Backups - To The Cloud!

About a month ago I was finally able to carve off some time to solve a few challenges I had been facing with regards to backing up personal data: 

  • Investing in a cloud-based backup solution for my MacBook Pro.
  • Real-time backup of photos from iOS / iPhone.

The Problem

My previous setup had worked for the most part but kept me up at night for a few reasons. I have been a long time user of Apple's Time Capsule and have recommended it as a product. While it can be a hefty investment ($379 for 2 TB), it's been stable for me for a number of years. I've been able to restore files and whole computers without any issue. And a fast wifi base station has helped utilize our 150 Mbps connection.

However in the back of my mind I've always been thinking about offsite backups. Should something happen to our home, the last thing I'll be thinking about is to grab our wireless router before heading out the door!

Backblaze

After researching a bunch online, to backup our MacBook Pro I decided to go with Backblaze. While I researched other services, Backblaze came with great recommendations from coworkers and touted ease-of-use as one of their main features. 

Setup was dead simple and for only $5 / month I could have unlimited data backup offsite.  The entire upload process took about 6 days (have approximately 1TB of data on my Mac). After that Backblaze has continuous incremental backups that happen in the background.

Note: Coworkers of mine have mentioned that they have a 3rd backup solution (external USB hard disk that syncs via Time Machine and is taken offsite).  I think this may be overkill but will consider in the future.

iCloud Photo Library  

Implementing a cloud-based backup scenario in addition to our onsite backups solved the majority of my data backup concerns. However, most of my personal computing is done from my iPhone (heck, it's how I published this blog post!). 

Generally I don't have any persistent data on my phone - most of my content is stored elsewhere (mainly in Gmail, Drive, etc.). The one glaring exception to this was my photos.  I normally backup my iPhone via USB every month or so, however if my phone were to vanish I'd be missing out on my most recent photos.

Additionally I have thousands of pictures from my teenaged years stored on my Mac in Photos. These are synced to my phone but I've always treated them as a separate "library" compared to my iPhone photo stream. 

I had been hesitant to try iCloud Photo Library in the past for a few reasons: 

  • Library size - I have upwards of 30 GB of photos that I would need to store, which would blow past Apple's free 5GB storage tier.
  • The transition process - I've read horror stories of people moving their photos to iCloud and having duplicates, missing photos, etc.  I had a similar experience when moving to Apple Music a year ago which cost me a full day's worth of data cleanup.

Given my recent success with Backblaze, I had confidence in giving iCloud Photo Library a shot. I had also noticed that Apple dropped the price of the 50 GB iCloud plan to about $1.29 / month which was well within my budget. 

I started by enabling the service on my iPhone first. I did this to see if I could use a hybrid approach as a potential solution in the future: my phone photos are synced via cloud and my older photos are synced traditionally via Photos app. Unfortunately this isn't an option - you lose all manually synced albums when enabling on your phone.  

The upload of my iOS photos only took a few hours and I had plenty of space left in iCloud so it was time to take the jump and enable on my Mac. Essentially for the first time this was when my two libraries would be merged - in the cloud no less!  I made sure to have backups of my data should any issues arise. 

I let the process run overnight and checked both my Mac and my iPhone in the morning. Success!  All of my photos were on both devices and no duplicates.  I had thought I had lost all my album categorization for my old photos but they just moved to the "iPhoto Events" album folder.  Now I'm able to add and remove photos on one device and the changes are seamless across my devices.  Amazing!

Apple must be doing some compression on the backend too, I have about 10 GB more data storage in iCloud than I expected after the transition.  Lots of room to grow.

One important note here - I'm assuming this went well since my iPhone and Mac libraries were mutually exclusive. If there are duplicates (ex. If you import your iPhone photos into the Photos app) then this might cause duplicates to show up in your iCloud Photo Library. 

Summary

I'm sleeping much better at night knowing now that my data is backed up offsite should something happen to our phone. I'm also really impressed with iCloud Photo Library and its ease of use. And I'm paying about $70 / year for all of this to happen which seems like a good deal to me! 

For many years I had been adverse to using Apple's cloud services, I'm happy I'm now making the transition.

My last step is getting all of my important physical documents scanned and stored. My next question will be - where do I store them?  Google Drive, iCloud Drive or Dropbox?  Hope to have a blog post out soon with my results!

