Apple's Time Machine Backup Software

Apple has recently provided a preview of some of the features in the next version of their operating system. Code named "Leopard", this software marks the first time that Apple has bundled backup software, named Time Machine, with their operating system. As an OS X user that works constantly with companies on their backup needs, I was very interested and pleased with Apple's incarnation of what backup software should be.

There is no doubt that the interface to Time Machine is the most intuitive design I have ever seen. The ability for the user to navigate forward or backwards within a rich graphical interface should make the process of restoring files easier then ever before. I expect that this new interface will be successful, very successful.

Apple has also made a excellent choice by integrating the software directly into the upcoming Leopard operating system. This allows for other programs to be "backup aware" and utilize Time Machine to manage their backups. For Instance if you have contact information in Address Book this information is automatically backed up by Time Machine and can be restored directly into the Address Book software.

Once Time Machine is installed and running it works without any configuration from the user. This capability cannot be overstated. The greatest difficulties in getting people to use backup software is that many times the initial configuration of the software can be daunting, requiring users to know where there critical data is stored. If users install new software they have to modify their backup configuration to now backup this new location. (not every piece of software saves its info to My Documents) In my experience, users do not make a point of maintaining their backup software configuration, so over time, the configuration becomes "stale" and less effective. Time Machine solves all these problems by simply backing up everything on the users computer.

The only problem that I have with Time Machine is that it will utilize a secondary hard drive or secondary partition to store the backup information. I can only assume that this hard drive or partition will need to be of comparable size to the primary drive or partition that is being backed up. I would even imagine that this drive would need to be much larger if you are going to maintain several months or years worth of data? I am sure that Time Machine will utilize some type of compression technology to store the data; however, hard drives are capable of filling up eventually, no matter how large they are. If Time Machine backs up all the information that is on my G5 and never purges it, then the backup drive will need to be large, very large. Even with this restriction, I will use the Time Machine software exclusively on my G5 desktop for all my backup needs. Unfortunately, the need of a second hard drive or second partition is the major reason that I will NOT use Time Machine to handle the backups for my 17" PowerBook.

My PowerBook is where I keep stuff, lots of stuff. This laptop is my primary tool that I use onsite at my customer's offices. As a result, I have tons of stuff on my laptop and I am constantly transferring back and forth to my G5 desktop. The main reason I purchased the G5 desktop was because I could not store all the data on the relatively small (80GB) hard drive of the PowerBook. The thought of having a dedicated partition just for Time Machine on the PowerBook is not good. I can easily envision data, that I consider temporary in nature, could burn up valuable space in the backup partition. I am sure that there will be some configuration options within Time Machine that would allow me to exclude certain directories from the backup; however, I am just not comfortable with devoting a large portion of my PowerBook's hard drive to Time Machine's exclusive use. Lets face it, laptop hard drives are just to small for my needs and I will not use any software that will dramatically reduce this capacity. I am going to stick with my existing online backup solution which is bullet proof and does everything I need for a highly mobile laptop.

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