Time Machine - Part I: Is it as good as Apple wants us to believe?

Time Machine - Part I: Is it as good as Apple wants us to believe?

Summary: Over the past few days I've had quite a bit of hands on time with Apple's latest OS - Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard." Rather than rush out a review of the OS I've decided to take my time and take a look at individual aspects of the OS. I'm going to begin with the feature that I'm most interested in - Time Machine.

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Over the past few days I've had quite a bit of hands on time with Apple's latest OS - Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard." Rather than rush out a review of the OS I've decided to take my time and take a look at individual aspects of the OS. I'm going to begin with the feature that I'm most interested in - Time Machine.

Time Machine - Part I: Is it as good as Apple wants us to believe?Check out the Time Machine gallery here.

Time Machine is Apple's answer to the problems associated with backing up data. The idea behind the utility is to make the process as quick, simple, and as painless as possible. The easier the backup process is, the more likely people are to use it and the safer their data will be.

Rather than waffle on about Time machine, I’m just going to cut to the point. Is Time Machine as good as Apple wants us to believe it is? In a word, yes. My experiences with Time Machine so far lead me to conclude that it’s not just good, it’s brilliant. It’s fantastic. It’s what I wish every backup tool was like.

So, why am I thrilled with Time Machine? Well, if you press me for specifics, here are the reasons why, in my mind, Time Machine is an absolute winner:

  • First, it’s easy to use. I’m pretty sure that some power users will think that it’s too easy and that there’s not enough control over what’s backed up, but in my mind simplicity is a good thing. The simpler the backup process, the more likely it is to be used. The greater the complexity, the greater the chance that important files are missed and the greater the chance that users will get bogged down.
  • Time Machine - Part I: Is it as good as Apple wants us to believe?Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Time Machine isn’t a system killer once it’s running. My main worry about having a backup tool running hourly was that I’d have to break off from what I was doing hourly and wait until the backup had finished or live with a system that was somewhat unresponsive while the backup was being done. With Time machine this just isn’t the case. The effect that it has on the system (and remember folks, I’m using a lowly Mac mini for my tests) is pretty close to negligible as to be unnoticeable. If the performance is this good on a Mac mini, I’m sure that Time Machine would fly on a more robust system such as the MacBook Pro.
  • Finally, it recovers gracefully from problems such as the backup location being switched off mid-backup. Brilliant!

I’ve yet to fully test Time Machine’s restore feature, but if it’s anything as good as the backup facility, it’s going to be a total winner. I’ve carried out some initial testing (I’ll post my findings later) and what I’ve seen so far suggests that Time Machine is the best backup tool that I’ve ever used – I wish that there was a tool that was as good for Windows (there isn’t, I know, because I’ve tested dozens).

Thoughts?

Topics: Data Management, Apple, Storage

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  • This is great news,,,

    So if Adrian thinks it's great , that's good news for all who wanted to know . I for one
    did think it was going to be great . Although I'm currently not running Leopard (Tiger)
    , I will be in the foreseeable future .

    "In a world without walls and fences , who needs windows and gates."
    Intellihence
    • Given your user name,

      I’m [i]really[/i] surprised that you didn’t camp out at the Apple store to
      be the first in line to get Leopard. ;-)
      Joel R
  • RE: Time Machine - Part I: Is it as good as Apple wants us to believe?

    I would like to know what the result would be of having
    Time Machine on while doing something I/O intensive
    like audio recording or video editing? Would it
    potentially cause errors in recording?
    Bittybox
    • Doing something I/O intensive..

      Time Machine doesn't scrub the entire disk to find out what files have changed;
      instead it just looks at FSEvents. So there isn't really all that much going on in the
      background.
      Harvey the Rabbit
      • I/O *is* affected, though

        I've deliberately run this specific test and Time Machine did cause glitching when writing a CD master using Sonic Studio's SoundBlade to create a CD replication master. I also noted glitching in playback under Pro Tools when the hour mark rolled around.

