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Backups: Time Capsule & Time Machine
I bought a refurbished 2TB Time Capsule this week. It will add to my existing backup strategy, and Time Machine provides the most usable interface to backups that I’ve come across. We’ll have four Macs backing up to the Time Capsule; my ageing MacBook Pro, Kate’s MacBook Air, Beth’s Mac Mini, and Andrew’s MacBook Pro. It should have plenty of capacity for our data.

This will add to my existing backup strategy of storing my documents in Dropbox (and thereby syncing them to all the other computers I use), rsyncing to my Drobo, and occasional rsyncs to Strongspace (although the last time I did one was some time ago). I’ve tried a couple of online backup services, but gave up on them — Mozy kept resetting my backup and needed repeated full backups, and Carbonite seemed to suck the life out of my computer.

The Time Capsule also gives us 802.11n networking for the first time, which will be a welcome performance boost for Kate and Andrew.

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I tried both Mozy and Carbonite in the past, with much the same experience: Mozy kept forgetting its state and re-processing the entire backup from scratch, taking days each time, Carbonite seemed to work but stopped the machine in its tracks in the process, so neither was really a viable solution on the Mac.

Interestingly, Backblaze seems to do the job just fine; I pointed it at my Drobo a few months ago, and now have fairly silly amounts of data backed up without it complaining or breaking. The restore process is a little more basic (either download zip files free, or have DVDs or hard drives shipped for a price) compared to Carbonite's - but it does work perfectly well.

Time Machine's performance over wireless was quite poor, I found (probably due to double-journalling from putting one HFS+ filesystem inside another, which was changed in Snow Leopard somehow) and seemed far too prone to file system corruption; after reformatting the Time Machine drive for what I think was the third time, I gave up. It works fine over Firewire to the Drobo though. (I don't include my Time Machine backup in the Backblaze backup set; sadly, anything other than a file-system atomic snapshot of the sparsebundle is unlikely to be useful.)

In theory, Unison would be ideal for the local backups - like rsync but with some caching at each end to speed things up; I'll probably resume using that in the next few days to back up onto my Mac Mini. I tried it in the past and was mostly happy with it. Now, if I could just find a working fix for the "black screen of death" with Screen Sharing...!

Time Machine backing up to a Time Capsule seems to work quite well over the wireless network, although I ran my initial backup over ethernet.

I understand that Unison is no longer in active development.

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