of data scattered across them. I also feel that a NAS gives me an additional layer of security because most NAS, are configured with some type hardware redundancy such that if a single hard drive should fail (the most common failure) the drive can be replaced without loss of data. 

However, there are a couple of major disadvantages to a NAS. The big one is that it is still a single point of failure. You are still susceptible to the device itself failing and having a catastrophic loss of all your data. Therefore it’s absolutely critical that data be backed up as well. Second, they’re not necessarily the easiest devices to backup and they store some of your most critical data.

I’ve adopted a two-step approach to backing up the data on my Drobo.

Step 1: - Clones to a USB Hard Drive

Thankfully the amount of data on my NAS is still small enough that I can buy a single USB Hard Drive that will store all the important data. Over the years I’ve had to increase the size of that drive, but thankfully hard drive sizes have kept up with my data needs. 5TB USB 3.0 Hard Drive that can be bought for around $130 and still gives me some room for future growth.

This drive stays connected to my primary computer (I actually keep it in a rack mounted under my desk) and I’ve setup a weekly job with Carbon Copy Cloner that kicks off in the early morning hours to clone the contents of my Drobo’s Data partition to the USB Drive. ( I specifically choose exclude a few items from the backup such as backup disk images of my other computers - but you’ll have to choose what’s right for you.)

The first backup will take a while to complete depending on the amount of data you have to backup, but incremental backups will occur thereafter. If your NAS should ever die, you’ll have a local copy of all your data that’s no more than a week old. You may choose to increase the frequency of your backups based on your needs. Sometimes after archiving a major project I’ll manually run a backup but I generally find a week works based on how I use my NAS.

Step 2: Backup Hard Drive to Cloud Backup

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Most cloud storage providers, notably Backblaze my provider of choice, will not allow you to backup network attached storage devices. However, many will allow you to backup direct connected hard drives. Now that you have created a clone backup of the data on your NAS to a USB direct connected hard drive, you can now begin the process of adding this data to your cloud backup. You’ll simply want to make sure that the USB drive with the clone of your NAS is selected for inclusion in your cloud backup regularly connected to allow the backup to be completed. The first backup will likely take some time, but thereafter backups should be faster.

Now you should not only have a local backup of all your data on your NAS to allow for fast restore, but also a cloud backup as an extra layer of protection in case of disaster.

Medical ID for iPhone and Apple Watch

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On the Emergency Preparedness episode of Mac Power Users David and I talked about the Medical ID feature of the Health App that allows medical information to be entered and accessed from the lock screen. This is a great feature for most of us, but for some the information it provides may be somewhat limited. MPU listener Geoff Hackworth wrote me to let me know about his app, Medical ID - In Case of Emergency that expands on what’s available from Apple’s built-in app. (iTunes Link)

Geoff’s App works works similarly to Apple’s own Medical ID feature in the Health app, but allows for more granular organization of medical conditions, and medications. The most important information is available additionally available in a Today Widget which Geoff explains, aside from wallpaper is the only way third party developers can make information accessible from the iPhone lock screen. The app’s also has a companion Apple Watch app. And sine the Watch remains unlocked and accessible while on a users wrist, emergency personnel could access the information. 

Of course, the big problem is in the event of an emergency will first responders or a good Samaritan know where to look for critical information. For that reason I’d encourage still putting information in the Health App as it’s likely to be more widely known. You can also add notes telling people where to look for more detailed information. 

Geoff says he’s working on an WatchOS 2 support that will provide the ability to call emergency contacts from the Watch app. and is also experimenting with different complications. 

It’s great to see people looking at this problem. If this is a concern for you or a friend or family, check out Geoff’s app.