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International Verify Your Backups Day

This article was first published in TidBITS#965/16-Feb-2009.

I’m not a superstitious sort, though I admit to preferring a particular jersey and shorts when I’m racing. But for many people, Friday the 13th is an inauspicious day, long reputed to be unlucky.

So I propose that we fight back against both superstition and the forces of entropy that constantly tear down all those works we labor so hard at creating.

The best defense against entropy is a good backup strategy. To quote a long-ago ad campaign from backup software maker Dantz Development, “To go forward, you must back up.”

But as those of us who have had to rely on our backups in the past know, the act of backing up is only the first small step in the full equation — it’s being able to restore that really matters.

Some psychiatrist friends with their own practice once ran afoul of this in a serious way. Their bookkeeper had religiously been making backups of all their invoicing and billing records as she worked, but she had never tried restoring from those backups until her hard drive died. When she went to restore from her carefully prepared backups, she was aghast to discover that they hadn’t been working. Months of data was lost, and it was a huge problem both for the bookkeeper and for my friends.

Therefore, I humbly submit that Friday the 13th, whenever it rolls around, should be considered International Verify Your Backups Day. (The United Nations is welcome to make this official.) In 2021, we’ll be celebrating only in August. If you’re reading this article on some other day, I’d encourage you to verify your backups right away and then continue with the Friday the 13th schedule.

Take a few minutes to identify some critical files and see if you can restore them successfully from your backups. If a bootable backup is part of your backup strategy, make sure you can actually boot from it. (If you don’t have a good backup from which you can restore right now, allow me to recommend Joe Kissell’s Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac.)

That’s it. No costumes are necessary, there’s no obligatory greeting, and no one expects you to prepare a special meal. If you feel the need to honor your successful verification, a little celebratory imbibing of your favorite beverage is never inappropriate.

But do tell your friends, relatives, and colleagues about International Verify Your Backups Day. Because losing data is not a question of if, but of when, and good backups from which you can restore reliably will protect you from unexpected losses small and large alike.

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Comments About International Verify Your Backups Day

Notable Replies

  1. I have tried SO MANY backup products – not just to find out what’s best – but to learn what’s available. What I settled on was as follows:

    [1] Scheduled local backup via Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) to locally attached USB3 drive (bootable).
    [2] Scheduled offline backup via CloudBerry Backup using S3 connection to Wasabi storage.
    [3] Manual backups via CloudBerry Backup of critical files (daily usually if used) of PVMs of external SSD drive.

    Because I work from home on a national IT team, I often go out to coffee house or alternate locations with good internet and work. I use Macs but my job requires Windows for work environment so I use Parallels PVM of Windows 10. That PVM is backed up manually as needed offline.

    I made sure ALL backup products use local encryption before backing up over “wire” to offline location. And I make sure that key is created by me and encrypted data can only be decrypted by my key alone.

    I also started using Wasabi storage because it is EXTREMELY inexpensive especially compared to Amazon S3.

  2. I’m pleased to say that my Time Machine backups were in full working order when I needed to restore some data back in January after the purchase of a new iMac due to my old one breaking down. I also have an online backup via Backblaze as added insurance.

  3. I do like Time Machine’s ability to alternate between several back-up drives. I try to keep 3 back-up disks up-to-date with Time Machine, with one of them kept in my car for “off site” backup (not perfect I know!). From time to time I have successfully restored files from these backups and even used them to set up a new (replacement) Mac. The last time was the iTunes itl index file after accidentally selecting to merge iCloud Music with my local library and losing all my playlists (music & video).
    After major OS updates I also create a CCC backup but have never tested a restore.
    Finally for a few very critical files like my email & accounts I backup to 25Gb Bluray disks, which are supposed to last for 20 years - if a Bluray drive is still available from a museum :slight_smile:

  4. A good mix! Have you checked to see how easy/fast/reliable it is to restore from each of these methods?

    Yeah, cars would seem like a good place, except for the temperature extremes that are possible in many parts of the world. And shock, if you drive on bumpy roads a lot.

  5. Absolutely, I tested restores and how long they take — especially when you need to restore possibly just a file or two from another device / location with encryption enabled.

    Being a Backup Engineer (NetBackup Enterprise) for Ascension, we jump a lot of hoops for testing at our sites.

  6. How about Wednesday the 18th as a poor substitute? Booted to my CCC external drive so that I can do Clean Install on my internal hard drive. Boot was very slow but it got there.

  7. There’s never a bad time to test. :slight_smile:

    First boots are often slow, but it may be faster on a subsequent one. Though of course external drives are almost always slower than internal drives too.

  8. My external firewire ssd is so much faster than my iMac internal disk that I now boot from the former and back up to the latter.

  9. Since last year 1tB SSD drives have become relatively inexpensive and I now use one for a Time Machine backup of my office iMac. So I have a mixture of SSD and (mechanical) hard drives for backups. Hopefully the SSD drive is less susceptible to damage from vibrations and temperature extremes in my offsite location (spare wheel well of my car)…" Most SSDs are rated for running within a temperature range of 0ºC up to a max temp of 70ºC (32ºF to 158ºF)." Although I have come across an article that warn about reduced power-off retention time at high storage temps. ( )

    The USB-C connection to the iMac makes the SSD drive noticeably faster for these backups.

  10. Great topic! Like [dbrianhendrix], my backup process involves the use of CCC and a weekly reminder on my calendar. One advantage of having a 2009 MacPro is being able to use an open bay for the backup hard drive. (I also have another hard drive I keep disconnected for infrequent secondary backups.) As for verifying that the backup works, I had to use it at least once last year due to a conflict with some new software I’d installed. So I simply started up from the backup drive and replaced the data on the main drive, easy as cake.

    As convenient it would be to use an automated, hands-off process for backups, doing it manually provides a sense of confidence that the backups have been completed properly.

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