It is time I took backing up my work more seriously.

Currently I only have a backup external hard drive which is connected to my system all the time. One problem I have is that the light on this drive pops on and off frequently during the day. My system is fairly old (6 years) and if I run Illustrator and the backup drive light pops on while I'm working, I've noticed Illustrator can crash.

So, my idea is that I will connect the drive at the end of the day, and then disconnect it in the morning. I'd rather risk losing a few hours of work than let the drive interfere with my current work.

What is your backup protocol?

  • 3
    Im not sure this is on topic. But generally speaking you have no backup strategy, since your backup does not protect you from a active assailant such as a ransomware. Your backup needs to be offline, offsite and recovering should be tested to work.
    – joojaa
    Oct 31, 2021 at 15:55
  • Our company has an insurance against downtime. With that comes an offsite backup that the insurance company provides. Our file server backs up at night so in theory we can only loose one day's work. But of course ransomware can have a built in timer so the files might be infected way before we discover the problem. Not sure to which extent our provider takes that into account. We could have a monthly or quarterly offline backup besides that just in case.
    – Wolff
    Oct 31, 2021 at 16:30
  • 1
    for personal stuff I use Dropbox (100€/year for 2tb) — works perfectly for me; at work we use Perforce version management system + a local server. There are hundreds of different options each with their + and - Oct 31, 2021 at 18:14
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    @Wolff A real good ransomware that encrypts over time will be noticed by attempting to restore files onto a different device and the files will appear corrupted. Assuming the backups are checked for integrity this will likely be caught.
    – Logarr
    Nov 1, 2021 at 13:56
  • 1
    @SergeyKritskiy - Dropbox is not backup. If something corrupts your files locally, that corruption will be silently synced to Dropbox. You may be able to restore to previous version if you catch it in time (was it 30 days? Haven't used DB in years), but there is no guarantee. Backup needs to be read only once it's created.
    – Davor
    Nov 1, 2021 at 19:15

4 Answers 4


It's relevant I think, but I'm not entirely sure it's on-topic for "design".
I suppose it's no more off-topic than "what font is this".

Note I'm not in a corporate environment. I'm solely responsible for the integrity of my system and viability of my files. If you are in an employment environment, this really should be a concern for an IT department, not the designer.

The important part of any backup system is to simply have it. It can be something as simple as an external USB mini-drive which you manually drag files to, then keep in a drawer somewhere. The more redundancy you can build, the safer you'll be in case something fails. It's all too easy to think you're safe.... only to later discover you've lost a ton of work.

Me.... be aware I have 30+ years of files. Lots of data. This may be overkill if everything you have fits on a single SSD or thumbdrive.

Quadruple+ redundancy...

  • Nightly: Backup to 2 different drives. Not 2 volumes of the same drive or 2 volumes in a single RAID... 2 separate external RAIDs actually.
  • Weekly: Backup to a 3rd different RAID
  • Monthly: Backup to a 4th external drive, which is kept off-site in a safe deposit box.
  • Quarterly/Yearly: I don't always keep this one up to date, but I have a 5th external HDD in a waterproof/fireproof safe in my home which I will update if I remember.

RAIDs are RAID-5, they can be rebuilt most of the time, but not always, should a single HDD fail. I have had more than one drive fail though, completely trashing an entire RAID. (Which is why I don't trust Seagate or WD Green drives.)

Hard drives are cheap. Recreating years of work is not. All it takes is one time for a "single" backup to break and you'll instantly regret not being more diligent/redundant.

After experiencing disastrous losses in the past, I'd rather be overprotected than under.

Online backup tools are okay, but I find them inefficient for any large amount of data. Sure uploading to them is often not a problem. However, once you try to restore 500GB-1TB or more, you find that you need at least a week or much, much, much longer to allow everything to download.

On the Mac, I use a combination of DejaVu (scheduled) and SuperDuper (manual) for my backup tools. For a few reasons I won't go into, I do not trust Apple's proprietary Time Machine mechanisms.

  • Do you test restoring also? Anyway, if your a business there is no reason to not be this diciplined. Hardware costs in order of thousand... Sure but your data is worth in order of hundreds of thousands. Anyway the reason i didnt close vite is that this certainly is relevant for design business.
    – joojaa
    Nov 1, 2021 at 3:04
  • 1
    Yes, I test restoring from time to time @joojaa -- Although the way these backups work they are merely a mirror of the working directories. No software which must be run in order to restore. If I lose anything it's usually an odd issue where a single file has gone bad on the main drive then was backed up everywhere. But in a couple decades, that's only happened once or twice. And for this reason I also iterate changes within working folders, retaining older versions when updated versions are generated - worse case is I go back a version and reimplement changes. Drives are indeed cheaper.
    – Scott
    Nov 1, 2021 at 3:13
  • For the online back up, have you considered solutions such as backblaze which can ship you a physical drive of your backup should you need it. Best of both worlds then right?
    – jackdh
    Nov 2, 2021 at 9:48

On a Mac I'd at least be running Time Machine for 'fast recall' of lost or deleted files.
I know Scott doesn't trust it & tbh, I only trust it to a certain extent, but it does work [mostly] & it's fast & local. Here, as a lot of the Macs are still big old Mac Pros, each Pro has its own internal HD dedicated to Time Machine. Newer/smaller Macs without space for several internal drives each use their own dedicated TM drive shared from one of the Pros.

