You can tell The Mac is Back™ because developers are writing great software for the Mac. One of the most important applications you’ll have on your Mac is the one you use for backup.
Regarding backup and synchronizing, I have two needs, but only one solution. Keeping a Mac’s important files backed up is critical.
Why? Look how many critical files are on your Mac these days. Digital photos, music, music from iTunes Music Store, email, spreadsheets, documents. The list goes on.
To get an idea of how critical, just give thought to this situation. You walk in, turn on your Mac, and nothing happens. Your Mac’s hard drive is deader than Dick Cheney’s aim.
What do you do? If you have a strategy for backing up, how long will it take to get your Mac up and running again?
I mentioned that I have two needs, but only one solution. The first need is basic backup of important files.
My solution for some time has been the one that’s most popular among Mac360 folks, SuperDuper! by ShirtPocket Software.
It clones your Mac’s hard drive to another hard drive, which can be bootable.
SD works well, is modestly priced, and comes with a gentle learning curve.
What other solutions are there? Plenty. The free and capable iBackup, though it does not do what SD does, the price is right.
Two other solutions I’ve looked at this week offer additional solutions to backup and a different approach.
The first is Lifeboat from Mojave Shade. This is an attractive looking backup solution, though priced more at the high end.
Lifeboat views backups from a 1-2-3 perspective. No. 1 is Where. Where do you want to back up your data? To a local folder? A Windows hard drive? Or, your .Mac account?
No. 2 is What. That’s the list of files and folders you must have duplicated somewhere else, preferably out of the office or your home.
No. 3 is When. Lifeboat has a scheduler so you can manage backups when you want and need, rather than at an inconvenient time.
The whole process is 1-2-3 simple. Select where you want the files and folders to go, select which files and folders to go, then select when (or how often).
Smart Folders are all the rage these days on Macs, and Lifeboat follows suit with Smart Groups. This can be a whole set of files to back up from one destination to another, while another Smart Group sends different files to a different location.
There’s notifications that the job is done and worked as expected. And, there’s the “restore” feature, one of the most important you’ll need.
For me, restore is where it’s at. With Lifeboat, restore is just a reverse of the set up process. Select the files you want restored (click for a whole folder, or click only individual files), and click.
The backup directory structure is identical to the original. I like that, as I tend to know where my files are.
Lifeboat’s interface is simple and straightforward and very Mac-like, so you’ll get it up and running quickly. Set up a few folders as a backup test. Then test. Then do more, until you’re comfortable.
One more thing, Lifeboat is new, and I ran into a few quirks. A couple of times, Lifeboat froze and had to be killed by Activity Monitor.
Not quite so new, but nearly as simple and straightforward, is MimMac. It’s one third the price of Lifeboat, but is a decent alternative for saving files on your Mac; backup, syncrhonize, merge, clone.
Like SuperDuper!, MimMac has plenty of capability, especially with full clone backups, and synchronization, yet there’s a gentle learning curve to add filters, exclusions, even mirroring.
MimMac, like SD, can handle incremental backups, repair permissions on the source volume, and so on. MimMac is more like SD than Lifeboat, and the file exclusion process is even easier than SD.
This is a straightforward Mac backup application that is worthy of consideration.
However, all these applications fail at one particular aspect of my “backup” strategy that’s becoming more important and critical. Keeping my desktop Mac in sync with my laptop Mac (I didn’t say PowerBook because I’m drooling over a new MacBook Pro with Intel Inside).
It’s not that many of the Mac backup applications won’t keep my Documents folder in sync. There must be a full dozen Mac applications that will do that.
My Documents folder doesn’t hold everything I need. While I can keep my Mac applications on each Mac, there’s always a host of other files which need to remain in synchronization and they’re scattered all over the Mac.
For example, all the Mail files are in /Username/Library/Mail, but the preferences for Mail is in the /Username/Library/Preferences folder. Other Mac applications have important files which need to be synchronized between desktop and laptop.
Those files are scattered over your Mac using no particular science I know, except maybe random (not really; it just seems that way). Some files are in /Username/Library/Application Support, others are simply dropped into /Username/Library, still others remain in the Application folder.
See the problem? True file synchronization between Macs is not a problem easily solved. For now, I’m using Econ’s ChronoSync which lets me pick and choose which files to sync, and which direction to sync. That works well, but is not convenient to setup.
I have additional backup solutions to report later this week. What do you use to backup your Mac? How do you synchronize files between two Macs?