Life Changes

Wow - to think how things have changed since my last blog post.  Rupert was only 5 weeks old, it was the middle of Summer in Vancouver and I was preparing to head back to work from parental leave.

Fast forward almost a year later - as we approach summer in the lower mainland (after one of the worst winters that I can recall), life is quite different than what it was a year ago.  What they say is true: time moves so quickly once you are a parent, it's hard to keep track!

Parenthood

This kid is quite the character. After countless months of rolling and butt-dragging, this crawler is all over the house. And not much longer until he will be walking.  It feels like he's developing exponentially as he gets older which is making keeping-up challenging!

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Our days are extremely enjoyable watching our little guy turn into a toddler. Can't get enough of his giggling, funny faces and dancing that brightens up my day.

As he's gotten older, many of the tips that I provided in my initial post still apply. We are still huge fans of Amazon Prime (although we lost our same day shipping, see below as to why).  Scary to think that he'll soon be off to daycare - stop growing so quickly please! 

A New Home

Like many young families, we packed our gear and headed East.  Not too far east- just enough to escape the crazy housing market of downtown Vancouver. 

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Our fist home is located in Port Moody and we absolutely love it. Port Moody is the perfect little city that's on the verge of tremendous growth. With the many parks, shops, restaurants and breweries within walking distance, the neighbourhood is one that I can see ourselves living in for a long time. Proximity to the Skytrain and West Coast Express means that we are not far from our old home. And the plethora of families in our area means we aren't alone in our decision to raise our family here. 

A New Career

With all the changes above, no need to make a significant career move, right?  Think again!  

After 4 years at Salesforce.com it was time for a change.  Thankfully I didn't have to go to far - I've been lucky to join Salesforce.org and help build products on the Salesforce platform for nonprofits and higher education institutions around the world.  It's a fantastic mission-driven organization that is using the power of Salesforce to help those out there who are looking to change the world.  I couldn't be more excited for the opportunity.

Curious?   Check out the video for more info about what we do.  On - and we're hiring!  Check out our job listings.

Let's see if I can post again before another year passes...

Five Weeks of Fatherhood

The last 5 have certainly been different than life's normal pace.  On June 28th, we welcomed our son, Rupert Jermaine Hansen, to the world!  

Alyssa has posted about her birthing experience and given her very, very in-depth perspective.  We were truly lucky to have everything go relatively smoothly.  As a husband and to-be father, the most important thing I could do was offer support leading up to and during birth.  Hand holding, getting water, helping decide which music our son would be born to (Incubus, for those who are curious!).

Since Rupert's birth, it's been much of the same support around the house.  I've been available to take a number of weeks off work (thanks Salesforce for your great parental leave benefits) which has made the transition to parenthood a bit easier on all three of us.  Never in my life have I cooked so much, however, it's been a great experience and definitely saves cash vs. eating out all the time.

Alas, this is the last week of my (current) parental leave and I'm going to have to face my next challenge: balancing being a new father with the demands of working in the tech industry.  Many of my co-workers have done this successfully and I'm looking forward to learning from them on managing an already stretched work-life balance.

Five weeks of being a father doesn't make me an expert by any means, however, I did want to share a few resources and tips that have helped us in the short amount of time we've been parents:

  • Get an Amazon Prime account - We've made a ton of baby-related purchases on Amazon and the free two-day shipping justifies the yearly fee.  Some items also qualify for $3.99 CAD overnight shipping which is a steal if you need an item in a hurry.
  • Invest in a baby swing - We got a deal on this swing on Amazon ($120 CAD) and even though it took a week to ship, it has been a life saver for us to have Rupert take a "hands-off nap".  It's not 100% but has already been worth it's price.
  • Reddit - Lots of great info on Reddit for new parents, shared stories from other Redditors, tips, etc.  The /r/Parenting and /r/daddit subreddits are great resources for us as we review Reddit regularly.
  • Get outside! - You'll read that many folks frown upon taking a newborn out of the house until at least 6 weeks after their birth.  Nonsense!  If you're lucky enough to have a newborn in the summer, be sure to get them out for a quick walk / drive here and there.  Just be sure to keep them in the shade!

For now, off to enjoy the last few days of precious time off with this little guy!