Because of the problems with loosing my MBP, I am glad I have a solid backup strategy, which is detailed below.
I perform the backups on the first Friday of every month. While my MacBook Pro is running, I will clean out all of the browser caches, as it is not neccessary to backup cached data. As I switch between Google Chrome and Apple Safari, I sometimes need to clean up the caches for both browsers. If there are any temporary downloads that I don’t need to backup, I will delete them, or move them to an external drive. I also do this for any in-progress iMovies, as they can be many many gigabytes in size. I will also delete the Aperture rejected photos; if any photos are deleted, I will also sync the Aperture vault (see more below). All of this will reduce the disk usage, meaning that there is less data that needs to be in the backup.
Next, I boot to an external WD My Book, using the firewire interface. I have installed a bootable copy of Snow Leopard on the disk. I have also installed TechTool Pro 5, so once I have rebooted to the external hard drive, I will use TechTool to do a hardware and software check of the system, and then perform a file system check or repair of the internal MBP drive.
Finally, just before going to bed, I will launch Disk Utility and make a disk image of the internal drive. I keep the last 2 images, plus I might keep an image from before any particularly important change (such as upgrading from 10.5 to 10.6 or upgrading the internal hard drive). I create the image as a read-only image. This backup image creation will take a few hours, which is why I start just before I go to bed. Should I require information from that image (such as when I needed to grab files when my machine died), I just double-click the image file to mount the image. I can then just grab any file I need.
Between these monthly images, I will also copy any updated files to two external drives. I keep one drive at work and one drive at home. I also keep a large number of files on these two external drives that I do not need to keep on the laptop. This would include all my race videos, as they take up a lot of space. For these videos, I also burn a DVD copy – meaning I have three copies of all my race videos
The most important files are my photos. I use Apple’s Aperture software to manage my photo library. I use the built-in vault function to keep backups. I have created a vault on both external drives (plus the original on the internal drive). Meaning I keep three copies of my photos, which are stored in two different locations so that a fire will not destroy all the copies.
I also own a PC with Windows XP. There is very little valuable data on that machine. In the past, I have just burned it all to a single DVD. However, with the various external drives I have been collecting, I think I will start doing backups to a small external drive over USB. I will do this once a month too, as I am not regularly doing a backup on the PC now. However, the backup tools I have for Windows XP are far from ideal. I will be moving to Windows 7 x64 Professional in the next month, so perhaps there are better backup tools I can use.
One last backup I do for both machines is to keep the most recent copy of the installers for all the software I use. Should a machine fail, I should have all of the latest installers ready to start restoring the software. This only really impacts me if I need to perform a clean installation of the OS. This has happened three times on my Mac in the last 20 years but I’ve needed it many times on the PC. I keep local copies in case I am not able to connect to the internet when performing the restore.
In summary, for most of the important files, I keep two or three backups in two physically different locations. Once a month, I will also perform a cleanup of the system and then a full-system backup. I will keep multiple backup copies.