Joe's Software Recommendations
Having reviewed the most important criteria for selecting backup software, I'd like to give you some specific recommendations. All things being equal, I recommend using a single program for both duplicates and archives. This strategy typically saves you both money and effort, ensures that you will not experience conflicts in schedules or requests for blank media, and generally makes for a less complicated backup system. (However, if you would like to use separate applications for duplicates and archives, see Duplication Software and Archiving Software, ahead.)
Combination (Duplication+Archiving) Software
The following applications offer both duplication and archiving features as I described them here, as well as scheduled backups:
In a pinch, any one of these could potentially do the trick. That's not to say they're equivalent, thoughor even adequate for most user's requirements. You can examine each program's features and price in Appendix B to see which one best meets your needs. But allow me to offer some advice:
Astute readers may have noticed that Retrospect popped up in each of those lists. Retrospect Desktop is the most expensive of the programs I cover here, at $129 (though you can frequently find it at a significant discount), but it's far and away the most full-featured Mac backup application. It's what most of the authors of the Take Control ebooks use.
Is Retrospect perfect? Certainly not. Some people feel it has a steep learning curve, making it intimidating for less technically inclined users. (I offer advice in Appendix C to help ease your initial configuration.) I've also encountered bugs from time to timeand technical support, should you need it, is pricey. In addition, EMC Insignia is sometimes slow to add support for newer storage devices; if you buy the latest and greatest optical drive, you may have to wait several months before a Retrospect update includes the necessary driver. (FireWire hard drives are always supported automatically.)
Even so, if I had to recommend just one application from this group, it would be Retrospect Desktop. (If you happen to purchase a drive that includes a free copy of Retrospect Express, that's an equally good option unless you need to perform client-server network backups.) If $129 is too pricey, Data Backup would be my second choice, edging out Tri-Backup slightly in ease of use and reputation of the developer.
The following applications (including some that bill themselves as "backup" or "synchronization" software) can create bootable backups but not additive incremental archives:
Although each of these applications has a different interface and a variety of additional features, as far as I'm concerned they're all more or less equally capable in terms of making a bootable backup of an entire hard disk. Most of these applications offer limited-time demos or trial versions, so if you're considering such an application, you can download a copy and make sure it meets your needs before making a purchase.
If I had to recommend just one program from this list, however, I'd give the nod to SuperDuper!in addition to a thorough feature set, it excels at giving plain-English explanations of what it's about to do, making a potentially troubling task much less nerve-wracking. It also preserves some metadata that some other utilities don't, making for the most exact copies you can get. Although the full version costs $28, you can use the free demo version to create one-off duplicates; buying a license unlocks features such as scheduling and incremental updates.
But if you happen to have another of these utilities (or prefer a different interface for some reason), any of them should do the job.
Disk Utility and Duplication. Apple's Disk Utility, included with Mac OS X, can make bootable duplicates. However, I omitted it from the list here and in Appendix B because this feature is obscure (it's a side-effect of a Restore feature) and limited (you have almost zero control over what happens during duplicationand no scheduling capability).
If you must use Disk Utility to make a duplicate, you can do so by following these steps:
The following applications offer additive incremental archives, but lack the capability to create bootable backups:
Unlike the programs that offer only duplication features, these applications vary significantly in their capabilities (see Table 4 in Appendix B).
As with the combination applications, desirable features for optical media backups include media spanning (offered by Apple Backup, Archive Assistant, BRU LE, and Dobry Backuper) and multisession recording (absent in all of these). Several of these applications, including Apple Backup and Dobry Backuper, require considerable scratch space (up to the size of one discCD or DVD), which reduces their usefulness for backing up almost-full volumes.
Compression is found in Apple Backup, Archive Assistant, BRU LE, BackupSW, Datum, and Dobry Backuper, but of these, only Archive Assistant offers encryption. Only BackupSW provides client-server operation (of a sort), and only Apple Backup provides snapshots.
BRU LE is a fairly robust application, but it's designed primarily for use with tape libraries. Performing backups to a hard disk or optical media with BRU LE is less than ideal.
NTI Shadow has a unique capability: the option to archive a copy of selected files every time you save them. In this way, it functions as a cross between a backup utility and a version-control application.
With the exception of Apple Backup, which has a snapshot capability, all the applications in this list make the restoration of an arbitrary day's worth of files unnecessarily complicated. Unlike earlier versions, Apple Backup 3 now offers very respectable capabilities and a reasonable interface. If you're a .Mac member, and if you're backing up to hard drives, and if you're the only user on your machine, Backup 3 makes a fine choice, and you can get it without any additional expense. (See the sidebar on the opposite page for more information.) However, if you don't meet those criteria, you can get a better solution for less money.
In other words: most people are better off sticking with one of the applications discussed earlier that can handle both duplicates and archivesin particular, Retrospect, Data Backup, or Tri-Backup.