Apple seems to have taken over both ends of the backup spectrum. For iPhone and iPad customers, backing up is pretty damned good and Apple makes it easy to restore everything to a new device with little more than an Apple ID and a recent iCloud backup.
What about the Mac? All Apple has going for it is Time Machine, the next best thing to backing up a Mac if you don’t back up at all. A hefty iCloud account can keep Photos, Documents, and Desktop files available to restore to a new Mac, but the reality is a far cry from the ease-of-use from an iOS iCloud backup.
Why? Time Machine sucks. Any Mac user who depends on Time Machine as the only backup system will be disappointed almost as much as a Mac user without a backup system at all.
Let’s face it. There is no one best way to back up a Mac.
My unofficial survey of friends, neighbors, family members, and co-workers tells me that about half of all who use a Mac for non-work purposes do not have a backup at all– other than applications from the Mac App Store. If things go wonky with a Mac, they’ll have to start from scratch.
There is a better way but it requires some effort. Maybe that’s why so few Mac users back up their systems.
First, let me get Time Machine out of the way. It requires an external disk drive. I use Time Machine. I do not depend upon Time Machine because Apple has yet to make it trustworthy, and a full on restore can take hours (if it works). Take it or leave it. Time Machine doesn’t matter much.
Second, use an external disk drive to clone your Mac. I use a combo of Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper! Each one can make a clone of your Mac to another disk drive which can then be used on almost any Mac to get you back up and running within minutes; not hours. Each has a built-in scheduler so the backup process is automated. And, unlike Time Machine, you can test each backup to make sure it works.
Third, iCloud is your friend. If your photos, music, movies, Documents and other files are important to you, Apple makes it drop dead easy to keep copies of what is valuable on iCloud. Master photos can be stored in Photos on your Mac. Ditto for everything else. What iCloud does not do for the Mac is what it does for iPhone and iPad– make for an easy and complete restore to a new device if there is a catastrophic failure.
Finally, one more layer to ensure that what is valuable to you and your Mac is also stored safely away somewhere else– besides iCloud. Duplication is your friend. I use a combo of Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, and Amazon S3 with Arq. That spreads valuable files around a bit, but Arq and other utilities can be automated and scheduled to back up files.
The key to backing up a Mac is to recognize the basic axiom. There is not single best way to backup. A multi-tiered backup system is best; all the more so if your files are as valuable as you think they are.
Here’s the test. You start up your Mac and it’s dead. Dead. What do you do? If you panic, then your backup system needs attention.