Which backup method should you use?

Not all au­to­matic backup meth­ods use the same fre­quency.

Macworld (USA) - - Contents - BY GLENN FLEISHMAN

You’ve prob­a­bly heard it dozens of times: It’s im­por­tant to back up your data. Ap­ple has Time Ma­chine to help you get on a reg­u­lar backup rou­tine, but are there other meth­ods you should be us­ing?

Dif­fer­ent backup meth­ods use dif­fer­ent fre­quen­cies by which they push up­dates to an archive. When eval­u­at­ing these meth­ods, ask your­self: How many copies are made? How and where is the data stored? How se­curely is data locked away, both phys­i­cally and with en­cryp­tion? And, of­ten the most im­por­tant, how re­cent?

Here are a few pop­u­lar meth­ods for con­sumer back­ups:

File syn­chro­niza­tion ser­vices: These ser­vices, in­clud­ing Drop­box, typ­i­cally mon­i­tor par­tic­u­lar des­ig­nated ar­eas of your Mac’s stor­age de­vice and up­date changes im­me­di­ately.

Lo­cal backup soft­ware: Apps like Time Ma­chine per­form back­ups on a reg­u­lar in­ter­val, which can some­times be se­lected.

In­ter­net-hosted backup ser­vices: Ser­vices such as Back­blaze can per­form con­tin­u­ous back­ups, but may not be as up to date as a sync­ing ser­vice.

Why do these backup meth­ods act so dif­fer­ently? It has to do with the com­pu­ta­tional ef­fort to in­dex files with­out burn­ing up so many CPU cy­cles that your sys­tem slows down.

Drop­box and its cat­e­gory aren’t tech­ni­cally backup ser­vices, although they do hold ar­chives and re­vi­sions. Be­cause they mon­i­tor rel­a­tively few files or di­rec­to­ries, with a de­cent broad­band con­nec­tion, they can stay right on top of things.

If you need al­most in­stan­ta­neous backup of doc­u­ments as they change it, a sync ser­vice is the way to go, but read their sup­port doc­u­ments to make sure they re­ally do start to up­load changes as soon as you save a file, even an open one. Drop­box has a lengthy ex­pla­na­tion of how the soft­ware tries to bal­ance sys­tem and net­work load and fresh­ness ( go.mac­world.com/imdb).

Time Ma­chine and sim­i­lar lo­cal backup soft­ware tries to bal­ance drive and com­puter ac­tiv­ity with hav­ing cur­rent files, and Ap­ple chose to go hourly. You can force a Time Ma­chine backup at any time from the Time Ma­chine menu. Other­wise, Time Ma­chine uses the Spot­light in­dex, which macos up­dates con­tin­u­ously as files are changed, to fig­ure out what new and changed files to add.

Ser­vices like Back­blaze that archive files to cloud stor­age work typ­i­cally much like Time Ma­chine, but of­ten have a dif­fer­ent backup fre­quency ap­proach as well. For Back­blaze, users can set the fre­quency to Con­tin­u­ously, but that doesn’t mean “im­me­di­ately.” As the com­pany ex­plains on a sup­port page ( go.mac­world.com/cnmn), throt­tling CPU usage means it can take as long as three hours to up­date a given changed file. ■

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