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

Backblaze 4.3.0.44 - Online backup servi...
Backblaze is an online backup service designed from the ground-up for the Mac. With unlimited storage available for $5 per month, as well as a free 15-day trial, peace of mind is within reach with... Read more
Numi 3.15 - Menu-bar calculator supports...
Numi is a calculator that magically combines calculations with text, and allows you to freely share your computations. Numi combines text editor and calculator Support plain English. For example, '5... Read more
EtreCheck 3.3.3 - For troubleshooting yo...
EtreCheck is an app that displays the important details of your system configuration and allow you to copy that information to the Clipboard. It is meant to be used with Apple Support Communities to... Read more
BusyContacts 1.1.8 - Fast, efficient con...
BusyContacts is a contact manager for OS X that makes creating, finding, and managing contacts faster and more efficient. It brings to contact management the same power, flexibility, and sharing... Read more
TunnelBear 3.0.14 - Subscription-based p...
TunnelBear is a subscription-based virtual private network (VPN) service and companion app, enabling you to browse the internet privately and securely. Features Browse privately - Secure your data... Read more
Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.3.4 - Professio...
Apple Final Cut Pro X is a professional video editing solution.Completely redesigned from the ground up, Final Cut Pro adds extraordinary speed, quality, and flexibility to every part of the post-... Read more
Hopper Disassembler 4.2.1- - Binary disa...
Hopper Disassembler is a binary disassembler, decompiler, and debugger for 32-bit and 64-bit executables. It will let you disassemble any binary you want, and provide you all the information about... Read more
Slack 2.6.2 - Collaborative communicatio...
Slack is a collaborative communication app that simplifies real-time messaging, archiving, and search for modern working teams. Version 2.6.2: Fixed Inexplicably, context menus and spell-check... Read more
Arq 5.8.5 - Online backup to Google Driv...
Arq is super-easy online backup for Mac and Windows computers. Back up to your own cloud account (Amazon Cloud Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Cloud Storage, any S3-compatible server... Read more
Instaradio 7.1 - Listen to your favorite...
Instaradio is fast, and it could be the radio player you have been waiting for. Try the app thousands of people rely on for listening to radio. Features Listen to radio from all around the world... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Goat Simulator PAYDAY (Games)
Goat Simulator PAYDAY 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** IMPORTANT - SUPPORTED DEVICES **iPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPod Touch 5 or better Goat Simulator: Payday is the most... | Read more »
Zombie Gunship Survival Beginner's...
The much anticipated Zombie Gunship Survival is here. In this latest entry in the Zombie Gunship franchise, you're tasked with supporting ground troops and protecting your base from the zombie horde. There's a lot of rich base building fun, and... | Read more »
Mordheim: Warband Skirmish (Games)
Mordheim: Warband Skirmish 1.2.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.2.2 (iTunes) Description: Explore the ruins of the City of Mordheim, clash with other scavenging warbands and collect Wyrdstone -... | Read more »
Mordheim: Warband Skirmish brings tablet...
Legendary Games has just launched Mordheim: Warband Skirmish, a new turn-based action game for iOS and Android. | Read more »
Magikarp Jump splashes onto Android worl...
If you're tired ofPokémon GObut still want something to satisfy your mobilePokémon fix,Magikarp Jumpmay just do the trick. It's out now on Android devices the world over. While it looks like a simple arcade jumper, there's quite a bit more to it... | Read more »
Purrfectly charming open-world RPG Cat Q...
Cat Quest, an expansive open-world RPG from former Koei-Tecmo developers, got a new gameplay trailer today. The video showcases the combat and exploration features of this feline-themed RPG. Cat puns abound as you travel across a large map in a... | Read more »
Jaipur: A Card Game of Duels (Games)
Jaipur: A Card Game of Duels 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** WARNING: iPad 2, iPad Mini 1 & iPhone 4S are NOT compatible. ** *** Special Launch Price for a limited... | Read more »
Subdivision Infinity (Games)
Subdivision Infinity 1.03 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.03 (iTunes) Description: Launch sale! 40% Off! Subdivision Infinity is an immersive and pulse pounding sci-fi 3D space shooter. https://www.... | Read more »
Clash of Clans' gets a huge new upd...
Clash of Clans just got a massive new update, and that's not hyperbole. The update easily tacks on a whole new game's worth of content to the hit base building game. In the update, that mysterious boat on the edge of the map has been repaired and... | Read more »
Thimbleweed Park officially headed to iO...
Welp, it's official. Thimbleweed Park will be getting a mobile version. After lots of wondering and speculation, the developers confirmed it today. Thimbleweed Park will be available on both iOS and Android sometime in the near future. There's no... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple refurbished 13-inch MacBook Airs availa...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at $849. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free: - 13″ 1.6GHz/8GB/128GB MacBook Air: $... Read more
Apple restocks refurbished 11-inch MacBook Ai...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 11″ MacBook Airs (the latest models recently discontinued by Apple), available for up to $170 off original MSRP. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each... Read more
12-inch 1.2GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for up...
B&H has 12″ 1.2GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for up to $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY & NJ sales tax only: - 12″ 1.2GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook: $1449.99 $150 off... Read more
15-inch 2.7GHz Silver Touch Bar MacBook Pro o...
MacMall has the 15-inch 2.7GHz Silver Touch Bar MacBook Pro (MLW82LL/A) on sale for $2569 as part of their Memorial Day sale. Shipping is free. Their price is $230 off MSRP. Read more
Free Tread Wisely Mobile App Endorsed By Fath...
Just in time for the summer driving season, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company has announced the launch of a new Tread Wisely mobile app. Designed to promote tire and vehicle safety among teens and... Read more
Commercial Notebooks And Detachable Tablets W...
Worldwide shipments of personal computing devices (PCDs), comprised of traditional PCs (a combination of desktop, notebook, and workstations) and tablets (slates and detachables), are forecast to... Read more
Best value this Memorial Day weekend: Touch B...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 15″ and 13″ MacBook Pros available for $230 to $420 off original MSRP. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 15″ 2.6GHz... Read more
13-inch MacBook Airs on sale for up to $130 o...
Overstock.com has 13″ MacBook Airs on sale for up to $130 off MSRP including free shipping: - 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air (sku MMGF2LL/A): $869.99 $130 off MSRP - 13″ 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Air (sku... Read more
2.8GHz Mac mini available for $973 with free...
Adorama has the 2.8GHz Mac mini available for $973, $16 off MSRP, including a free copy of Apple’s 3-Year AppleCare Protection Plan. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ... Read more
15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
Amazon has 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pros (MJLQ2LL/A) available for $1749.99 including free shipping. Apple charges $1999 for this model, so Amazon’s price is represents a $250 savings. Note that... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Media Products - Commerce Engineerin...
Apple Media Products - Commerce Engineering Manager Job Number: 57037480 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Apr. 18, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Read more
*Apple* Mac and Mobility Engineer - Infogrou...
Title: Apple Mac and Mobility Engineer Location: Portland, OR Area Type: 12 month contract Job: 17412 Here's a chance to take your skills to the limit, learn new Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions, White P...
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
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**509110BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Location Number:** 000048-Topeka-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Best Buy Apple Computing Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.