Why do online backup companies recommend against backing up your applications?

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by jacqueg, Dec 30, 2014.

  1. jacqueg macrumors member

    Dec 15, 2014
    My old faithful LaCie backup drive gave up the ghost, and rather than buy a new external drive, I decided that online is now within my budget.

    But the companies I have checked so far either don't allow application backup or recommend against it. In fact, Tim Fisher at about.tech says this -

    "Software programs also rarely work properly when restored."

    Well, when I bought a new computer, I installed all my programs from the aforementioned backup LaCie, and they worked just fine. Why would it be different for online backup?

    I don't need file sharing or syncing - just a way to efficiently get back to normal after the death of a hard drive. Isn't that the main point of a backup?
  2. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Because its true, mostly for Windows, but also for OS X for a number of apps. Unless you're doing a full system restore (including the OS and system level directories), some apps will simply not work.
    MS Office, Photoshop, Lightroom, they throw files out in the /Library (and who knows where else) that cause issues when you only restore the /Applications folder.
  3. jacqueg thread starter macrumors member

    Dec 15, 2014
    I get that software does this, what I'm not getting is why a company that offers online backups is not, after all, offering real backups! If I am buying 250g of storage, and my current hard drive has a total of 160g on it, why don't I have the option of backing up my entire hard drive? Why on earth should the company care?

    I killed my computer about 10 years ago. I lost *everything*. (Which is why I am now serious about backing up.) But back then, most software came on disks, so although I lost all my data, I at least didn't have to try to remember what all my software was, and where I got it from. Now, it is all downloaded, and it does not necessarily all come from the apple store.

    Back to the burning question at hand, are there any competitively priced online backup services that offer entire hard drive backups?
  4. tdhurst macrumors 601


    Dec 27, 2003
    Phoenix, AZ

    While I understand your frustration, it's odd to me that you're ranting against the advice of the people with far more experience and credibility in the backup industry as most of us.

    Applications don't restore well because they are often changed (preference files, etc.), and unless you have a minute-by-minute backup, the application may be returned to a state it was never again meant to be.

    Furthermore, if your applications are downloadable, and the backup process you're looking for is online, what's the issue? Sure, it will take a little longer, but isn't that worth it for a more stable restore?

    To your example, backing up and restoring from a local hard drive is far, far simpler than backing up online, as you have much more control over everything. In an online backup company's case, they cannot control your or their ISP, making it much tougher to guarantee no packet loss or other such internet oddities.
  5. jacqueg thread starter macrumors member

    Dec 15, 2014
    Sorry, I don't mean to come across as ranting.

    But the online companies I have looked at *do* perform minute-to-minute backups. I am trialing carbonite as we swap electrons. Once the initial backup is completed, I can leave the connection open all the time, and carbonite will back up changes as they happen. This is certainly more frequent than the time machine backups I did on the external hard drive every couple of days.

    As I said, the issue is remembering all the software I have on my computer, where I got it from, and the registration info. Because if the computer dies, all that info is guess where? On the dead computer. I live light, and have very few paper files.

    But hard drives die. Which, for me anyway, is the whole point of using an online service. Server farms can afford and manage redundancy much more efficiently than I can.
  6. shaunp macrumors 68000

    Nov 5, 2010
    A lot of these services have moved from a per GB stored model to an 'unlimited' model knowing that most people don't have THAT much data, except for the odd few. They just work out the average amount of data and what the typical deduplication ratio would be for this data. From this they get a price at which they can charge for the service.

    The recommendation could be to do with recoverability, you'd have to test that, but it could also be for commercial reasons - i.e. by backing up these file types you are adversely effecting the ability of their storage to dedupe the data, in turn increasing their costs. Remember the service is priced on the ability for them to deduplicate data, if they can't do this you blow their profits.

    I would agree with others in saying that recovering an app is not that straight forward, it depends upon the app. Some apps spread files over many directories and it could be easier to just reinstall.

    I also wouldn't use a cloud service for system backups, not because their is anything wrong with the software, but because home broadband is not really designed for this. I would use a sync type service (dropbox, etc) for my data and just allow enough time for the first full sync to complete, then use a USB disk for a local FULL backup. Home broadband typically operates at anything from 1Mbit/sec to 100Mbit/sec, while a cheap USB 3.0 disk can easily do 80 MBytes/sec for sequential writes. To put that isn perspective 100Mbit/s is approximately 12.5MB/s on a good day. A 100GB restore would take around 2.5 hours on a 100Mb/s line running without any contention - i.e. sharing the bandwidth with your neighbours. However most people will be seeing download speeds of around 2MB/s, which would take over 14 hours.

    What they are saying to you is 'store as much as you like, but we give no guarantees for recovery time, so best keep it small', and they can't because that's out of their hands.

    If in doubt I always have two backups, at least, but I keep it as simple as possible.
  7. jacqueg thread starter macrumors member

    Dec 15, 2014
    Thanks Shaun, this helps.

    I can see that a clean reinstall could be the best option, but with downloadable software, that means remembering what you have. How do you address that problem? The only way I can think of is to build a spreadsheet, is that what people do? I keep this info in a mailbox, since it comes by email, but you can't access either spreadsheet or email without an app, so...

