I am working as a webdeveloper in a media company (around 25 employees) and I am not very happy with our current backup solution. I am no expert on this, but I am pretty sure the current setup is BS.

What is our current setup? Well, we have a fileserver with a 500 GB HD (sic!). If one remembers, one manually makes a .zip files and puts it on that server. Thats about it. Apart from the very small HD, nobody bothers making backups, maybe once a month. I think my boss has not backed up her data for maybe 3 months...

I would very much like to have an automated solution that creates a backup from all important files at night and... stores it somewhere.

The problem is: the backups can be quite large. As a developer I mainly work with text based stuff, so my backup including email etc. is around 7 GB. But the designers working in that company have backups in the size of 50 - 100 GB (already zipped). And there are at least 5 - 10 of these large backups.

Because of data loss recently I am pretty sure management would be willing to spend some $$$ on this if someone could come up with a good plan.

So, what would be a viable solution for a company of that size? Everbody in the company is working on OS X, if the operation system matters.


Any reason why you wouldn't consider 3rd party backup solutions like Crashplan, Jungle Disk, or Mozy?

  • Thanks for the suggestion - I thought about using one of these, but I think an "inhouse" solution would make it easier for management to buy in.
    – Max
    Jan 9 '10 at 18:50
  • The online options are great, but you need to be willing to deal with the slow recovery process. Local backups with Time Machine are ideal in many ways... if your MacBook's hard disk dies, slap the new one in and install from the time machine backup. Purchase a new Mac, the migration process is as simple as a recovery. Jan 9 '10 at 22:47
  • Timemachine didnt cut it - we are currently testing crashplan with a crashplan server in our local network. So - this is the accepted answer.
    – Max
    Jan 13 '10 at 18:43
  • @Max, I've deployed a ~300 seat Crashplan ProE installation and maintained it for ~2 years - and use Crashplan at home. If my experience would be of help, drop me a note. Jan 12 '12 at 5:30

Chopper3's suggestion of using Time Machine is solid. It's a pretty cool Mac thing that Mac people will probably like.

You don't need to purchase an Apple Time Capsule - FreeNAS can handle it:

I generally prefer file synchronization to normal backups for user files, because even when I was at the office without my laptop, I could still look at my files, for example, from someone else's machine or from a "burnbox" computer. Very convenient. Look at rsync

For your consideration, there are two areas of backup you need to plan for:

  1. Recovering user data, for example, if they delete a file by accident or have a hardware failure. Time Machine or rsync can help you there.

  2. Restoring a system from a failed or damaged state into a usable state. This is mostly about getting the OS and any needed applications reinstalled. Damage can be anything from hardware failure to malware infection. I prefer disk/partition images for this.

As others have mentioned, you need to have a Recovery Plan, not just a backup plan. You need to verify periodically that you can restore a system from your current backups. You need to know how long it will take.


I'd extend the Apple Time Machine recommendation a couple of steps further. It sounds like you have a small group of people with reasonable computer skills, but don't have and probably cannot afford to spend alot of time on "IT" chores.

I'd consider buying a Mac Mini Server and a Drobo Pro storage system. You attach the Drobo to the Mac Mini Server and use it as a time machine target for your clients. The beauty of the Drobo versus something like FreeNAS is that it is EASY -- as your storage needs go, you just plug in drives and it automatically handles everything. If a drive fails, you're safe and get a red light.

The other nice thing is that you have the full Apple stack, and can go to Apple for support. You'll also get some side benefits, like the Apple Wiki/Blog system that is pretty cool, local iChat server, and the ability to do Spotlight searches across multiple computers.

Cost is not so bad. You're looking at $2,000 for a minimally configured Drobo with lots of upgrade capacilty and $1,000 for the Mac Mini Server.

Down the road, you have room to grow as well. You can leverage a service like rsync.net, Amazon S3, Asigra or some other solution to get off-site backup capability in the cloud -- but you don't need to do that on Day 1.

  • Of the solutions suggested, I like this one best. It's cost-effective and a more robust backup solution than Time Capsule. Time Capsule is more for home use, where you have one or two people backing up. Even then, it's slow and flaky. I would definitely not use it in a workgroup environment. Spend a little extra and get a fully supported solution.
    – churnd
    Jan 9 '10 at 18:25
  • I think, too, that this is a very good suggestion. Combines several approaches so far.
    – Max
    Jan 9 '10 at 18:52
  • +1, This is a good middle of the road solution that should meet the management and capability needs described in the OP.
    – phoebus
    Jan 9 '10 at 20:16
  • 1
    As an update, the Drobo FS natively supports Time Machine, so there is no need to have a Mac Mini as a proxy.
    – Andrei
    Aug 12 '11 at 11:37

If you're using OSX version 10.5 or 10.6 you have a great automated backup system already there called Time Machine.

It routinely takes incremental backups automatically with very little initial setup effort.

It can backup to individual hard disks such as those little portable USB ones you can get for <£$100 each OR you can get a big centralised disk think from Apple called a Time Capsule (Clicky for link), you put this on your network and set everyone's Mac's to backup to it - it's really simple and works a treat.

  • Nice idea, does seem quite inexpensive, too. Is there a possibility to upgrade the size of the time capsule HD? It seems like 2 TB is the maximum atm. I am wondering if this will be enough?
    – Max
    Jan 9 '10 at 9:25
  • Good follow-up question, another thing you can do instead is to get an Apple Airport Extreme and plug in your own USB disk (i.e. one bigger than 2TB) at which point it behaves the same as the Time Capsule - cool eh! Here's a link; store.apple.com/us/product/MC340LL/A/…
    – Chopper3
    Jan 9 '10 at 9:35
  • Now thats sounds pretty cool. I think Airport Extreme + 8 TB external HD I just found + Time Machine would be an option. Stupid question though: Are there any performance considerations when using the wi-fi connection with Airport Extreme and Time Machine writes backups for more then one user? What is the write speed over the wi-fi connection?
    – Max
    Jan 9 '10 at 10:06
  • Oh, and just one more question management will surely ask: how about protecting access to certain files? E. g. the backup of the CEOs stuff should not be accessible for, say, a webdeveloper or other untrustworthy persons like that... ;)
    – Max
    Jan 9 '10 at 10:09
  • 1
    Tom - the TC does connect to networks via its GigE ports - I just didn't want to assume anything about this guy's network.
    – Chopper3
    Jan 9 '10 at 10:50

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