TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Building a Backup System on the Mac

Volume Number: 22 (2006)
Issue Number: 4
Column Tag: Tools of the Trade

Building a Backup System on the Mac

by Neil Ticktin, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief

Unless you like tempting fate, or are a masochist, backups are a necessary part of any computer setup. Whether you have just one machine, or are in an Enterprise environment, you have to think about backups. There are a variety of reasons why you do backups. Sure, you may want to provide against the obvious hardware failure, but backups also give you protection against hackers, viruses, newly installed software, missing computers, and the ever-present user error.

There are a number of solutions for the home network or individuals that are out there, and there are high-end solutions for large networks and Enterprise environments. This article, however, talks about a multi-vendor approach that we took on a real world network.

There have been articles out there about what to do with your older machines, but we thought that we would take the approach of using a combination of existing hardware, upgrades and modern technology to create a solid backup solution for a small to medium size business.

Software, Media and The Test Scenario

We wanted to test our newly built system with a scenario that may be typical of many small to medium size businesses. In this scenario, we had one "main" location with about 15 machines, one satellite office with another 5 machines, and one telecommuter.

Many people today like backing up to a disk drive. It's fast. It's very reliable, and, disks are relatively cheap these days. I agree. In fact, we make sure that we have a clone of main web server's hard drive available at all times, so that it can be back up and running in no time. But one thing that hard drives don't do for you is give you "snapshots" in time which are the ultimate protection against viruses, hacking, newly installed software and user error.

If you want snapshots, as we do, then you need two things: software that does that for you, and a medium that supports it well. Some of the backup software out there does not support snapshots as completely as I would like, or is the wrong "size" of software, so we chose Retrospect 6.1 as our base. Furthermore, while we do have hard drives as part of our strategy, tape is our medium of choice simply because it's easy to have multiple sets of data (so that some are off-site and some are on-site). It's also very inexpensive for large volumes of data.

The main location has the largest data sets: databases, web sites, file servers, email, and the dedicated backup server. With remote locations backing up to the main location, we wanted to have dedicated hard drives in the backup server that would be available 24/7 and be the staging area for backup to tape, our primary backup media.

Putting Together the Pieces

This was a fun project as we could look at a variety of wonderful products to put together a great solution for the test scenario. In the articles to follow, written by MacTech's staff, you'll see a number of different technologies. Some are specific to backups, but many of these you can use in a variety of ways to upgrade your machines. And sometimes, upgrading is the most cost effective way to go, especially when you are talking about a platform as reliable as a PowerMac G4.

The PowerMac G4

In the past several years, Apple has made some simply terrific machines. Sure, the new iMacs and MacBooks are obviously wonderful products, but there are others that are solid performers. One such machine is the PowerMac G4, which many of us have laying around in quantities. These machines have solid power supplies, are expandable, and are quite reliable, but they are not the speediest.

We have found that in addition to our higher-end Xserves, and Mac OS X Server, there are a number of things that we can do with PowerMac G4s running plain old Mac OS X (Panther or Tiger).

In creating a backup system, we knew that we wanted to have several hard drives, multiple Ethernet interfaces, high performance I/O, and more. It was easy to choose the expandable PowerMac G4 for this duty as we didn't need the processing power of G5, and we had several of these PowerMac G4s around.

One of the beautiful things about the PowerMac G4 is that you can have 5 drives in it. Even the exceptional PowerMac G5 doesn't have that capability out of the box. Don't get me wrong, you do have options on a PowerMac G5 to go beyond the two drive positions, but you need to look to third party options such as those from WiebeTech and others for drive module expansions. These are specifically designed to give enough cooling even though Apple didn't design these machines to do this. So, make sure that you are relying on a reputable vendor before putting more than two drives in your PowerMac G5.

What Needed To Be Added

Retrospect

The first choice you have to make on the backup system, possibly even before the hardware you are going to run on, is the software. In our case, we wanted something easy-to-use, and even familiar, but that could handle a decent size network. On the Mac, the obvious choice was Retrospect by EMC Insignia.

Retrospect is a great product for the right size market. If you are have thousands of clients, should you use it to back up each of them to a server? Nope. You'll want to look at one of the more "Enterprise" level backup systems, or use a Windows or Linux box as a backup server.

One of the limitations of Retrospect is that it can only perform one backup at a time. For a smaller environment (e.g., the SMB space), this works fine. But if you have high end needs, that's beyond the scope of this article, and you should look at other applications like Netvault by BakBone, bru by Tolis Group, or Time Navigator by Atempo. These types of products have the ability to do multiple backups simultaneously to disk (obviously, all products can only backup to one tape at one time). Take note: while these are great solutions, they are industrial, and some of them can cost a great deal of money, and are likely going to take more effort to set up and manage compared to Retrospect.

To be fair, Retrospect is not designed to backup live files. With that in mind, whether it's our Now Up-to-Date server, our FileMaker Server, or the Xserve, we make sure that the live databases are set up to save off copies of the databases periodically to their local drive, and then when Retrospect comes through, it backs up those snapshots.

If you do want to backup live files, you really need to look at a different type of software (see above) for a more Enterprise level approach.

