Data Backup 3 -- the next step up from Time Machine
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Data Backup 3 -- the next step up from Time Machine

Data Backup 3 ( from Prosoft Engineering is an utility for Mac OS X (10.4 and higher) that lets you back-up, restore and synchronize your data easily. And it's a step (or two) up from Apple's own Time Machine.

Its "Fast Start" feature pre-selects the files to be backed up. Or you can custom create your own backup sets by dragging and dropping. (I do the latter.) You just drag your files and folders into Data Backup, pick a destination drive and, voila!, there you go (though, for some reason, the software may annoyingly ask you on occasion to re-enter your serial number). You can designate file exceptions by specifying files that are to never be backed up (such as system files or applications).

Data Backup 3 is very flexible. You can schedule your back-ups to automatically run at a specific time, on a recurring basis or when a drive is connected. You can even have your Mac automatically wake from sleep to execute scheduled back-ups.

You can back-up to any mounted drive, including FireWire, USB, ATA, or networked drives. The faster the connection, the faster the back-up, which is why I go with FireWire drives. Or you can back-up to CD/DVD disks. If you have too much data for one disk, Data Backup 3 will automatically span on multiple disks. It creates an exact copy of a folder or a drive, including bootable Mac OS X back-ups.

Another nice touch is the ability to choose between versioned and incremental back-ups. The creates an exact copy of a folder or a disk, and also saves older versions of the data to provide an evolution of the backed-up data. The latter copies all files that have been modified since the last backup.

In a very Time Machine-ish feature, you can go "back in time" and see your files and directories, as they were when your back-ups happened. You can choose to compress and/or password protect your back-ups.

When you need to restore data, choose the files and folders you want to restore. This process works just like backing up, but in reverse.

If, like me, you own more than one Mac, Data Backup makes it easy to synchronize folders. Data Recovery's synchronization feature makes two folders identical by copying missing files and replacing older files with newer files.

Also note that Data Backup 3 provides a well-written manual. However, it's only available as a flat Acrobat PDF doc.

Admittedly, if you're completely happy with the Mac OS X's own Time Machine feature, you may have no need for Data Backup. But if you want more flexibility and options, check out Prosoft's offering. In other words, if you're just using Data Backup 3's Fast Start feature, you've wasted your money.

For example, as mentioned, Data Backup 3 can back-up to CDs, DVDs, network drives and even non-Mac-OS formatted drives. Data Backup 3 can also schedule, compress and encrypt your backups. You can't do any of this with Time Machine. Also, Time Machine doesn't optimally back up Entourage database files due to the honking big size of these files. Microsoft recommends that Time Machine users exclude their Entourage Identity folder(s) in the Time Machine preferences and use an alternative backup method. So if you're an Entourage user (and I'm not) Data Backup 3 may be for you.

Data Backup 3 pricing starts at US$59 for a single-user license. A demo is available for download.

Rating: 8 out of 10

-- Dennis Sellers


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