Alternative to Time Machine

Alameda

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Original poster
Jun 22, 2012
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Apple’s Time Machine is unquestionably awful. Backup and restore times are insane, sometimes taking many hours or hanging outright. I’m restoring my laptop now. After an hour, it finally displayed that there was 1 hour seven minutes remaining. I went out to lunch, came back, and it reports that 1 hour, 35 minutes is remaining. I’ve put up with this for years, and there’s always another Tech Note or excuse.

So I would like stop using this terrible software, if there’s a good alternative. I don’t mind paying, but I just want a basic incremental backup-to-my-external-drive sort of program.
 

hobowankenobi

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Aug 27, 2015
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on the land line mr. smith.
Hey -

Most paid BU software will do what you want and more, like bootable clones. A gajillion threads you can search for more info. Common paid BU tools:

Carbon Copy Cloner
SuperDuper
Get Backup Pro
ChronoSync


Get Backup Pro may be the easiest and lowest cost. CCC is the most popular, and one of the most feature rich.

Probably a dozen more, good, but less popular tools.

One that is a bit different, but I like overall is the built-in sync and backup tool on a Synology NAS: Drive

Yes, you need to buy a NAS, but if you want always-on, always backing up, and possibly redundant drives, a NAS is a good option. Not to mention you can back up multiple devices, different platforms...and still use other features (file server, fily syncing, transfering, etc). Backing up a laptop over the internet is doable too.

The downside would be more to buy, configure/setup, but I say the upside is well worth it.
 

Alameda

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 22, 2012
623
110
Hey -

Most paid BU software will do what you want and more, like bootable clones. A gajillion threads you can search for more info. Common paid BU tools:

Carbon Copy Cloner
SuperDuper
Get Backup Pro
ChronoSync


Get Backup Pro may be the easiest and lowest cost. CCC is the most popular, and one of the most feature rich.

Probably a dozen more, good, but less popular tools.

One that is a bit different, but I like overall is the built-in sync and backup tool on a Synology NAS: Drive

Yes, you need to buy a NAS, but if you want always-on, always backing up, and possibly redundant drives, a NAS is a good option. Not to mention you can back up multiple devices, different platforms...and still use other features (file server, fily syncing, transfering, etc). Backing up a laptop over the internet is doable too.

The downside would be more to buy, configure/setup, but I say the upside is well worth it.
Wow! Thank you so much for taking the time to write all that! I’m looking at my new Mac restoring the backup. It now says there are 3 hours, 30 minutes left to restore at — get this — 25 MB/s!

I canceled the last restore, and attached a USB Type-C cable (the one that came with the Mac) directly from my USB Type-C Drobo to the Mac. 25 MB/s to restore a backup from a five-drive RAID. It should be closer to 125 MB/s.

I really like the Synology idea. I have a Drobo 5c, so I have all the drives already. I just emailed Synology to recommend a model which is best for me.
 

hobowankenobi

macrumors 65816
Aug 27, 2015
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on the land line mr. smith.
I have used both Drobo and Synology, and strongly recommend the Synology. Not perfect...but nothing in the consumer price range is.

The best part is all you can do with it....but don't feel compelled. Backing up and sharing is enough to justify the cost.

I really think their Quick Connect is under-rated. Makes it easy and secure to get data or backup anywhere you have a network connection, without having to know an IP, fuss with firewall rules, or even touch a router.

One thing to consider: The cheapest boxes, are, well, cheap. throughput can be limited by many things, including RAM and CPU. There is a reason high-end file servers have lots of RAM and large CPUs. Same for all brands; low-end choices will be the slowest. For backups, slow and steady is fine most of the time, as it chugs away in the background. File serving, or syncing...one may expect better performance.

I would not recommend their low end J series. Pretty aniemic...slow, and won't run the more modern and robust BTRFS file system.

Compare 3 options for 2 bays NAS

You don't have to go 2 bay...but it is great to have the ability to have drive redundancy. Could go 3 or more if you are looking at many TB of data.
 
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An-apple-a-day

macrumors newbie
Mar 31, 2010
26
39
Apple’s Time Machine is unquestionably awful. Backup and restore times are insane, sometimes taking many hours or hanging outright. I’m restoring my laptop now. After an hour, it finally displayed that there was 1 hour seven minutes remaining. I went out to lunch, came back, and it reports that 1 hour, 35 minutes is remaining. I’ve put up with this for years, and there’s always another Tech Note or excuse.

