I've got a bunch of OS X laptops and desktops in the office that I'd like to back up using the built-in Time Machine. The first cut at this idea, buying a bunch of Time Capsules, seems like a management nightmare. Is there a reasonable way to run a server for a bunch of Time Machine clients?


A couple of options, in order of hack-ness:

Whatever you do, however, your backups should be to redundant storage (this is doable for all the options above, although Apple's software RAID is generally looked down upon), and Time Machine backups should NOT be your only backup. FreeNAS has some backup capabilities, I believe - you can attach a big external USB drive and initiate a backup, and then send that drive off-site, for example. With a Mac OS X server, you could use Amanda (open source), Retrospect (shudder)...or...

Another option which I concede doesn't answer your exact question, but I think is highly relevant: Crashplan. Completely cross-platform (Mac, Windows, Linux, Solaris), they've got several different flavors, support inter-client backups (ie Bob can back up to Jane), multiple destinations, exclusion rules (for example, exclude everyone's MP3 collections). I use their enterprise version for 200+ seats and we love it. You lose the slick finder and installer integration (ie restore after fresh install from TM backup.)

Crashplan could also be used with one of the above solutions to provide your off-site backups with OS X server. For example, install the free Crashplan client, do the same with a system off-site, send the OS X server's backups to the off-site client, and set it to run only during non-business hours.

  • How did I miss that OS X Server can do it? Geez. Anyway, a Mac Mini isn't too expensive, plus a bunch of disk to hang off of it. Thanks! – Bill Weiss Jan 10 '12 at 1:41
  • No worries, Bill. I was kinda leaning towards FreeNAS as the best solution based off your description, but I suppose with RAIDeye and one of the SMART reporting tools, your bases are mostly covered. I don't think OS X software RAID does scrubbing (I can't even figure out how to do a verify from the CLI.) SoftRAID might be worth the $ if you go with a Mini. – Brett Dikeman Jan 10 '12 at 1:53
  • As a Linux admin, I'm not too afraid of using netatalk :) I am, however, worried about having to mess with the user machines more often. My experience with one of those NAS boxes at home (where I'm backing up two OS X machines) has been pretty bad. – Bill Weiss Jan 10 '12 at 17:12
  • Ah - FreeNAS is a bit different. It runs on as serious hardware as you want it to, and given it has a big community behind it, it's much more fully 'baked' than anything the home-NAS-appliance vendors can put out. Seriously, though: take at least a quick spin with Crashplan. – Brett Dikeman Jan 12 '12 at 5:18
  • Buy a NAS system supporting Time Machine. Many SOHO class devices do.
  • Set up a system with MacOS Server and use the built-in TM feature.
  • A Linux server with Netatalk installed should work as well. This is what is used internally by the aforementioned NAS devices in many cases.

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