Saturday, May 1, 2010

Backup Applications for the Mac

I love backups.  They let me sleep well at night, they make me feel good in the morning, and that little pit of despair deep in my soul gets a little smaller every time I see my Time Machine icon spin.  So imagine my reaction when my wife forwarded me an email from her campus IT folks that had this to say about Time Machine after she inquired about why it didn't seem to be installed on her Mac:
"Time Machine is not an enterprise product so is basically banned on campus. It works well and is great for home use but the security issues on campus comes from the fact that it backs up without you thinking about it.  If someone sends you a file with SSNs in it, Time Machine backs it up.  If you delete that file and empty your trash, Time Machine still retains a copy of it.  Time Machine retains a lot of things that you intended to be deleted and never want back even."
The multiple layers of wrongness in that statement have confounded me for days.  Even better, the small pit of despair is now growing again.  So I'm spending my Saturday afternoon evaluating other backup applications for my wife's Time Machine-less laptop.

So far the leading contender is ChronoSync to do regular data protection tasks (backups, archives) of her home directory and Carbon Copy Cloner on a semi-regular basis for disaster recovery images.  CCC is awesome and has been forever but this is the first time I've ever tried ChronoSync.  It looks pretty nice.  I'm interested to see how it does after a week or two on my wife's laptop going back and forth to work every day when the storage device it wants to use isn't available.  The one thing I have found is that it can't automatically mount a remote share and use a disk image that's on the share.  It's not a big deal, but it would be nice to have.  Synk doesn't seem to support this either, so maybe it's not an oft requested feature.

Procedural note: At my wife's campus backups aren't banned, the genre of software known as "backup software" or "data protection software" as I far as I can find isn't banned, and the IT folks helpfully suggested to my wife that manually copying important data to a USB drive was an appropriate data protection method, so clearly copying data to some other location isn't banned.  As a result I don't think that by setting this up for her by request I'm causing my wife to violate any work policies surrounding data storage, protection, or retention.   For those of you following along at home: always check the fine print before futzing with a machine that isn't yours.

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