Dare to be Creative’s Parachute is a new, useful, US$39 backup application for Mac OS X. Designed by Apple Design Award Winner Dietmar Kerschner, it allows users to easily run automated, scheduled backups to a wide range of destinations, including FTP/SFTP servers, external disks, and iDisk.
With Parachute you can back up files to your Mac and to devices connected to your Mac. This includes your hard disk, disk partitions, flash cards, USB memory sticks, network volumes and external hard disks. The app is flexible and user friendly.
As an example, to backup files to your Mac:
Choose Tasks > New Backup Task.
Enter a name for the backup task and press Return.
Drag in the files or folders you wish to backup.
Click Destination, and then select “On This Mac”.
Click Choose Folder, choose the folder you want to backup to, and then click Choose.
Parachute sports the useful feature of allowing you to authenticate yourself to SFTP servers with SSH identity files. If your identity file is in a standard location (~/.ssh/id_rsa or ~/.ssh/id_dsa) then Parachute will automatically use these. If your identity file is in a non-standard location you can configure the location in the Preferences.
If you’re a MobileMe customer you can backup files to your iDisk with Parachute. MobileMe is Apple’s US$99 per year suite of Internet services. What’s more, with Parachute you can backup files to FTP, SFTP, and WebDAV servers. However, note that you have to specify an absolute path in the Remote Path field.
Parachute can also handle “smart” back-ups. By default the app copies all the source files and folders when you run a backup task. For large data such as music and photo collections, this can take a loooong time. Enable smart backups and only the changes to your source files are backed up. For example, if you use Parachute to backup your music collection and add a song to that collection, then only that song will be copied on the next backup. However—and this isn’t a complaint, but an observation—you can’t have both smart backups and keep-the-last-backups enabled.
What’s more, if you have files in your backup source folder that you don’t want to backup then you can tell Parachute to ignore these files. Once you do, starting with the next backup these files will be ignored and no longer copied to your backup destination.
If you’ve been backing up your files with Parachute, you can recover lost or accidentally deleted files and folders. For local or iDisk backups, use the Finder to open the backup location. For remote backups, login to your server with your favorite FTP application (Dare to be Creative recommends Cyberduck or Transmit; I use the latter) and open the backup folder.
Backups are stored in folders named after the time they were created. Open the folder from which you wish to restore your files, then copy the items you wish to restore.
You can schedule Parachute to run backup tasks automatically at set times (hourly, daily, weekly or monthly). Or you can do it manually via a “Backup Now” button.
Parachute requires Mac OS X 10.5 or higher. It’s Universal Binary so runs natively on both PowerPC and Intel Macs. A 15-day demo is available for download.
All in all, Parachute is efficient, useful and easy to learn. However, you can’t do full drive, bootable backups, which could be a deal breaker for some people. Also, it doesn’t have an “unzip archive” feature, which would certainly come in handy at times.
If the lack of features don’t concern you, give Parachute a try. You may also want to compare it to other back-up apps such as SuperDuper ($27.95), Carbon Copy Cloner ($10), SugarSync ($99.95 annually), Synchronize Pro X ($99.95 annually), Norton Online Back, BackBlaze ($5 per month per computer), BackJack ($17.50 monthly for up to 1GB compressed and $2.75 for each additional GB up to 15) or Shadow 3 (pricing starts at $29.99).