SQL Backups: Navicat

As you'll see in the article on Navicat, there are a variety of ways to backup MySQL databases, whether at the command line, using open source options, or a commercial product. In the accompanying article, we give you not only the command line information, but took at a look at the commercial application Navicat, which has some really nice backup and restore functions that you can schedule.

Sonnet SATA/IDE Interfaces

We want to use some existing drives, and experiment with both larger ATA/IDE drives (e.g., larger than 128GB) as well as the newer SATA drives. There are a variety of ways to do this, and we chose the Sonnet products to do this. That allowed us to add both RAID and SATA drives to our PowerMac G4. And, when Retrospect is backing up these drives to the tape drive, they scream.

Sonnet Gigabit Ethernet

Since much of the LAN at the main location is gigabit, we wanted to add gigabit Ethernet to the PowerMac G4. And, we didn't want the PowerMac to share that interface for uploads that were being done from the satellite office nor the telecommuter. By adding the Sonnet gigabit Ethernet card, we were able to dedicate that interface to the LAN, and the built-in Ethernet to the Internet backups that were happening. Since everything happens at the same time at night, this optimized the use of the machine.

SDLT 600

We needed a tape drive for this setup. Today, the two formats that have the most support are DLT and LTO. Both are wonderful, and you can read more on these in the SDLT review that we have. In the end, we chose the SDLT 600 which holds 300-600GB per ~$100 tape, and in real life usage regularly gets at least 450GB per tape.

ATTO SCSI-3 Interface

The PowerMac G4 does not have an external SCSI interface. You add that with a PCI card. With that in mind, there's only one company that comes to mind: ATTO. ATTO's SCSI-3 interface cards are excellent. And, if you choose the FibreChannel approach, they have options for you there as well.

Media

You can't backup without media, so we chose the Maxell solutions for both SDLT II tapes as well as cleaning tapes to maintain the Quantum SDLT drive.

Daystar Acceleration

At first, we weren't going to accelerate the PowerMac G4, and to be fair, it did run ok without any acceleration. But we wanted to see what the difference was, so we added in a 1.8GHz accelerator from Daystar, and wow, what a difference. Well worth the $330 for this interface card. Everything runs so much faster and better than without the accelerator.

Conclusion

By using a variety of solutions, and basing it on a PowerMac G4, we were able to focus as much of the resources as possible on the backup media/drive. To us, this allowed us to get the test scenario onto a backup system that was reliable, modern, and would need as few tapes as possible to hold the data being backed up yet. And, this wasn't your typical "test bench" scenario. While we did design it for a diverse test, we grouped these sets of machines together for a real world test that we did over multiple months and worked out all the kinks. It's as real world as it gets!

Of all the things that you can do on the Mac, I think you'll find that backups are one of the most "diverse" set of choices. There are so many different ways to go. You just have to think it through and prioritize. Once you have a set of ordered priorities, you'll find that decisions start falling into place easily.

Hopefully, this article will help you think through your own examples. But again, even if you don't have backups on your mind, check out the accompanying product solutions, as they will apply to much more than just backups.

As always, let us know what you think!


Neil Ticktin is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of MacTech Magazine. Neil has been in the Mac industry since 1985. When Neil writes a review, he likes to put solutions into a real-life scenario and then write about that experience from the user point of view. That said, Neil has a reputation around the office for pushing software to its limits and crashing software/finding bugs.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Logitech Control Center 3.9.2 - Keyboard...
Logitech Control Center (LCC) is designed to support OS X and allows you to take full advantage of your Logitech keyboard, mouse, or trackball. With the LCC you can: Browse the Internet using... Read more
Adobe Acrobat Pro 15.007.20033 - Powerfu...
Acrobat Pro DC is available only as a part of Adobe Creative Cloud, and can only be installed and/or updated through Adobe's Creative Cloud app. Adobe Acrobat Pro DC with Adobe Document Cloud... Read more
CleanMyMac 3.0.1 - Delete files that was...
CleanMyMac makes space for the things you love. Sporting a range of ingenious new features, CleanMyMac lets you safely and intelligently scan and clean your entire system, delete large, unused files... Read more
Evernote 6.0.10 - Create searchable note...
Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at anytime, from... Read more
CleanApp 5.0.1 - Application deinstaller...
CleanApp is an application deinstaller and archiver.... Your hard drive gets fuller day by day, but do you know why? CleanApp 5 provides you with insights how to reclaim disk space. There are... Read more
Quicken 2015 2.5.0 - Complete personal f...
Quicken 2015 helps you manage all your personal finances in one place, so you can see where you're spending and where you can save. Quicken automatically categorizes your financial transactions,... Read more
Tonality Pro 1.1.4 - Professional-grade...
Tonality Pro gives you the power to create stunning and dramatic black & white images. This is a complete monochrome image editor with more than 150 one-click style presets, totally unique... Read more
Adobe Photoshop CC 2014 15.2.2 - Profess...
Photoshop CC 2015 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous Photoshop customer). Photoshop CS6 is still available for purchase (... Read more
BBEdit 11.1 - Powerful text and HTML edi...
BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Specifically crafted in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers, this award-winning product provides a... Read more
Together 3.4.3 - Store and organize all...
Together helps you organize your Mac, giving you the ability to store, edit and preview your files in a single clean, uncluttered interface. Smart storage. With simple drag-and-drop functionality,... Read more

