Most Mac backup programs — other than Time Machine — are wrappers for rsync, a Unix utility that efficiently syncs files and directories across drives. My favorite rsync feature is the ability to create bootable volumes, which means when your system drive croaks — and it will — you can restart on the backup and everything will be as you left it at the time of the last backup.
I stopped using Time Machine years ago because it's slow and a resource hog. Good for casual users, less so for professional users.
On a Mac, you can take the rsync backup and restart on any Mac that supports the version of Mac OS you're using. Handy if the system dies and you need to get back to work. A major advantage over Windows.
Two of the most popular rsync-based apps for Mac are SuperDuper and Carbon Copy Cloner. I've bought and use both — SuperDuper! on a daily basis and CCC for partial syncs and for older versions of Mac OS. They're both solid packages that have served me well for years.
So Acronis True Image for Mac has some tough competition.
Key True Image differences
- Backs up to a local and an Acronis cloud service.
- Initial backup faster then rsync.
- Local backups are saved in a proprietary compressed .tib format that can only be recovered through True Image.
- Cloud backups are saved in native formats and can be recovered to any Mac from the Acronis Cloud web app.
- Backups can be saved both locally and to the cloud.
- Local backups can be encrypted; cloud data is automatically encrypted.
- Backs up your Parallels virtual Windows machine in it’s active state.
- Acronis bootable rescue media if the system drive won't boot.
- Keeps last 10 backups for rollback. First is a full copy; remaining copies are changes only. Oldest versions are deleted starting with the 11th backup.
Sounds good. But there are some surprising limits on what True Image can back up: Macs using Bootcamp; Fusion Drive; or File Vault 2 aren't supported.
For mobile users the File Vault 2 requirement might be a deal killer, while iMac users could find the Fusion Drive limitation difficult.
But all in all, Acronis True Image's feature set is a worthy alternative to rsync-based Mac backup software. So how does it work?
Next: testing True Image
Installation is normal. Download a .dmg - disk image - file; double-click to open; drag the app to the Application folder alias; open the Application folder and double-click on the Acronis True Image app; enter the serial number (evals are available) and you get this window:
Click on the destination icon and a pop-up shows available media, which includes internal drives (HDD, SSD, RAID), USB drives, FireWire drives, Thunderbolt, Network share, NAS, and Acronis Cloud.
Choose a drive and the Start Backup button goes live. Click settings, and you get this popup:
Once the backup starts there's a progress window that updates in real time. If there's an error - Acronis didn't like accessing my USB 3.0 drive through a hub - you get a clear message that the backup didn't happen.
Once the backup started I found I could work normally - writing, surfing, email - as the process used about half of my 2.0GHz dual-core I7 cycles.
When the backup completed, I could see that the True Image compression saved me about 20 percent of my capacity, which, given that I have a lot of compressed video, seems about right. It also made the initial backup about 20 percent faster than a full rsync backup.
Once you have a complete backup, you can choose to create bootable rescue media on the backup drive. Once done you can then follow the normal Mac process - boot holding down the option key - to choose the backup volume. This window then shows your choices:
But if you just want to recover a file you'll get a Finder-like window that looks like this:
Recovery to the same location is probably easiest.
The Storage Bits take
Overall, Acronis True Image is a polished backup application with a simple and clear interface. Most users should be able to navigate it with little trouble.
But there are a few interface nits:
- Measures capacity in GiB, not GB - which we know many Mac users will find confusing, since Apple fixed the GiB capacity bug 5 years ago.
- Doesn't use your Mac drive name, instead uses My Mac. A matter of taste mostly, but I prefer to know which drive we're talking about.
- The file recovery window opens folders only in hierarchical text mode. Navigation will get difficult if you have to go deep to find a lost file, if you don't know exactly where it was as there is no search option.
- The inability to recover files from local storage on a non-Acronis equipped Mac could bite some users at a typically stressful time. I'd prefer a work around to enable that.
I didn't test the Acronis cloud storage, but given the upload speeds most Americans have it would take days, if not weeks, to perform the first backup. Once complete the process should be smooth.
The final nit is pricing. True Image is priced at $49.99. Folks with multiple Macs can purchase a 3 Mac license for $79.99. Acronis Cloud storage options are available, starting at $49.99/year for 250GB and going to $189.99/year for 1TB.
That's steeper than the competition for both the app - SuperDuper is $27.95 - and the online storage from vendors such as Backblaze and Crashplan who offer all-you-can-eat pricing for around $50 a year.
But for users who value simplicity and ease-of-use that may not matter. The True Image all-in-one service - file and disk recovery both local and online - may be the package to get the millions who don't backup to finally start protecting their data.
Congratulations to Acronis for bringing something new and helpful to the Mac market.
Comments welcome, as always. What will it take to get you to back up?