Apple’s Time Capsule: A False Sense of Security

I’ve been reading the glowing reviews for OS X’s Time Machine backup system and Apple’s Time Capsule backup drive. Apple seems to have finally made backups simple and automatic. With Time Capsule, they’ve combined it with a fast network router, simplifying things even more.

While I think all this technology is cool, I think it ignores one big problem – it doesn’t safely back up your Mac. True, you can restore your stuff if you accidentally delete a file or your hard drive dies. But it’s not going to help at all if your house burns down. You’ll have a very nice backup that looks like a piece of toast. All your documents, financial records and email will all be gone forever.

What I’ve been doing for a while now is running my own backup scripts, using good ‘ol rsync. Every night I rsync my laptop and Anne’s laptop to our Mac Mini. Later each night, it rsyncs the Mini back a secondary drive in a Mac at my parents’ house, 3000 miles away.

Now what it doesn’t do is any type of versioning. It only ever has the latest backup. If I delete a file and don’t release it until 2 days later, it’s gone. I do use Mozy for a subset of stuff though, so I always have that as a versioned backup.

So what Apple needs to do is offer an offsite mirroring service (perhaps via Amazon S3), so your Time Capsule is not a single point of failure. Do that, charge me a reasonable amount per year for storage (<$100), and I'll happily get rid of Jeff's Homegrown Backup Solution.


  1. Since you destination supports hard links, you can have incremental daily backups with the ability to go back in time. The key is the –link-dest option in rsync.

    For example:
    boulterca$ rsync -av –link-dest=../2008-05-09 backupdir/* boulterma:/path/to/backups/2008-05-10/

    Then, assuming you change the dates to yesterday’s date and today’s date respectively, each time it’s run, it will hard link unchanged files from the previous day into today’s, of course if they don’t change tomorrow either, then they get hard linked again… Deleted files don’t propogate to new days, etc.

    In fact I think there’s an OSX version of rsync that can set all of it for you automatically. I believe it’s called rsyncX.

  2. Or try CarbonCopyClone it works great and uses rsync under the covers.

    I have a multi partion external usb 750meg drive. 1 partition is a CCC rsync clone of my macbook. rsync’ed once per week. another partition is devoted to timemachine.

    Great combination and CCC is free!!!

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