So I would like stop using this terrible software, if there’s a good alternative. I don’t mind paying, but I just want a basic incremental backup-to-my-external-drive sort of program.
I wouldn't say unquestionably. I've been using Time Machine for years, backing up 3 Macs with no less than 512GB storage used (each). It's been quite reliable, too, except for the first couple of years after the feature was first introduced. I've also on 3 different occasions needed to do full restores (HD failure on one machine, 2 SSD failures on another). The restores took a long time but worked perfectly. Sometimes TM does automatic validations of a network backup volume, though, which takes a long time.

TM works quite differently for NAS volumes (e.g., Time Capsule) vs. DAS volumes. It's no slower than Carbon Copy Cloner for DAS volumes. I also use CCC (DAS) for maintaining a a bootable clone in case of total catastrophic failure (and can also recover particular folders and files from there, too). TM is always there always on and that has great benefit. So TM and CCC serve different purposes for me (with some overlap) and I use both.

So it comes down to what NAS is being backed up to (assuming you're backing up over network via TM). If it's a Time Capsule, there could be a problem with that. Your WiFi could be a source of the problem, too, if you're connecting wirelessly. At home I use Time Machine to back up to Time Capsule and at work, I use TM to back up to Synology and QNAP NAS devices. I've had pretty much no issues with any of those. Maybe once in a year there will be a backup failure (even to the Synology) but then it works successfully the next time around (or a backup re-attempt can be invoked manually). The Synology (esp. something at mid-tier level) is definitely faster and more reliable than a Time Capsule. It has a better CPU in there and far more robust software than what's embedded in the TC. It's certainly more expensive, though, than what the TC was.

So don't forget you can also back up to local disk volume (DAS) via Time Machine (way faster and more reliable than over the network). And over the network, a Synology will offer more robust functionality and faster speeds than, say, a TC (still won't be fast, though).

Finally, while my own home TM to TC (WiFi) has been absolutely trouble free for several years (including having to do some complete Mac restores), I do have this sitting in my Amazon wish list right now: Synology 2 bay NAS DiskStation DS718+ (Diskless)
You'd have to order the drives for that separately. WD Red would be a decent choice for those.
 
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An-apple-a-day

macrumors newbie
Mar 31, 2010
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When you do a backup (or full restore), there will be multiple clusters of thousands (or even tens of thousands) of tiny files to back up (or restore) over time as the task progresses. That's true for TM, CCC, or anything else. That's why the progress becomes like frozen molasses (or even goes backwards) for extended periods. When the backup/restore process gets to larger files, it will pick up steam. That is, unless you're having intermittent network issues...
 

MRrainer

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Aug 8, 2008
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It's not awful.
It's just very efficient (due to the use of hardlinks) and if you have lots of files and the backup device itself is slow, it's going to be slow.
A traditional backup will take up much, much more space for the same amount of "history" and will never offer the same granularity as TimeMachine.
 

hobowankenobi

macrumors 65816
Aug 27, 2015
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It's not awful.
It's just very efficient (due to the use of hardlinks) and if you have lots of files and the backup device itself is slow, it's going to be slow.
A traditional backup will take up much, much more space for the same amount of "history" and will never offer the same granularity as TimeMachine.

While I don't hate TM, I would disagree about space. Enterprise backups actually have compression, and TM does not. As for versioning–how many versions you have –TM does not let you choose...it just fills the volume with history. Great tools do let you choose.

Even Synology Drive lets you pick how many copies you want to keep of each file, and how long to keep copies of files that have been deleted. And it is a free tool (once you have their hardware). Enterprise tools easily outclass it.

It ain't bad, especially for the price (free)...but there are better, more manageable and more feature-rich tools out there to be had.

I tend to use TM in addition to another tool. More is better. Spread the eggs to other baskets.
 

Alameda

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 22, 2012
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I want to thank all of you very much for this great discussion. I haven’t contacted Synology yet, but that’s what I’m thinking about.
 

MRrainer

macrumors 65816
Aug 8, 2008
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Zurich, Switzerland
While I don't hate TM, I would disagree about space. Enterprise backups actually have compression, and TM does not. As for versioning–how many versions you have –TM does not let you choose...it just fills the volume with history. Great tools do let you choose.

