Let OS X’s built-in back-up tools take the strain for pain-free, effective file security
The built-in back-up tools in OS X – Versions and Time Machine – absolve you of all responsibility for securing your files, because once they’ve been set up they’ll keep running in the background whenever your Mac is on.
Versions saves incremental snapshots of any file you’re working on in a Versionssavvy application. Most better-supported productivity applications on the App Store do this, and you’ll know if yours does by looking for Revert to... on the File menu. The fly-out linked from this entry shows a series of automatically generated versions for the document you’re working on.
If you take your edits one step too far, you can roll them back to a previous state by selecting the last-known good position from the menu or picking Browse All Versions... that lines up the current state alongside a series of previous editions, allowing you to roll back and revert as necessary.
However, even though Versions is useful, it still isn’t an adequate replacement for a dedicated back-up routine, as each version is saved on your Mac, along with the master, so a hardware problem could wipe you out entirely.
Time Machine, on the other hand, creates external backups of your data on an attached drive or a Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive, keeping the failsafes outside of the drive on which the masters were created. It requires a Mac- (not Windows-) formatted drive. Connect the drive to your machine, use Disk Utility to format it as Mac OS Extended (Journaled), if it isn’t already, then open System Preferences. Here, click Time Machine, click the switch to enable it and select your drive as the backup destination. If you want to work with a network drive (NAS), check the packaging for compatibility as manufacturers routinely use this as a selling point. Time Machine will now run permanently in the background, initially copying your system drive in its entirety and then creating hourly backups of any file that has changed in the previous 60 minutes.
Time Machine also works natively with many OS X applications, such as iPhoto/ Photos for OS X and Contacts, allowing you to reinstate individual records within their libraries without rolling back the whole database. Just make sure the application is running and has focus before stepping into the Time Machine archive.
Duplicating data with Carbon Copy Cloner is an easy first step into the world of backing up.