    As I said, I lost everything about 10 years ago. I did not backup often then, and I still miss some of the stuff I lost. And I just escaped losing everything again. My old laptop had electrical issues, and it was a race to see whether I could get a new one before the drive fried. But at least I saw it coming (or felt it rather - the charger was running abnormally hot), so drive failure was not my first warning. And then my backup drive died literally a day after I transferred everything to the new computer. Just as well could have been the day before.

    Hard drives make me nervous. I could run two, as you do, and maybe I will do that, the issue with that is that I have no easy options for off-site storage. I thought online seemed like the answer, but it seems I was wrong about that.
  8. BasicGreatGuy Contributor


    Sep 21, 2012
    In the middle of several books.
    Most of my apps are from the MAS. For the others, I store the email key and downloadable dmg in a few different places (OneDrive, DropBox, Box, iCloud) in folders that make it clear what it is. I also encrypt the folders for added security.

    I use Time Machine to back up to my WD MyCloud, and CCC to a bootable backup (every day) to an external HDD.
  9. jacqueg thread starter macrumors member

    Dec 15, 2014
    Hmmm, now why did I never think of storing the dmg? (slaps self on head). Maybe what I need is a folder of dmgs as part of my online backup? I will look into that!

    I have looked at both the mycloud and the time capsule, but they are hard drives - but maybe a dmg folder online as well as the local storage option would cover my issues. Thanks!
  10. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    I backup all downloaded apps by copying them to a folder that way. I do the same with apps downloaded from the app store -- there is no guarantee that you will be able to download them again in the future. I've been completely successful so far with app store apps as long as they are backed up before they are first opened. Some of them will require verification (through the app store) when launched on a new machine, but so far that hasn't been a problem.
  11. jacqueg thread starter macrumors member

    Dec 15, 2014
    Thought maybe some of you would be interested in what carbonite said when I asked them -

    "I can understand your confusion, it seems like it would be logical to back up the entire drive and then move it to a new computer. There are two issues with that, one the software and apps you have purchased are licensed for the computer you downloaded them to, not as many computers as you wish to use. While you may only use it once, anybody could then purchase a copy of let's use Microsoft Office as an example and then put it on multiple computers, Microsoft does not allow that. It is copyrighted and licensed software. The second issue is that while you may buy a similar computer, every computer is different and the drivers, settings etc are all different. When you download software or apps it uses the specifications of the computer it was downloaded on, it can't take those settings and move them to a new computer.

    Cloud backup and Carbonite specifically is designed to save your important pictures, documents and music, things that can not be downloaded again. I hope that make a little more sense now."

    The first reason makes sense to me, the second not so much, because when I bought a MBA to replace my 5-yo MacBook, I transferred all my programs with nary a hitch. Of course, maybe Migration Assistant took care of that.

    And of course, this is what carbonite says in public, it could very well be that the other reasons people suggested are also factors.
  12. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    (1) is true from a legal POV. Of course most software these days are not so restrictive.

    (2) is true for Windows and for Mac apps that are not distributed as a single package that you copy into /Applications or are downloaded from the App Store.

    In any case, unless you are on a Mac and making a clone of the system drive, you shouldn't be relying on backing up /Applications to get you a fully functional backup of all your applications.
  13. santaliqueur macrumors 6502a

    Aug 7, 2007
    Is that what this is about, just remembering what you have? Why not have the computer remember for you? Just as Carbonite is "remembering" what your photos and documents look like, get your computer to remember what applications you have since this appears to be your main problem.

    ls /Applications/ > /Path/to/your/Dropbox
    Use cron to automate this, and you'll always know your installed applications, backed up on a cloud service. Use IFTTT to automate across other cloud services. In under 10 minutes, you could have an automated solution, backed up across as many cloud services as you wish, and without any further input from you ever.
  14. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    My opinion only.

    Your "best" backup option would be to buy two (or more) "bare" hard drives and a USB3/SATA docking station.

    Then -- use CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper to create BOOTABLE CLONES of your internal drive.

    Keep one of the backups at home, nearby.
    Keep the other one stored "off-site" (a building other than home).
    Rotate them occasionally.
  15. Arran macrumors 601


    Mar 7, 2008
    Atlanta, USA
    This sounds like the most workable solution to me. Create a new clone every time you install a new app. You can still do the online minute-by-minute backup of data files too.

    This protects you from many types of loss. The smaller (and more common) losses are easy to recover from while "disasters" take more effort:
    • If you lose a data file, you just recover it online. Quick and easy.
    • If you lose an entire hard drive then you fire-up the local clone and refresh its data from online.
    • If you lose your house in a fire, you install the offsite clone in a new Mac and then refresh its data from the online backup. You may also need to install some of your newer apps from memory. This requires most effort, but since it's very unlikely to happen, it's worth the risk. Of course, you'll need to determine if YOU think it's worth the risk in YOUR particular situation since, for all all I know, you live in a firework factory with a pyromaniac neighbor :)

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