Even Synology Drive lets you pick how many copies you want to keep of each file, and how long to keep copies of files that have been deleted. And it is a free tool (once you have their hardware). Enterprise tools easily outclass it.

It ain't bad, especially for the price (free)...but there are better, more manageable and more feature-rich tools out there to be had.

I tend to use TM in addition to another tool. More is better. Spread the eggs to other baskets.

Hardlinks are way more efficient than compression or even deduplication.
They are potentially slower, though.

Of course, do enterprise tools outclass it.

That's why I wouldn't use Synology either but a ZFS-based fileserver.
 

gnasher729

macrumors P6
Nov 25, 2005
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Here's the thing where Time Machine absolutely excels: People use it. Time Machine is better than any backup system that you don't use. A slow Time Machine restore is 100 times better than having no backup when something breaks down, and >90% of end users would be in that situation at some point without Time Machine.

I know my hard drive will give up at some point in the future. And the restore will take a long time - but I know it will just work.

PS. Compression in my case would be rather useless, because all the stuff that takes up lots of space is already compressed. (Music, videos, audiobooks, photos). My backup drive is much bigger than everything else, so saving space is no requirement. Deduplication is very useful in the enterprise, where you have 1000 users and they all have identical operating system, apps, lots of emails are duplicated and so on. For my Mac, it would be useless.
 
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honestone33

macrumors 6502a
Here's the thing where Time Machine absolutely excels: People use it. Time Machine is better than any backup system that you don't use. A slow Time Machine restore is 100 times better than having no backup when something breaks down, and >90% of end users would be in that situation at some point without Time Machine.

I know my hard drive will give up at some point in the future. And the restore will take a long time - but I know it will just work.
Of course Time Machine is better than not doing any backups at all! But I could say the same thing about SuperDuper! (SD), and others who use Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) would say the same. The distinct advantage both of them have is that they create bootable backups, and it definitely makes either recovery, or installing a new version of the Mac OS and recovering needed information from a backup, MUCH, MUCH easier than with Time Machine.
 

HDFan

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Jun 30, 2007
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but I know it will just work.
Certainly not my experience, which is just the opposite. I've lost count of the number of times TM backups have failed. Most often it just requires starting the backup again from scratch, but in one instance I was trying to to a restore and both TM backups were bad.

Just be sure you have a 3-3-3 or similar backup strategy with 2 of those backups not TM.
 

ispcolohost

macrumors newbie
Nov 28, 2017
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8
I may be an unusual use case, but I can't keep TM running to Synology for longer than a month without complete failure. Either the sparse image becomes unmountable, or some other similar error occurs. I run snaps on the Synology and can roll back, but the image is still unusable, probably due to information being out of sync between it and the Mac. Now, I'm storing far more data than most, 3TB+, and I have 30+ TB on the Synology, so perhaps some combo of that is what is making it unreliable, but suffice it to say I can't trust it.
 

Erehy Dobon

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Feb 16, 2018
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Like HDFan I have seen TimeMachine backups fail. They often start working after I start a new backup. Once or twice I was forced to reformat the backup drive whether it was directly connected to the Mac or to the AirPort Extreme that I used as a TM host.

After several of those episodes, my confidence in TimeMachine is shattered. Did it really capture everything? Is the failed backup from x date still usable? How do I know that TM incrementally backed up everything from the last known backup? There are no answers to any of these.

So what is a failed TM backup? Does that count for one backup? A half of a backup? Zero?

Trust is earned not given. The TimeMachine function has lost my trust.

"If it's worth backing up, it's worth backing up twice" --old system administrator's adage

Today, I still make bootable clones after major system changes (e.g., major OS upgrade). I stick some key data files in iCloud. I put some data on external drives. I have one bootable backup and a hodgepodge of backup locations for various items including an allegedly "full" backup on TimeMachine (yeah, right).

Of all of my various backup sources, I'd start with the bootable clone first.
 
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ispcolohost

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Nov 28, 2017
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I'm trying out CCC now, to the Synology, and can see it's really just using rsync behind the scenes, so that combined with the find and replace corrupted files (which turns on rsync's checksum-based sync flag instead of date/size match) will ensure the synology has an accurate copy of all of my data files. I care about that more than having a bootable disk image. However, it isn't really set up to work like TM with a date in time file-level restore so I'm not sure I'll stick with it.

