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Article 4 - Simple local backup solutions

Hopefully, by now you are beginning to see the benefits of spending 5 minutes and day or a week updating your backup. But what solutions are best?

I like simple solutions as I have found that if they are too complicated they won't get followed and before you know where you are you have no relevant backup left.

I favour both a local and a remote backup. A local backup for convenience and speed of restores whilst a remote backup will cover you should there be a disaster at your place of work or with a mobile device. As a rule of thumb, local backups are much quicker to restore from than remote backups.

What do I mean by a local backup? This is where you physically have the backup device within the same building as the computer you want to backup. So in its simplest form, you can purchase a 1Tb mobile hard drive for £50.00 attach it to any Mac running 10.5 or later and use Apple's built-in backup solution called TimeMachine to back it up. I like to suggest that you eject the mobile hard drive after each backup, keep it in a desk drawer and then set your iCal to remind you every Friday to re-connect the mobile drive and the backup will update from last time. TimeMachine is a simple solution and a great fall-back position, although it can take hours to re-build a whole Mac. https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT201250

If time is of the essence when it comes to a full restore e.g. you are backing up any sort of Mac server then I recommend Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) as an ideal local backup solution. It costs £28.00 and clones the entire contents of your hard drive to an external backup drive. The advantage of cloning is that should you have a hardware issue with your Mac or its hard drive then the cloned drive can be moved to another Mac and following a reboot from the cloned drive, the spare Mac becomes to all intense and purposes the original Mac with the exact same settings, software etc. You can be up and running again in a few minutes. https://bombich.com

Carbon Copy Cloner also has a network feature that I like to take advantage of whenever I can. It will clone the contents of your Macs hard drive to a backup drive on another Mac on the same network as you. So this would still be considered a local backup as the backup would remain within the same building but the backup Mac could be in another part of building thereby spreading your risk of the same disaster striking in two locations. This is taken a stage further with CCC by doing a clone across the internet to another Mac in a separate location but I will discuss this in more detail in my next article.

Another simple backup application I like is called CrashPlan. It is free and again backups to a locally attached hard drive although it would prefer the drive attached permanently. The software can be a little confusing to configure so you may need to be patient or get expert advice but I like to use it to configure multiple Macs on a network to backup up to a host Mac that has a large drive attached for all the CrashPlans backups. This is particularly useful for mobile laptop users who are in and out of the office and by configuring it correctly you can get a snapshot of their laptops once in a 24-hour window whenever they return to the office. Similar to CCC above, CrashPlan can be extended to backing up to a different location via the internet or even a professional data centre. https://www.crashplan.com/en-us/download/

In all of the above local backup solutions, it is crucial that you get familiar with their methods of reporting that the backup has completed successfully or not. Without the user spending 5 seconds a day satisfying themselves that the backup has executed successfully then you could be brewing up an even bigger problem. If uncertain how to check then please take expert advice.

Hopefully, you can see that for very little outlay you can implement a simple yet robust local backup solution that requires minimal administration. Compare the cost of £28.00 for CCC and £50.00 for a 1Tb mobile HD to the cost of re-creating your data!

In the next article, we look at simple remote backup solutions (sometimes called cloud backup solutions).