Monday, September 10, 2012

Time Machine Backups to USB Thumb Drives

"You are one crazy dude."

I can hear and see the comments coming a mile and a half away on this shin-dig. Many technology savvy people will be questioning the idea of using a USB thumb drive for a regular backup device. I agree with those technology folks and for my own personal and professional use, I would not use any sized USB thumb drive. So why am I publishing a YouTube how to video on this topic?

The school and the Apple 1:1 support team thought this was a workable solution for the students at a reasonable cost. Perhaps the thinking was that since other schools had tried USB thumb drives with some success, it was a good idea. Perhaps the thumb drives were the school's solution to providing a escape clause if the primary drive in the Macbook Pro died and the student forgot to backup.

The reason the YouTube video was created was to give the students with a screencast to show them how to do a Time Machine backup. It just happens that the Lexar 8 GB thumb drives they received along with their Macbook Pro is an option for a Time Machine backup. At the beginning of the video, I make a subtle hint on the USB drive's fragility and small capacity. I also point out the low cost of 500 GB external hard drives that connect via USB.

To further promote the idea of moving toward the external hard drive idea, here are some reasons why the USB thumb drives are not the best media for a Time Machine (or any regular) backup.

  • Thumb drives do not integrate well into backups because of versions and metadata.
  • Thumb drives do not integrate well with pockets, bags, dogs and small children since they are small and very easy to lose or misplace.
  • Thumb drives are physically flimsy and fragile. One local school in 2010-11 report a 50% + failure of thumb drives given to 7th & 8th graders over that school year - most due to physical damage.
  • Thumb drives are subject to corruption. People tend to unplug a drive without unmounting it.
  • Thumb drives have low read-write speeds relative to spinning disk media. Thumb drives are NOT solid state drives.
  • Thumb drives are not ubiquitous and their data does not naturally integrate with net-based cloud storage.
  • Thumb drives take up an extra USB slot on the Macbook Pro system.
My final thoughts here go towards the idea that Time Machine is a great built in backup utility that works very well - just not with USB thumb drives. Google yourself an appropriate sized external hard drive that works with either USB, Firewire or Thunderbolt and start backing up correctly.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed on the commentary. I also agree that thumb drives are significantly better than nothing. We have seen high failure rates with our adult staff members as well.