Thursday, January 2, 2014

Network Time Machine Without a Time Capsule

Adam C. Engst notes that Time Machine now supports backing up to a hard drive connected to an AirPort Extreme Base Station:

What’s most compelling about backing up to an AirPort Disk, as opposed to an AirPort Time Capsule, is that you’re not combining two entirely unrelated pieces of hardware in one package. If the AirPort Time Capsule’s hard drive fails, it’s difficult to replace, and if you want to upgrade the wireless gateway side of the equation, there’s no easy way to bring your backups over to the new device. With an AirPort Extreme Base Station and attached USB hard drive, you gain more flexibility.

Being able to, occasionally, connect the drive directly to the Mac is huge. It helps work around the two biggest problems with the Time Capsule: slow restores over the network and the inability to use disk repair software when something goes wrong.

8 Comments RSS · Twitter

Definitely good news for those inexplicably hooked into the Cupertino router habit.

But seriously, if you're competent, and have a Cupertino infrastructure to manage, I've always recommended a cheap 'n' more finely configurable commodity router on the LAN with a Mac Mini home/office smart hub. Best of all worlds at an equivalent price point. (And been able to do sane network Time Machine backups all along that way, of course...)

Time Capsules have always been for the nescient, IMHO.

@Chucky I’ve had nothing but trouble with Time Capsule, and Time Machine in general. But it’s worked pretty well for my parents. A Mac mini would be more expensive and require more space. Also, my understanding is that Time Machine to a network Mac has not been officially supported (for protocol reasons), either.

@Michael Tsai: OS X server includes a Time Machine server. So backing over the network is at least officially supported if you pay the extra 20$ to buy OS X server on the App Store.

"Also, my understanding is that Time Machine to a network Mac has not been officially supported (for protocol reasons), either."

I strongly believe this to be incorrect, from my own experience, from reading your link, and from my own reasonably extensive research back in the day.

In my own experience, I've backed up multiple OS X boxes to an external drive connected to a Mini. I've never mucked around with enabling the TMShowUnsupportedNetworkVolumes variable, and TM allowed me to do backups without any other voodoo. So, at least from the UI cues, it seems supported.

Also, I have no link at hand, but I'm pretty damn sure I've read multiple times that it's officially supported, including from Apple. (This link I found from your link seems to imply it's officially supported, but obviously not an Apple document.)

I've been using this setup for years, had no corrupted TM sparsebundles, and even once performed a fully successful TM restore. (And all this with non-server OS X. Server adds some additional bells and whistles for TM, but my understanding is that it's not necessary for basic supported network TM backup functioning.)

"I’ve had nothing but trouble with ... Time Machine in general"

Well, of course I only use it as a supplementary method to CCC, but it's still been good to me.

Non-server OS X has supported networked Time Machine from the very beginning; I used it first on my 2007 iMac and now on my 2012 Mac mini. It's the same AFP server—makes sense. I do get about 1-2 instances of corruption a year. I work around this by doing a weekly file-level clone with SuperDuper!, which has explicit support for incremental cloning of Time Machine. My Time Machine volume is too big for repair with DiskWarrior; it runs out of memory and it's still a 32-bit app.

And I am due to write a blog post on backups — hopefully in the next week; would have been earlier but I’ve been sick, and I need to get to some software releases first.

@Jean-Daniel and @Chucky Yes, I had forgotten that network Time Machine is officially supported by OS X Server. I’m pretty sure that it’s never been officially supported with OS X client, though that may just be for marketing reasons, since I assume the AFP code is the same. The protocol issue I was thinking of was probably pertaining to the old AirPort Base Stations.

"I’m pretty sure that it’s never been officially supported with OS X client"

An official Apple doc to the contrary...

@Chucky Great! Thanks for finding that document.

Leave a Comment