Mac Spring Cleaning: Rethinking How I Organize my Data


I’ve been thinking a lot about file structure and folder organization lately, particularly when it comes to managing and accessing data across multiple Macs. While I’m accustomed to my current folder structures, I feel that I’m not managing and organizing my data as efficiently as I could.

To that end, I feel that I need to overhaul my approach.

Here’s my proposal:

First off, I plan on moving all my current projects and data files from both laptop and desktop Macs over to Dropbox. Doing so will let me access these files from either machine I happen to be working from. Having these files on Dropbox will also permit me to access them from any other machine, so long as the computer I’m sitting at has a connection to the ‘net.

Older projects and data files that I rarely access will be archived onto a NAS device, which will, in turn, back up to both a secondary hard drive as well as a remote server (via Backblaze).

Furthermore, my plan is to add a larger capacity SSD to my Mac Pro (120 GB) for housing all my apps and the OS. I will also dedicate a separate hard drive to exclusively house all my music and movie files. I think I’ll also have a separate drive dedicated to photos, as well.

Of course, I’m looking for thoughts and feedback on my proposal. On paper, it seems like my new methodology could work, but I want to make sure I’m not overlooking something significant. How do you organize and share your data across multiple machines? Sound off in the comments below.


These beautiful and intelligent people wrote

  • Jose Gonzalez
    April 15, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    You mentioned a key device, in addition to your off-site storage plans. The NAS. I’ve been thinking of the same thing for home/work use in my home office. A colleague of mine showed me the QNAP, and I’m sure there are others. I think you have it all planned well, but the only thing that will always raise a flag for me is having live files on the web somewhere. I know we’re all connected almost 100% of the time, and having it available from wherever you are is awesome, but I don’t like depending on outside services. I would use the NAS for local/live storage, as well as backups, in addition to your offsite scheme. I think that’s what you have in mind anyways. So basically, you’re set IMHO. Once piece of advice, plan ahead in terms of storage capacity. In other words, whatever NAS you decide to have, may it be as expandable as you can get it.

  • kaitou
    April 15, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    I have two qualms about your proposed use of Dropbox:
    1.) Speed For current projects, this means slower access to the files you’re working on.
    2.) If the network is down, you can’t do any work.
    Using Dropbox for backups, fine. For your main copy, bad idea. Using a local NAS would be better, here; still accessible from multiple machines, faster and doesn’t care if the internet is up or not.

    Old projects could be put on the same NAS with outside and/or CD/DVD backups.

    For the truly paranoid (and, maybe, not so paranoid), I’d recommend compressing and encrypting any off-site backups.

    • Krishna
      April 15, 2012 at 3:33 pm

      Thanks, Kaitou. To be fair, I haven’t really noticed any delay or speed penalty when using Dropbox. In fact, because Dropbox copies the files locally within the Dropbox folder on all my machines, for all practical purposes, they operate as local copies when I use them. That would render point 1 and 2 moot…

      • kaitou
        April 15, 2012 at 3:56 pm

        OK, not familiar with the way dropbox works. I suppose you could share your dropbox folder between your machines in case you do need to move a file between them and the internet is down.

        The paranoia points still hold, I guess.

        • Daniel
          April 15, 2012 at 9:56 pm

          Dropbox is a program that installs on your computer. It works syncs locally with the net. If you install on multiple computers, it synchronizes. It works your local files, syncing them to the net. You don’t have to share the folder between machines, just install on multiple machines. Great program, and if the net is down, dropbox can sync over lan too. Great new feature

  • Coius
    April 18, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    I run a small home PC Repair business, and I run some pretty hefty equipment (complete with a Dell PowerEdge 830 w/ LSI BBU RAID card (RAID-10) With 4x 1TB Hitachi Enterprise drives. 2TB Total storage which I backup customer’s machines with encryption internally.

    What I would suggest is getting two equal drives (2TB/3TB) and throw both into the Mac Pro. the SSD will be the boot/App, then take the Mac Pro, use disk utility to mirror (Software RAID) the two drives. This will provide seemless redundancy preventing the mac pro from going down with live files while working.

    Then take a FW-800 (I know your mac pro has it) and get an external drive of equal or higher size and connect. Take Time Machine and have it do live backups of not only your app folder, but your data. That will cover accidental deletions.

    Also now is the time to invest in blu-ray. Mac will burn out of the box. it will see them as 25GB discs (or 50 if DL, stick with 25GB). Use something like Toast and I would say every month, check to see what you haven’t recently backed up and burn them to 3 (THREE) copies of BD-R. Best procedures is to play one at your house in a fire-safe box, place the second at a friend’s/neighbor’s and the third preferably in a safety-deposit box at a bank.

    This gives you hard copies and modern BD-R discs have anti-scratch coating that prevents data disasters from small scratches. 3 discs will ensure you have more than one location to retrieve.

    Use drop-box as an afterthought, but I have gone through so much with data to know better. I run a dedicated server for data but I still have a 2TB WD Green HDD in my main PC with the exact same data as the server, then I do BD-R backups to 5 (yes FIVE) physical locations.

    If you value your data, that would be your best way to backup. Toast will verify and I trust BD-R over tape. Tape only works till you need it and can be expensive for hardware.

    if you have a spare PC, you can get Windows/Linux and install FileZilla and setup SSH/SFTP/FTPS with a self-signed certificate. I do it on my server with a special setup of files I can access. It’s all encrypted through SSL. You will need to forward your ports, but if you setup your own server that’s a cheaper way to do it.

    This is what works for me. Even with server drives dying, I haven’t lost a lick of data in over 12 years from hardware failure. And my backup solution, while never fully implimented, has been routinely tested and I do verifications of discs at least 2x year. not a single BD-R has failed on that.

  • Coius
    April 18, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    I forgot, just turn your mac pro into the server. it supports SMB and AFP. There you go.