This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 1998-06-08 at 12:00 p.m.
The permanent URL for this article is: http://tidbits.com/article/4924
Include images: Off

Have You Backed Up Today? Part 2

by Adam C. Engst

In TidBITS-432 last week, I talked about the importance of backing up and offered some food for thought when considering different methods of safeguarding your important (and not-so-important) data. This week, I'll look at backup devices and software.

<http://db.tidbits.com/article/04917>

Backup Devices -- Any storage device can act as a backup device, but that doesn't mean that you should rely on just any storage device. Here are the main possibilities for everyday Mac users; I won't discuss expensive high-end stuff like 8 mm tape, digital linear tape (DLT), or autoloaders. Dantz Development has a Web page of similar information, including a cost-comparison table.

<http://www.dantz.com/backup_hardware/ hoptions.html>

<http://db.tidbits.com/article/04626>

<http://www.dantz.com/dantz_products/cdr.html>

Backup Software -- Backups don't just happen on their own, although some people feel they should. After you've purchased and set up a backup device, you must have software to handle the details of copying your files. Since at its heart, all a backup program does is copy files, there are a variety of different programs that you could conceivably use for backup. They fall into three different categories: true backup programs, file copying utilities, and file synchronization utilities.

I don't consider a program to be a true backup program unless backup is its primary function. It should be able to perform full and incremental (only changed files) backups to a wide variety of media. You should be able to schedule backups, create multiple historical backup sets, and run backups unattended. High-end backup programs can back up over networks and work with different platforms. True backup programs may not a use Finder-readable format for backups, which enables them to compress and encrypt backups as well.

File copying and file synchronization utilities are fairly similar but differ in focus. Utilities like SpeedDoubler, the now-defunct CopyDoubler, and others focus primarily on enhancing the process of copying files in the Finder. These utilities may offer features for copying only changed files and scheduling copies, but they lack the features and the depth of a true backup program. One interesting entry in this category is DeskTape from Optima Technologies, which enables you to mount a DAT tape on the desktop like any other disk, albeit a tremendously slow one.

<http://www.connectix.com/html/speeddoubler.html>
<http://www.optimatech.com/DTape.html>

File synchronization utilities like Qdea's Synchronize Pro are designed to synchronize files between hard disks, often a desktop Mac and a PowerBook, but they usually claim backup capabilities as well. They can copy only changed files and can sometimes be automated. Unfortunately, they too lack the depth of true backup programs, generally being unable to use multiple backup sets, keep historical backups, or compress data.

<http://www.qdea.com/syncpro.html>

Both types of utilities work well for creating simple working backups, but to my mind, relying on working backups to a single device is asking for trouble. To make such a strategy safe, you should back up regularly to multiple disks, include all appropriate files, and rotate backup sets manually such that you have some level of historical backup. It's not impossible to do this by hand, but it requires thought and regular effort.

Several mainstream true backup programs are available, though many others, such as Redux and FastBack, have disappeared over time.

<http://www.dantz.com/dantz_products/retro.html>
<http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/content/pcwk/1432/ pcwk0001.html>

<http://db.tidbits.com/article/04833>
<http://www.dantz.com/dantz_products/ express.html>

<http://www.dantz.com/dantz_products/dfd.html>
<http://www.dantz.com/dantz_products/dfp.html>

<http://www.novastor.com/backup/datasheets/ nmac.html>

<http://www.charismac.com/backup_mastery.html>

<http://www.softarch.com/us/products.services/ spec.sheets/DataSaver.ss.html>

<http://www.highware.com/main-pbu.html>

<http://www.cheyenne.com/Product-Info/windowsnt/ arcserve65-nt-menu.html>
<http://www.seagatesoftware.com/bewinnt/>
<http://www.storage.ibm.com/software/adsm/ adsmhome.htm>

More Backup Thoughts -- The third part of this series will talk briefly about shareware backup programs, plus look at a new Internet backup service for the Mac and services you can turn to in case of disaster.