In January, I took another look at my data backup plans after three years. I got rid of what didn’t work and removed vendors so that I stick to just Backblaze. Here’s what I learned.
My Current Setup
As a recap, my old setup from 2020 looked like this:
- My Mac → NAS via ArqBackup
- My Mac → ArqBackup Cloud via, you guessed it, ArqBackup
- NAS data → Wasabi via Synology CloudSync
And here’s my setup for 2023:
For my Mac, I now follow a 3-2-1 backup strategy: Make 3 copies of my data, with 2 on-site copies (working copy on my Mac, Time Machine backup to my Synology NAS / external hard drive) and 1 remote (Backblaze).1
For content on my NAS (mostly vlog footages and RAW photos), they are backed up to Backblaze B2 using Synology’s Hyper Backup app. It’s a downgrade to a 2-1-1 strategy. The backups do not include my Time Machine data, to avoid “backup of a backup”.
The Switch from ArqBackup to Backblaze
I spent some time to switch my online backup provider from ArqBackup to Backblaze.
My experience with ArqBackup has been very bumpy: many people wholeheartedly recommended ArqBackup2 but when I tried it out, they had just had this new backup engine + an electron Mac app for Version 6. They later moved back to a native app in Version 7, but the unreliable backup engine remained. ArqBackup never seemed to have caught up with macOS system permissions change, and I can’t recall the last time I had a backup task finish without error—it’s always another system .db file that I needed to manually exclude, usually something Wallet- or Siri-related. Errors like these didn’t prevent me from backing up my Mac, but over time I got so used to seeing an error message every two hours…
… That I didn’t notice ArqBackup haven’t backed up anything for 6 weeks in early December. That was the last straw where I thought, OK it’s time. I adore ArqBackup’s flexibility to back up to arbitrary destinations like my NAS or my own S3 bucket (I used to use Wasabi), but if the software is rotten at its core, it’s not worth the hassle. And I’m not even mentioning the experience with the support staff from ArqBackup—they were friendly but, unfortunately, ultimately unhelpful with debugging my backup issues. I also had to change my email address over the past three years, and it was a manual process that took three days.
Backblaze, on the other hand, feels professional. My first backup succeeded without me doing any configurations. When I upgraded to a new macOS version (from 13.1 to 13.2), Backblaze prompted me to grant some permissions that were reset (not sure why Apple does this but whatever). Then it just works. It’s also very quiet and power efficient that I just left it running on battery and won’t notice much on the battery life impact.
The only gripe I have with Backblaze is that they backup all attached external hard drives with unlimited space, but I don’t have or use any external drive. (I do not back up my Time Machine drives to Backblaze to avoid “backup of a backup”.) It makes me feel I’m overpaying, but whatever—$7 a month is really not that bad.
Time Machine for Local Backup
I turned Time Machine back on for practical reasons:
Most importantly, with Time Machine on, my Mac saves a local history on the hard drive thanks to APFS. I can browse recent file history even without attaching my backup disk.
Second, I may have found a solution that avoided this dreadful message I’ve seen before when backing up to Synology NAS:
Time Machine completed a verification of your backups on ‘My Disk’. To improve reliability, Time Machine must create a new backup for you
The alleged solution is to create a separate NAS account for Time Machine. It’s working so far so good but I’ll report maybe in a month (you can remind me). If the problem is still there, I can keep using Time Machine with an external hard drive that I connect for backups every now and then.
On CCC and SuperDuper!
Finally, some discussions on other standouts.
Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) and SuperDuper! are two backup softwares that showed up in my research. They would allow me to create local copies of my data but here are the reasons why they didn’t make it to my picks:
- They both can create bootable copies of my Mac, something Time Machine cannot do. However, I don’t think I need this ability to dive right back into work should the worst happen. Some hassle to reinstall macOS and to restore from Time Machine is like paying deductible for your car’s insurance policy when you make a claim.
- They don’t have configuration for backup thinning and smart retention.
- CCC has too much configurations for my personal use. SuperDuper!, on the other hand, lacks features like scheduled backups, and I’m not sure if it’s officially recommended to back up to a sparse disk bundle stored on my NAS.
- By not enabling Time Machine, I lose the ability to keep local versions of documents.
- They both cost money, and provide not much more value to me, personally.
My iCloud and GitHub copies are not a full set of my data on my Mac, so I’ll leave them out. ↩
Michael Tsai, for example ↩