That takes care of specifically files lost in the last hour, as that's Time Machine's backup frequency.
I also use iCloud sync for the 'quick & easy' stuff like Notes, passwords etc. but I don't use iCloud in its broader sync structure for documents etc, as I don't like the idea that if one copy gets deleted, they all vanish. I like to be in charge of my own destiny, as far as possible [I use POP3 email rather than IMAP for the same reasons].

For longer-term, each Mac backs up overnight to Backblaze. [$7pm or $70pa for unlimited storage]. That gives maximum data loss of 24 hours in case of total [house-burns-down level] disaster.
Phones are each backed up to iCloud & manually to each user's Mac - so they're on Time Machine & Backblaze too.

The most important Macs I also clone the boot drive periodically as belt & braces, just for the most rapid 'get back to work' scenario. These can be swapped to be the 'new current' boot drive in seconds & data discrepancy between that & the last known good can be figured out later.

I used to chase hard drives [& even DVDs back in the day] around town to various trusted properties, but over the years, & through maybe half a dozen sudden drive failures in the past decade [no SMART warnings, just died - I lost two boot drives in a year once] I have not yet ever lost more than the hour's work between Time Machine backups.
I've never lost a data drive to a sudden fail, so I've never had to pull more than a few hundred GB from Backblaze ever. [They will ship you your data on a 'rented' HD if there's a lot to recover.]
All in all, all data exists in at least three distinct places, two local, one [2 inc iCloud] offsite.

  • Boot drives are nuthin :) I don't really do much redundancy there. 99.9% of my backups are related to work and original art. Boot drives can always be rebuilt if necessary. I back them up once, and keep a separate HDD I can swap in to boot from, but that's as far as I go for boot drives.
    – Scott
    Nov 1, 2021 at 10:08
  • I keep a lot of transitory data on the boot drive, before being shipped off after completion to more stable, but much slower HDs. Others in the building keep half their lives on their boot drive, no matter what I say about it. Having a backup never more than an hour old has been a lifesaver, more than once. I find the entire operation of building back up a boot drive from scratch more trouble than it's worth, tbh.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 1, 2021 at 10:29

I don't work with large files and I don't work with clients who organize their stuff around large files, so this works for me:

  • Google Drive live sync + occasional double backup on 2 external hdd drives.

Why would the external drive cause Illustrator to crash? Are you editing files directly on this drive? Don't do that...

You need to change your workflow.

In-progress work should be on your local drive; preferably SSD. There is no need to introduce the slowness of USB into your workflow.

At the end of the day sync your work to an external drive which is set to be backed up to a cloud service.

Once your work becomes a final product then archive it to a second drive which also backs up to the cloud.

There is realistically little benefit to any sort of RAID like mentioned elsewhere especially if you're not into maintaining that sort of thing. Yes, things break and if you plan to have 3-10 drives in some sort of RAID well then you're just introducing more points of failure.

2TB of Google Drive is $100/year. You're telling me you cannot afford $10/month?

  • I'm not editing files on the external drive. They are on my internal drive. However, Adobe Illustrator did bomb on my maybe five times yesterday. There might be several reasons why this happened. One is that my computer is old. Another is that I might have stumbled on a bug in Illustrator. The third is that the external drive could be interfering with Illustrator. I don't think any of these can be ruled out.
    – Chris
    Nov 1, 2021 at 19:41
  • @Chris Sorry for having to fish that information out of you. So are you trying to get sympathy from the internet to continue using flaky hardware, do you wish to fix the Lacie drive issue, do you wish to troubleshoot the Illustrator issue, or is this a shopping/polling question in disguise?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Nov 1, 2021 at 19:51
  • What maintenance for RAID? I mean configure and it's done. It's absolutely mindless 99.9% of the time. True more points of failure.. but, unlike single drives or JBOD, should there be a failure, data is recoverable. And online.. give Google the power to spider all my files.. suuuuuuuuuuuure. Maybe I'm old school where that's concerned. But Google already data-mines enough from me.
    – Scott
    Nov 1, 2021 at 21:51
  • @MonkeyZeus: you are lucky you can use Google Drive for backups. I used to, but then started using more performance sensitive apps, snd Google Drive’s overhead became intolerable. If you search the web you will find many folks suffer this - GoogleDrive has a well deserved reputation for lousy performance. I still use GoogleDrive, but mainly fir small stuff.
    – Krazy Glew
    Nov 2, 2021 at 7:54
  • @Scott I doubt you or I are interesting enough for Google to put a magnifying glass on us lol. And if someone has content that is interesting enough then maybe they deserve to be caught. RAID issues aren't just about points of failure but also upgrading hardware ahead of failure to ensure continued performance. Also, I really hope you're not using iCloud given your fear of Google since Apple is Google's biggest customer
    – MonkeyZeus
    Nov 3, 2021 at 13:25

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