Play Endless Golf in Flick Golf Free...
Full Fat has released a new update for Flick Golf! Free. The ‘Eliminator’ update brings a whole new way to play with its endless round. [Read more] | Read more »
The Enchanted Cave 2 (Games)
The Enchanted Cave 2 2.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 2.1 (iTunes) Description: Delve into a strange cave with a seemingly endless supply of treasure, strategically choosing your battles to gather as... | Read more »
Crystal Siege is on Sale With a New Univ...
Crystal Siege,  FDG Entertainment's RPG  Tower Defense game, has gone universal in its latest update. [Read more] | Read more »
Platforming Action RPG Swordigo is Curre...
Touch Foo's 2D action-platformer, Swordigo, is free for a limited time on the App Store. Now you can run, jump, and slash your way through adventure for absolutely nothing. [Read more] | Read more »
Watch This Homerun Slides into Home on t...
Eyes Wide Games has launched their one-touch baseball game, Watch This Homerun, for the Apple Watch. [Read more] | Read more »
Disney Celebrates May 4th With Galaxy Si...
For Star Wars Day, May 4, join Disney Interactive and Lucasfilm as they celebrate with a whole lot of in=-app sales for their Star Wars apps. [Read more] | Read more »
Oh My Pixel! We Go Hands-on With The Kni...
I recently had a chance to play around with the upcoming Knights of Pen & Paper 2 from Paradox Interactive. I was a huge fan of the first game, so I had a lot of expectations going into it - and I wasn't disappointed. The game has gotten some... | Read more »
Throw Out Your Stylus and Sketch With Pe...
Penpoint Drawing, by Damin Liu,  is a new creative drawing app that uses your finger as your stylus. [Read more] | Read more »
Oceanhouse has Released Just So Thankful...
Oceanhouse Media, makers of digital book apps, are celebrating Mother's Day with a giveaway and a new app. [Read more] | Read more »
Get Dressed, the Virtual Wardrobe App fo...
Dressed, by  Kabuki Vision, is one of the first fashion apps for the Apple Watch. It pairs your watch with your iPhone to let you browse garments from your closet and mix and match them to create the perfect outfit. To add new pieces you just use... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

12-inch 1.1GHz Silver MacBook in stock today
B&H Photo has the new 12″ 1.1GHz Silver MacBook in stock today for $1299 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Act now if you’re interested, since we don’t expect B&H to have this... Read more
iPad Air 2s on sale for up to $50 off, NY tax...
B&H Photo has iPad Air 2s on sale for up to $64 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $469 $30 off - 64GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $549.99 $50 off - 128GB iPad... Read more
Check Apple prices on any device with the iTr...
MacPrices is proud to offer readers a free iOS app (iPhones, iPads, & iPod touch) and Android app (Google Play and Amazon App Store) called iTracx, which allows you to glance at today’s lowest... Read more
Sale! New 13-inch 256GB MacBook Air for $1099...
B&H Photo has the new 2015 13″ 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Air on sale for $1099.99 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Japan Post Group, IBM and Apple Deliver iPads...
Japan Post Group, IBM and Apple executives meeting in in New York City yesterday announced a first-of-its-kind initiative aimed at improving the quality of life for millions of Japanese senior... Read more
Worldwide Tablet Market Contracts For Second...
Worldwide tablet shipments recorded a second consecutive quarter of year-over-year decline in the first calendar quarter of 2015 (1Q15), according to preliminary data from the International Data... Read more
Apple restocks refurbished Mac minis for up t...
The Apple Store has restocked Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 Mac minis, with models available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $999...
Adorama has the 13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999 including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
New 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros available for...
Save up to $80 on the purchase of a new 2015 13″ Retina MacBook Pro at the following resellers. Shipping is free with each model: 2.7GHz/128GB MSRP $1299 2.7GHz/256GB... Read more
13-inch 128GB MacBook Air on sale for $50 off...
Save $50 on the purchase of a new 2015 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air at the following resellers. Shipping is free: $949.99 $949.99 $949.99 $949.99 $949.99 B&H Photo charges NY sales tax only.... Read more

Jobs Board

Senior Identity Architect - *Apple* Pay - A...
Changing the world is all in a day039s work at Apple . If you love innovation, here039s your chance to make a career of it. You039ll work hard. But the job comes with Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Hardware Systems Integration Engineer - *App...
Changing the world is all in a day039s work at Apple . If you love innovation, here039s your chance to make a career of it. You039ll work hard. But the job comes with Read more
Senior Identity Architect - *Apple* Pay - A...
Changing the world is all in a day039s work at Apple . If you love innovation, here039s your chance to make a career of it. You039ll work hard. But the job comes with Read more
Hardware Systems Integration Engineer - *App...
Changing the world is all in a day039s work at Apple . If you love innovation, here039s your chance to make a career of it. You039ll work hard. But the job comes with Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.