How many ways are there to back up files on your Mac? How do you back up? CD? DVD? Time Machine? SuperDuper! or other back up software? Mac to Mac?
In the past few years Mac users have been treated to a dozen ways to back up files online. Online, as in, over the internet. Online back ups are relatively inexpensive but slow to set up and retrieve files. A new service specializes in Time Machine back ups.
How Many Back Up Methods Are There?
In the age when a Mac’s hard disk drive has more capacity for less, and should last many years, it’s also the most common component to fail.
I count a few dozen ways to back up Macs—all of them have shortcomings.
CDs and DVDs are slow and cumbersome, but give the added benefit of being able to back up away from home or office—perfect in case of a catastrophic event which destroys your Mac.
The problem, of course, is that our Mac collects more than just a few gigabytes of music, photos, movies, documents and files. CD and DVD back up can be painful.
SuperDuper! and Carbon Copy Cloner make excellent back ups from Mac to another hard disk drive. The back ups are fully bootable, too, which means you can be up and running again within minutes. Try that with Time Machine.
Time Machine is good for finding files that were but no longer are. If it’s a file that’s been around for more than an hour, Time Machine usually has a copy somewhere, and files are easier to find and retrieve.
Is The Online Back Up Craze Just A Craze?
Backing up a Mac to the cloud—an online back up over the internet—has become the early 21st century rage. Cloud back ups have one distinct advantage, and one distinct drawback.
The advantage is simple. Whatever back up system you use now on your Mac is doubled and off premise—not at home, not in the office—away from your Mac. The disadvantage is simple. The first back up of tens of gigabytes of photos, movies, music, and documents can day several days on a typical internet connection.
BackJack, one of the Mac’s more popular cloud-based back up systems, has an offsite back up feature called Continuum. It backs up your Time Machine back up. Again, there are advantages and disadvantages. Continuum only backs up at the end of the day when Time Machine finishes its daily back up.
What I like about Continuum is the level of control. You can back up everything or just select folders that are also backed up by Time Machine.
Continuum doesn’t just back up to BackJack’s servers. It will also back up elsewhere online, including your MobileMe iDisk location, or Amazon’s popular S3 storage. Files can be encrypted, too. Restoring is equally simple. Click the Restore tab. Select the folders you want, then click the Restore button.
Continuum has a self explanatory progress bar so you can see what’s being backed up or restored and how much time remains. Preferences are equally straightforward, limited to password and log file size.
Back Up Systems In The Cloud
Online back up systems are simple, almost elegant, usually set it and forget it. Except for that first huge back up of your critical files—movies, music, and photos may take a day to a week to back up to a so-called cloud service.
Competition is intense, services and features are similar, yet there’s a range of prices.
Most are capable of backing up both Mac and PC. Some are free for limited storage. Others have annual plans for personal use, and slightly more expensive for business use.
Among the most expensive with the least features is Apple’s MobileMe Backup. Clearly, Apple pays mere lip service to online back up plans.
BackJack offers a free trial and has both personal and business options. Likewise, Mozy has both Home and Pro versions. iBackup has standard and pro services and a free trial. iDrive has a two gigabyte free basic service and various tiers in the pro service.
BackBlaze differs a bit and offers online back ups, fully encrypted, but can also restore your data via DVD or USB drive via FedEx. Newcomer Twin features secure back up to multiple online services and web servers, plus it supports standard transfer protocols such as FTP, SFTP, AFP, Amazon S3, and WebDAV. Finally, CrashPlan has automatic back ups, free and limited for personal use, family, and friends—as well as a business Pro plan.
All the offsite services share a number of commonalities. They’re inexpensive. The first back up is slow (subsequent back ups are incremental, faster, and done in the background). Each Mac app is easy to set up and use. Restoring many files will take almost as much time as the original back up.
As always, our recommendation for a safe Mac back up involves multiple steps—Time Machine, and an extra hard disk drive. SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner for a bootable external hard disk drive. And, some form of offsite back up of critical files.