What are you going to do to back up those files? You need to copy them from your hard disk to some other type of medium. There are more hardware options than I could possibly do justice in this space, but a handful stand out, including one or two you don't have to spend any more money on.
Use the hardware Apple gave you your SuperDrive
You already own at least one suitable device your SuperDrive. A SuperDrive makes an excellent backup device, but the cost of media may be prohibitive.
Don't forget you can burn CD-R/RW as well as DVD-R and DVD-RW discs in a SuperDrive.
DVDs with a + in their name won't work in a SuperDrive.
DVDs: pluses and minuses
There are two competing recordable DVD formats available today. Both burn 5-inch 4.7 GB DVD discs. But while DVD+R and DVD-R (and their siblings DVD+RW and DVD-RW) do pretty much the same thing, they are incompatible with each other's hardware.
The situation is a lot like the old VHS vs. Beta format wars in videotape so many years ago.
Just be careful when you buy blank media if you buy DVD+ discs they won't work in your SuperDrive.
In other words, Macs use DVD-minus discs.
DVD-minus is not its real name. But calling it that works for me. Mac…Minus…makes it mnemonic.
The biggest issue is whether a SuperDrive will be cost effective. DVD-R and DVD-RW discs are cheap ($3-$8 per disc) and hold up to 4.7 GB of data. CD-R and CD-RW discs are even cheaper ($.03 $.50 per disc), but only hold 700 MB or less.
If your project and source materials are large, backing up may require dozens of discs, which means you'll have to baby-sit the process and spend a lot of time feeding discs to your SuperDrive.
You can, at least in theory, use 4.7 GB DVD-RW discs, which can be erased and reused. But Apple doesn't recommend DVD-RW discs and iDVD doesn't currently support them. I've had mixed results using DVD-RW discs with Dantz Development's Retrospect and Roxio Toast Titanium. They're slow as heck with Retrospect and I've had discs fail when used with both programs (and the Finder).
The nice thing about DVD-RW discs is that you can erase and reuse them again and again, and they're not much more expensive than blank DVD-R discs. DVD-R discs cost about $3 each (1x-2x) and $4 each for the faster-burning 4x. DVD-RW discs were selling from $7 to $15 each.
Here's a first the Apple-branded 1x-2x DVD-R discs, which are recommended by Apple and are certified to burn at 2x with iDVD 3, were the least expensive. And Apple's faster 4x discs are only a buck more than their 1x-2x.
Or use your camcorder
The other suitable device you might already own is a camcorder, which is a great way to back up movies. You use iMovie (or Final Cut Express or Pro) to export your movies to inexpensive DV tape in real time, so backing up an hour of movies will take an hour no more and no less and only cost a few bucks for a DV tape.
Here's how: Choose Export Movie from the File menu, then choose To Camera in the Export pop-up menu, and click Export. The movie will be exported to the tape in your camcorder.
If you ever need the movie again it will only take a few moments to re-import from your camcorder to the Mac using FireWire. Using your camcorder is often the most cost-effective way to reduce your need for expensive backup media such as DVD-R discs.
Speaking of inexpensive DV tapes, you might want to consider not erasing or reusing any of your source tapes, especially any with material that's worth saving. Then, in a worst-case scenario, you could re-edit from the original source tapes, which is often a better solution than losing the footage forever.
This has an added benefit: I've heard stories about cameras that chew up once-used tapes if you attempt to re-use them. It's never happened to me but I've heard enough stories about it that I rarely attempt to reuse my DVD tapes.
Other hardware solutions
Of course, you can use almost any kind of storage device for backups CD-R/RW, Zip, Jaz, optical disk, or tape. Or you might decide it's easier to back everything up to another hard drive. If you have fast Internet access, you can even back up files to a remote disk or if you're a .Mac subscriber, to your Apple iDisk.
One last device to consider if you back up a lot of data is a tape drive. The advantage of a tape drive is that the medium is inexpensive (per megabyte), transfer speeds are impressive, and the tapes hold massive quantities of data.
At the top of the tape-drive food chain are AIT (advanced intelligent tape) drives, which offer speeds up to 12 MB per second and as much as 260 GB of storage per tape. They're impressive looking beasts, as you can see in Figure 8.1.
Figure 8.1. LaCie (www.lacie.com) AIT drives start at $899; tapes hold 90 to 260 GB (compressed) and cost $70 to $100 each.
Think about how many unattended backups you could do with a 220 GB tape!
Optical vs. Magnetic Storage
Remember, no matter what kind of magnetic medium you use, whether it's in your camcorder or a high-falutin' AIT drive or a disc like a Zip or a Jaz or a FireWire hard drive, your data will always be less safe than if it's backed up to some kind of optical medium.
Why? Simple: The substrate of tape (the plastic tape itself) has a relatively short lifespan of only a few years. Also, anything recorded magnetically is subject to the vicissitudes of the Earth's magnetic field and those of other magnetic devices, which can screw up the intricately aligned patterns of iron particles embedded in the tape or disc. Plus, tape is somewhat fragile, and can easily become tangled, creased, or otherwise damaged.
In an optical medium (such as CD and DVD), your data is frozen into the actual physical structure of the material on the disc, and it can't be perturbed by anything as feeble as a household (or terrestrial) magnetic field. And it's encased in some pretty tough plastic, so it's well protected from environmental shocks.
Burning data onto DVD-R discs with the SuperDrive will protect it for a long time; backing up to tape will protect your data, but perhaps not as well or for as long. Caveat emptor.