Re-Thinking my Backup Strategy


Repeat after me: You can never have enough storage.

(Which, as David Magda pointed out to me just now, is just a variant on Parkinson's Law of Data).

My policy of storing complete laptop/site/whatever snapshots on my home file server is starting to backfire on me, so I've spent a good portion of my time yesterday moving stuff around and clearing out older files.

This was triggered by my iBook running out of disk space when importing photos, and after half an hour of file trawling with WhatSize, I soon figured out that I had three main space sinks:

  • My iPhoto library and associated post-processing folders (more on my photo workflow and backups later, since Emanuel asked me about it specifically).
  • My Development and Build source trees, which held whole copies of PHP, Growl and ImageMagick (which I am removing from the last three backups).
  • And, last but not least, the Mail.app disk cache, which was reaching 7GB (Entourage is taking up roughly 200MB, but that's because it's a straight mirror of my Exchange tree).

Now there's a reason for funky Mail.app behavior if I ever saw one.

So, I've now started moving most of my mail to an archival account on my IMAP server, set to "Don't keep copies of any messages" - this will probably force me to set up some form of server-side searching (or I'll just give up later on and revisit Zoë - we'll see, I never found a real solution for that one).

But the biggest change (maybe it's the vacation spirit) is that my work e-mail account in Mail.app is going straight into the trash bin - all of it. Apparently (judging from my Blackberry) we're going to get a fancy data vault interface at work, which means that I will be digging out my (heavily culled) .pst files and throwing a significant portion of the last couple of years in there when I get back (no, I don't keep every e-mail. But when you get 50 to 100MB of new e-mail every day, keeping even a small percentage of it adds up over time).

I, for one, welcome our new mail vault overlords. I'll miss the immediacy of having the attachments on my disk, but I'll get a lighter and roomier Windows laptop, and if I'm lucky, I'll be able to get at the vault from my Linux desktop as well.

My iBook's disk and fan are growling something fierce as it clears out the Mail.app cache, and I'm taking a look at what Backup 3.0 can do for me (triggered by this piece, via Michael). This MacDevCenter article looks like a good place to start, too.

Time will tell if the drag-or-rsync-to-build-an-ISO days are over.

If they aren't, well... This time I'll try coding my backup script in Python and let you know about it.