A Guide to Backing Up Your Mac

Our lives are pretty much kept on our computer. Whether it be important business files from presentations to private documents, or personal family items like images or video, losing data can be costly both monetarily and for sentimental reasons. There are many Mac backup options which include saving your data locally to an external hard drive, or externally to a private server (taking advantage of ‘the cloud’). They’re both good options to do, and the safest route is to do both. If your house catches on fire or is burgled, any private data stored locally could be lost forever, but the data stored externally will be safe. It also works the other way around. If there are problems with your external data stored off-site, you have your local backup to rely on.

There are positives and negatives over both methods of backup. I know personally that convenience is key. If it’s too much trouble, there’s a good likelihood that I won’t do it. Thanks to modern technology though, there’s no need for even the least experienced Mac user to be worried about losing their data ever again. Let’s take a look at the options available:

Online Mac Backup

Online backup has became more and more prevalent with cloud computing. Cloud computing (and using it as a backup solution for your Mac) basically means that your computer will connect to another computer, most likely a server, and begin to upload data. Over time, once all of the current data on your hard drive has been backed up, only files you’ve updated will be backed up. This helps with bandwidth and doesn’t slow your computer down unnecessarily. The backup solutions I’ve used and recommend are:

Backblaze Online Backup

backup your data with backblaze
One of the many reasons I like Backblaze for backing up my Mac is because former Apple employees now work for Backblaze. Unlike other backup options where there’s just a port of the PC version, Backblaze actually design the backup process for Macs. Not to say that only Apple employees could design a cool backup system, but I’m reassured that the folks at Backblaze actually understand how Macs work.

Backblaze’s backup method is fully automated and seamless. If you use your Mac for processing images and videos then you want your CPU to be focused on those areas. Fortunately Backblaze uses less than 1% of your CPU and memory on average. This means that you’re free to use your computer instead of worrying whether your Mac will freeze up and planning your computing around backing up. You have a computer to enjoy, and your backing up method should not suffer because of that.

Instead of selecting which files you want to backup and run the risk of missing that one important file you couldn’t locate, Backblaze backs up your entire hard drive in the original backup. Backblaze works for both Mac OS X Tiger or Snow Leopard, so regardless of which OS you’re using you can backup your machine.

Backblaze costs just $5 p/month for unlimited storage and you can specify your backup speed. You can either choose an option for better network performance (with the slower backup speeds) and faster backup (full throttle speeds).

Find out more about backing up your Mac by visiting the Backblaze website.


dropbox for business backup
If you don’t wish to backup the entire contents of your Mac and already know which files you wish to backup, then you may want to try Dropbox. Dropbox excels at storing important documents and files in the cloud, but can also work very well as an automated backup system.

When you first sign up for Dropbox you get 2GB free. This is enough to get you started, but you will most likely end up using more, here’s why. When you download the Dropbox app to your Mac, you can create multiple folders. This is useful if you wish to duplicate files contained in your Pictures, Documents, or Music folder. All you do is drag and drop those folders to the Dropbox app, and it will back them up. You can make shortcuts to these folders so that they will automatically sync whenever there’s a change made to the folder. That way you don’t have to worry about backing up new files you copied over to a specific folder, it will be done for you.

Everything is backed up in the cloud, and is also accessible via an iPhone app. If you need to access any of your files with your iPhone, you can do so on the go. Not to mention, Dropbox is very affordable. They have multiple plans:

  • Free Account: 2GB storage space.
  • $10 Dropbox for Business Account: 50GB storage space.
  • $50 p/Month: 100GB storage space.

Find out more about Mac backup options by visiting the Dropbox website.


mozy backup for Mac
Mozy is one of the most versatile options for Mac backup. You can backup computers at home, or use it in the office for business reasons. Like other online backup solutions we’ve mentioned, Mozy is automated, so once you’ve set it up it should automatically backup your files and folders. With Mozy your backups are encrypted, so they’ll be safe and securely stored.

As well as an easy setup, it’s also smart. When first run, Mozy will backup everything, then from that time on will only backup files or folders which have been changed or altered. This saves time and effort on your behalf in ensuring new items are always backed up. The most recent versions of files are always accessible.

There are two different options for backing up – MozyHome and MozyPro. For $5.99 p/month, MozyHome will backup your files on your home computer. MozyPro offers both desktop licenses and server licenses. Desktop licenses are available from $3.95 per month + $0.50/GB per month, and server licenses are available from $6.95 per month + $0.50/GB per month.

Carbonite Online Backup

Carbonite offers unlimited backup for one flat price of $59.00 a year. For that money you receive:

  • Completely automatic online backup
  • Secure file transmission and storage
  • Simple file recovery
  • Access your files anywhere

Like a lot of services online, it’s always worth your while to try a free trial and backup services are no different. The last thing you want to do is sign up annually for a backup service for your Mac, and it sucks. Carbonite offers a 15 day free trial and if you don’t like the service after those 15 days have expired, the backups will stop. If you wish to continue the service you will need to enter payment information.

Mac Backup Software

Since you own a Mac, you’re already one step ahead of the game. Macs come with Time Machine – an efficient and effortless way to back up your Mac locally. All you need to do is connect your computer with an external hard drive and let Time Machine do its thing. While this is a great way to backup your Mac, many Mac users can’t carry an external hard drive round with them, and aren’t connected to it at all times. However, if you use your Mac as a desktop machine, Time Machine just became an even better option.

An automated solution for those who rely on Time Machine is to purchase an Apple Time Capsule. Time Capsule works as a base station with an upgraded server hard drive. Time Machine will detect when you’re using your computer and will decide when the best time to backup your Mac.

If your Mac is a desktop machine, just connect it to an external hard drive, set it to backup your Mac at regular intervals, and you’ll have an automated Time Machine backup process. For those of you in the market for an external hard drive, I went with the 500GB [re]drive from SimpleTech, but there are many more larger sized hard drives available.

If you’re interested in backing up locally to an external hard drive, check out the blog post on how to backup your Mac with Time Machine.

Mac Backup: How I Backup my MacBook Pro

So, what’s the best solution for backing up your Mac? I personally use both a local backup option and an online backup solution. That way I have both a backup on an external hard drive and a backup on an external server. If something happens to my hard drive, I can rely on having my files safe and secure in the cloud.

If you want to be really safe and secure, you could make a copy of your most recent backup to your external drive on another drive and keep it in a safety deposit box or storage unit. So if anything should happen to both your local and external backups, you’ll have a recent copy of your files.

I make one monthly backup to an external hard drive, and have the online Mac backup automate the process and save my files to the cloud. I’ve found that this is generally enough for a safe computing experience, while not going over the top at the same time.