What is your backup strategy? The computing industry’s suggested standard is “3–2–1”: 3 copies – 2 local – 1 remote. In practice, this usually means the first copy is on your Mac’s internal drive, the second is on an external drive using a backup utility, and the third is stored far, far away.

Start With an External Drive

My current brand recommendation is G-Technology. Its G-Drive product line has high quality hard disks inside. The drive capacity you choose depends on how much data you have now or think you will have in 3–5 years.

A good rule of thumb is to choose a drive with at least twice as much capacity as that of your Mac’s internal drive. So, if your Mac has a 1TB drive inside, get a 2TB or larger G-Drive. Also, you’re unlikely to find an external drive with a hard disk of less than 1TB, so start there if your Mac has 512GB or less capacity.

[Update 2019: I now prefer Seagate drives because the company is U.S.-based and not a subsidiary of Western Digital, whose drives are more poorly rated. Also, a good rule of thumb for backup drive capacity is at least 1.2 times the size of the source drive.]

Use Time Machine

Make your life simple and let Time Machine be your first backup utility of choice. Time Machine makes it easy to keep a backup of all your current files, keep track of changes you make over time, and archive items you delete. It is also super easy to go back in time to recover something you lost, restore your data after replacing your Mac, and other scenarios.

It backs up often enough for most users without tasking your Mac by running continuously. If you’ve never set it up before, the first time you connect an external drive, your Mac will ask if you want to use it with Time Machine. Otherwise, you can visit the Time Machine pane of System Preferences to set it up.

Online Backup

For your remote, second copy, I suggest using Backblaze. For just $50 a year, this utility securely copies unlimited amounts of your personal data—and anything else you want to back up from your Mac and any external drives—to a data center located far away from you.

Backblaze can run continuously or once a day at a time you specify. If anything should happen to your Mac, house, Time Machine backup, etc., your stuff will still be safe and recoverable.

There are yet other approaches to backing up data and keeping more copies locally and/or remotely. If you’re curious about your own backup strategy and want additional insight, feel free to reach out for a consultation.

What Next?

Take a few minutes to explore a pane you haven’t seen before. Maybe you’ll discover a choice that resolves a frustration on your Mac or something that gives you more control over your experience.

Advanced Tip: There are lots of ways to access System Preferences, including specific panes, and also customize which panes appear in the main view and in what order. Last week, TidBITS posted a great overview of these choices.