At some point in life, everyone who owns a computer will suffer some sort of data loss. It's an inevitability as certain as those two other things nobody likes to talk about. Even Mac users are not impervious, despite everything you may have heard to the contrary. Macs were not built to last forever – and even if they were, the element of human error will always leave room for accidental data loss. If you're a collector of digital photos and all sorts of other irreplaceable things, this knowledge should frighten you. If you're a small business owner who relies on your business data to keep your doors open, it should terrify you.
Starting with the release of OS X Leopard in 2007, Apple began manufacturing Macs with built-in backup software intended to protect their deeply devoted fan base from data loss shock. Appropriately named Time Machine and operating on the principle of incremental backups, it allows users to "roll back the clock" on lost data. Unfortunately, Time Machine's reach is limited and can only go back so far. The more backups you create today, the more older backups begin to drop off into oblivion. Time Machine is also incompatible with older machines like PowerPCs. Clearly, this is no real solution to the need for full Mac protection.
Enter third-party Mac backup software solutions like Data Backup, ChronoSync and Tri-Backup. These are our top picks for best Mac backup software programs, and all three are highly capable of backing up data files in addition to all of your programs and OS settings. Ultimately, this makes it possible for you to suffer a catastrophic Mac attack and still keep chugging along with barely a hiccup – or even a half day of computer downtime, for that matter. Keep reading to learn what we found to be the most important things to look for in Mac backup software. When you're done reading, check out our other articles about Mac backup software.
All of the programs in our top 10 list of Mac backup software have one thing in common: they make a copy of your Mac's hard drive data and store it in a safe place so that you can access it if your computer bites the dust or your files fall victim to that all-mysterious disappearance malady. Some of the software programs achieve this by storing data onto a partitioned section of your hard drive. Others let you store the data across numerous removable media like burned DVDs and external hard drives. Some even let you upload it all to the cloud. Although each operates with the same end goal in mind, not all are made alike. Here are some things to look for when deciding on a third-party Mac backup software program.
All of the backup software programs on our top 10 list share numerous features in common, but only a handful leave absolutely nothing to be desired in the way of full functionality. While all of them have the ability to back up individual files and folders, not all have the capacity to perform incremental backups. Incremental backups are important because they perform frequent data saves that keep your backed up files current, offering added assurance that if you suffer a mechanical failure your losses will be minimal. You should also look for programs that enable you to program pre- and post-run commands, which is basically a feature that lets you tell the program what to do once it's finished backing up data. Additionally, consider a backup software program that lets you store some or all of your data to the cloud. Many of today's cloud storage services offer superior security by way of military-level encryption that keeps your personal data safe from hackers and viruses. Offloading large amounts of data to the cloud can also prevent you from filling your Mac's hard drive with backed up data.
Backing up your Mac's data is only part of the equation. For a backup software program to be truly effective, it has to be able to restore files, folders, applications and program settings to their original state easily and effectively. This allows you to pick up where you left off as if nothing happened, with minimal inconvenience. Some recovery programs operate through Mac's built-in Finder utility and require you to manually drag and drop items back onto your hard drive. Others come with wizards that walk you through the process of performing a full system restore. Look for programs that come with the ability to restore original file paths so that you don't have to spend time reconfiguring your setup after recovery. Also seek out programs that support filters and sorting, which enable you to pick and choose which files to restore in the event you don't have to perform a full system restore.
If you have lost all data, or if your Mac has experienced mechanical failure and is going to be out of commission for an extended period of time, you can take advantage of your backup program's ability to restore everything to another computer. Be sure to pick a software program that will allow you to restore to a separate location.
Just as not all Mac backup software programs come with the same backup and recovery features, not all share the same management tool set. Management tools encompass a broad range of administrative capabilities like scheduling backups, pulling reports and receiving email notifications anytime a backup has completed successfully so that you can stay on top of any potential issues. They also include the ability to tweak certain settings to your needs, such as being able to adjust data compression rates or changing the number of file versions that are retained. Both of these can have a great impact on the amount of space that your backups use.
Help & Support
No matter your level of proficiency or how easy a program is to operate, eventually everyone has to go in search of information or process clarification. When that instance arises, it's good to know you have ready access to a competent knowledgebase or the ability to communicate with a living person to aid in troubleshooting. To that end, consider data backup solutions that offer online user manuals, FAQs and how-to tutorials. Also look for those that come with email, live chat or telephone support.
Don't wait for your Mac to experience a catastrophic loss of data before you back up your files and system settings. Read our list of best Mac backup software programs, find the one that's right for you, and get your backup on before the inevitable occurs.