I'd really prefer a backup tool that gives me file-level restores to specific dates/times, but also true full + differential backup scheduling. CCC just wants to keep that one remote copy up to date, and then I'd have to rely on snapshots on the array to roll back.

Even when TM was working, I really don't like the idea of every backup after the initial bundle creation operating on the assumption that doing a differential from that one full results in an accurate copy. I'd prefer to have a full every week or two with diffs off that in between. I can always do dedupe on the synology if I really needed the space.

I'm going to see if Acronis does this.
 

Weaselboy

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ispcolohost

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Nov 28, 2017
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Unfortunately that's not applicable to a NAS target; it has to be an APFS-based target, i.e. local storage. It's also nowhere near as easy as a traditional file level backup software's scheduled backup tasks and restore functionality (my experience is only on the data center side). CCC's back in time concept requires you to know what date a particular file you want may have existed, or what date the one with the characteristics you wanted may have existed, because the only way to see them is to list your snaps, click to mount it, then dig down to see if what you want is there. That can get tedious very quickly if you're looking for something across weeks.

As I've been letting things run, I've been digging around, and am narrowing in on Acronis, Chronosync, and Retrospect. Acronis and Retrospect both have characteristics like the enterprise software I'm used to (Netbackup, Veeam, Avamar), where they back up to proprietary storage or data files, however they can also create bootable images since they're consumer-focused, they keep a catalog of the data so you can navigate to what you want to restore, can do change block tracking so you're not backing up the same data repeatedly while still allowing for new full backups to be taken so you're not entirely reliant on that single first copy, etc. Chronosync's docs are a bit light on tech detail so I am going to have to try it out to see exactly how it works in this regard, but it sounds like it may be a less complex option which checks the same boxes for my single computer deployment scenario.
 

Datasdreams

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Feb 8, 2020
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My rule of back up is to keep anything important in 3 different physical locations. On the system, reliable local backup and a remote copy. Going Backblaze B2 for remote, though I could sync to my old Synology NAS if I set it up at work. Might do both.

I've had more trouble with Time Machine than luck anymore and giving up and evaluating other options.

Retrospect... Now that takes me back. First Mac backup software I ever used. Rock solid until they fell on hard times. Like many people, I switched to Time Machine. This is the first time I've seen it mentioned in years. I'm checking it out. Definitely appears to be bargain if you have multiple computers to back up on the same network with the Desktop version ($119 includes license for 6 computers). Solo for a single computer is competitive.

I trust Carbon Copy Cloner. I've used it for imaging and keeping a bootable backup for years. I'm finally looking at it as a continuous back up solution. Pricing is fair and Bombich doesn't force you into subscription model and been a Mac stalwart for years. Giving that a deeper look as well.

I don't trust Acronis. There are enough complaints for their Windows product over the years, and the Mac is a second thought, pricing starts high and they force you into subscription for anything but the base product.

I've got a Synology NAS, and Synology Drive isn't the most intuitive app and almost too simple. This is really designed to backup your user files, not your system. CCC bootable backup for that. The price is right at free.

I'll report on my findings.
 

ispcolohost

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Nov 28, 2017
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I'm a month in on using Retrospect with a Synology target. The only issue I have with Retrospect is it does not yet do snapshot-based backups, i.e. if the source volume supports snaps (like APFS), take the snapshot to ensure data and time consistency, and back up from the snapshot, then destroy it. It just goes file by file relying on the OS to feed it. Seems to work reliably for the most part (VM's can present issues). It does support verification jobs, and it does report on files that had to be skipped or which changed during backup, so I'm pretty happy with it to grab most of my data, and to validate the copies. I'm using CCC as my secondary backup since it's great for imaging a machine from snapshot, but horrible for restores, so it's my disaster recovery option, and takes a consistent copy of my running vmware fusion vmdk files.
 

MSastre

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Aug 18, 2014
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I make 2 SuperDuper! backups for both of my Macs to 2 separate external SSDs once a week. That has always worked well for me. And like CCC, SuperDuper! makes bootable backups. It is certainly a very, very reliable program. I will never, never put anything "in the cloud".
I'm a big fan of SuperDuper ... been using it for years. I've never used Time Machine or keep things "in the cloud".
 
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