Overall backup strategy

This blog post describes the overall backup strategy and implementation for my personal machines.

  • Each machine backs up everything except photos to rsync.net, providing offsite backups with history; photos are excluded because of their sheer size. See backing up to rsync.net for implementation details.
  • Each Mac uses Google Backup and Sync to back up all data including photos, for offsite backups without history.
  • My iMac uses Time Machine to back up to a locally attached hard disk, and each Mac laptop uses Time Machine to back up through the iMac, giving us onsite backups with history. Backups from laptops fail a lot, and so I repair the backup volumes nightly, but occasionally they are corrupted badly enough that they cannot be repaired or Time Machine just refuses to back up to them until they have been reinitialised (with the resulting loss of history). I haven’t needed to restore from them for real, but a test restore has worked in the past; I don’t have any confidence in these backups, but they’re almost free so I might as well have them.
  • On my hosting, the databases used for Wordpress are backed up locally every hour, and my iMac rsyncs those backups down every hour. The database dumps are included in backups to rsync.net from both my iMac and my hosting.
  • Every hour my iMac updates local git clones of my hosting’s /etc, my wife’s website, and the development version of my wife’s website. All are included in backups to rsync.net from both my iMac and my hosting.
  • Some data is backed up to rsync.net multiple times, which is unnecessary but doesn’t hurt. The most important data is backed up to rsync.net, Google Drive, and Time Machine - this gives offsite backups with history, unreliable onsite backups with history, and (less usefully) offsite backups without history.
  • The most vulnerable data is photos: because of their sheer size they aren’t backed up to rsync.net, they are just in Google Photos and Time Machine, so I have offsite backups without history and unreliable onsite backups with history.