        However, for *most* operations, it was relatively polite and I didn't have to stop working.
        Timpraetor
        • Forgot one thing

          Bigger is definitely better for the destination disk. In my case, even with the exclusions added, my first full backup ate up 125GB of my 250GB disk. I've worked on 4 projects over the weekend (around 40GB of WAV data) and I'm now at 198GB. At this rate and my work process, TM will give me around 2 weeks before it starts grooming itself. Looks like I need a MUCH bigger disk for my TM backups. Thank goodness for tape - 200GB on a single LTO-2 tape and it costs $35.

          Don't get me wrong, TM is great for "oops" protection, but I need to protect my client data (and even my pet projects) for much longer than 2 weeks. For that purpose, LTO-2 tapes can't be beat. They write as fast as a Firewire disk and I can store 50 of them in my safe deposit box for 50 years.
          Timpraetor
  • Restore

    I appreciate the info on your impressions of Time Machine however, if you have not restored anything yet - that ease of use is moot.

    I have Tiger running - probably will look at doing Leopard in November and this sounds like it is worth the time to use. And maybe get that external drive I have been eyeing to make it all easier to start fresh.
    Jim888
    • I have ...

      I have, time machine is a well thought out application. The one thing I don't like about it is that the user can not delete a file, folder, or app from time machine once it is backed up, instead you have to wait for it to be deleted some time way into the future. The good news is that you can adjust a few settings to tell time machine what to exclude and those items won't be included in the backup. Overall, time machine is a great addition to the OS.
      HouseOfZen
      • Potential legal wrinkle.

        If the user cannot remove individual files from the backup at will, then this could
        cause legal ramifications, such as having to permanently delete all files relating to a
        project for which you signed an NDA, or complying with a court order to remove all
        traces of data due to an IP violation, [i]etc.[/i]
        Joel R
  • Cue the Microsoft "Me Too" innovation cycle

    At some point in the next 12 months Microsoft will "Innovate" a hobbled, dysfunctional copy of 'Time Machine'. It'll probably require activation, it'll offer multiple access points for virus and worms, it'll need another 2X the RAM and a second CPU to run and it won't back up non-Microsoft format files.

    In short, Micro "Me Too" Soft just keep falling further and further behind Apple. The threshings of MS are not unlike those of a dinosaur sinking into a tar pit! Slowly and with a lot of noise.
    whisperycat
    • Thank you for bashing Microsoft! :)

      Stick with your Mac and be done with it.

      Live under the Arctic Ocean! :)
      Grayson Peddie
      • Sad!

        ... you are.

        Serious issues you have.
        Mike Cox, Sr.
        • I'd say

          the OP does too.
          notsofast
    • Too bad Time Machine is the one that is the copy

      Vista has had this functionality for a year now, and it is far simpler to use than Apple's dysfunctional implementation. Don't worry though, I'm sure Apple will get it right after another 3 payments of $129!!!

      snicker, smirk :)
      NonZealot
      • Well lets here some details on this great backup system...

        from Microsoft ???/
        mrOSX
        • Don't worry about Mr, Zealot

          He still uses Notepad for a full fledged word processor because Word is just too far
          out there for him.

          Snicker smirk snort.
          Bruizer
        • Microsoft's feature

          Mircosoft's feature I think the previous poster was referring to is shadow copy.
          HouseOfZen
      • Snicker, Smirk :)

        Your 'Snicker, Smirk :)' is the most annoying thing about reading comments to stories. Just shows the level of your mentality.

        Timbo
        TheBoyBailey
      • Your RDF...

        ... or is it denial?

        You probably thought MS Bob was "innovative," didn't you?

        Shadow Copy is just a **shadow** of what Time Machine can do, and **HOW** it does it.

        So, hows that "hasta la" Vista working out for you?
        Mike Cox, Sr.
      • Shadow copy

        Shadow copy isn't really a comparable feature. Even if it were, most people don't even
        know it is there.
        Harvey the Rabbit