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Camera Cards for Wallet Backups — SDXC vs CFExpress Type B, APFS Encryption

re: SDXC and CFExpress

OWC Atlas camera cards

UPDATE: as it turns out, using an APFS encrypted volume on SDXC cards is just too slow (around 34MB/sec), no matter the card reader. As I am no longer willing to take the risk of unencrypted data in a wallet backup, that means switching to CFExpress Type B cards, which offer outstanding performance with APFS encryption. See the encryption discussion at bottom.

Wallet Backups

I still use what is now derisively referred to as a “Dad wallet”. Yeah, I’m a dad thrice-over and I sure like my wallet. There is no way to carry that stuff otherwise, and I do not want to rely on electronic stuff on a phone I might lose.

Your “Dad wallet” or similar is an outstanding place to carry a capacious backup what camera cards now at 1TB at very reasonable prices. A purse or similar works great too, or it can be taped inside clothing or similar, if there is a concern of grab-and-run theft. Or under a floor mat of a car, or a dog collar, etc.

Suggested card for wallet backups: OWC Atlas Pro CFExpress Type B

Backup means more than just photos. Actually, the really important stuff besides photos includes financial records of all kinds.

Some people stick stuff on iCloud and then lose it all or some people just fail to backup properly... live and learn.

In addition to financial records, a prime example for me would be my backend server code written over 15 years, which represents at least 3000 hours or so of work—impossible to replace without a year’s work.

Do I want to count on my house not burning down with my backups and having up-to-date backups somewhere else? No way.

So I carry my critical data in my “Dad wallet” on camera cards. If everything else fails, the most important stuff is all there.

Not for heavy duty usage, but that's OK

Camera cards are not designed for frequent heavy writing, so I am not suggesting erasing and writing a backup every day or even every week, or in any sort of constant-use scenario on the computer. That said, the highest grade camera cards l ike OWC Atlas can take a heck of a beating for years.

In any case, by using proper backup software like Carbon Copy Cloner, the only writing that happens are incremental changes, which camera cards can easily manage.

Jason W writes:

Not sure I follow your logic. Why not cloud storage using an automatic backup solution? Carrying critical data can be made safe by an encrypted container but it still seems a risk still to carry.

DIGLOYD: Cloud backup is generally a good thing. I would encourage it as an adjunct, but never alone/solely.

Security threats are constant, including permanent loss of access, with new threats constantly emerging, and that’s a never-ending issue. I will not put my eggs in one basket. I see Cloud as an adjunct, but only that.

A few years ago and lasting for several years, Apple was locking me out of my account every two weeks or so, apparently because it was being assaulted by hackers. While it was never compromised, there is no way I want to deal with that kind of headache when my critical data is involved. “Works for me” is the common response; of course if works... until it fails. I don’t buy home insurance because I’m hoping my house burns down. It’s not about the odds, it’s about the stakes.

Concerns about cloud backup should not be dismissed lightly:

  • Understanding and mastering what you have to do to backup just the stuff you want, whether it actually *is* being backed up, etc.
  • How to regularly verify backup integrity of large amounts of data (could take days to download/verify)?
  • OS and software issues could deprive you of access just when you might need it.
  • Bugs can create all kinds of “fun” problems.
  • Cloud is an entirely additional attack vector over and above simple local backups.
  • Ensuring encryption of the data (if offered) so that no one else can get at it in the Cloud, particularly if account is compromised. But if the account is compromised, all is lost, and not just for your data. And you have to trust the provider and some have falsely represented the security of their offerings in the past.
  • Never lapse in payment to the cloud service, or they might erase your data in short order.
  • Death and incapacitation: heirs could be locked out, and before payment can be dealt with; possibly complete loss. Extra work to nail this down, if there is even a process for it available.

Got all this nailed down? That’s a lot of stuff to understand and be sure of, and it’s an ongoing task. It is why I would never use Cloud as my primary backup.

Encryption

Carrying unencrypted data on an SDXC card in a wallet is a security risk. I never liked that, but for a while it was not a significant concern for me. But as my sensitive data has grown (tax stuff and similar), it is now a concern I cannot set aside.

A good option is to erase the card to an APFS encrypted volume.

SDXC

On the plus side, most computers have built-in SDXC card readers.

But with SDXC cards, APFS encryption results in very glacially slow write performance of around 34 MB/sec , no matter which card reader. Read performance is full speed.

If the data is only a few tens of gigabytes, this is probably accceptable since incremental backups/clones should be the process. But for larger cards, it’s just too slow. Use SDXC only if the amount of data is small.

CFExpress Type B

CFExpress Type B cards offer up to their full performance when encrypted and using a fast reader like the OWC Atlas FXR, or at least 2/3 of full speed with a USB reader like the OWC Atlas Dual CFexpress + SD Card Card Reader, and that’s still twice the speed of the fasted unencrypted SDXC card. So CFExpress Type B is better in every way than SDXC, except that you’ll need a separate card reader.

An excellent choice for this backup purposes is a card like the 512GB OWC Atlas Pro CFExpress Type B memory card.

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