Mac server backup software
September 24, 2008 7:36 AM   Subscribe

Getting some Mac servers and looking for suggestions on backup software.

I'm completely new to the Mac scene, but we're converting from a Windows to Mac environment which will eventually host 700 or so clients and am getting some Mac OSX servers we'll be using as file & print server, iCal, wiki, etc, initially, but host more applications as this project grows.

The problem is that from what I've gathered, Retrospect is one of the few cheaper enterprise Mac solutions (as in under $2000 per edu license), but apparently hasn't been updated in quite some time and is mainly used for just data backup, not SQL/db/user profiles/system state/etc applications like Backup Exec or True Image.

So, any suggestions for backup software on Mac servers?

(I've also read previous mac backup questions, and they were all more along the line of personal backup data or SOHOs, whereas I'm looking more for disaster recovery capability to restore everything in one click, which again, sounds like Retrospect isn't ideal for).
posted by jmd82 to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
EMC has recently started updating Retrospect 6 for Mac again, and have announced "Retrospect X" for later this year. You can do full profile and system restores, it's just not very convenient.

That said, we use Retrospect for 50 desktops and a dozen servers, and it's barely adequate.

I'll be watching this topic too, as I really don't have a good answer for you
posted by Oktober at 8:16 AM on September 24, 2008

There's a new version of Retrospect being released fairly soon that should raise it up to be a respectable player in the SMB backup software market.

Barring that (staying with Retrospect X), you might investigate Atempo's product which has decent backup cient for the Mac. But it's expensive.

Most small shops with Mac servers are still using Retrospect. As clunky as it is, it still gets the job done. Many of us are eagerly looking to the new version to finally bring some new features to our backup routines.

A few places I've visited are using Apple's Time Machine to backup their servers to external Firewire HDs. I'm not a huge fan of this method, but it's better than nothing. Another place had a rsync script running that synced the data on their sharepoints to another server located in another state. Yet another place was using SuperDuper to make a .dmg backup of each server every night and saving it on an attached firewire HD. This gave the the ability to roll back to the previous backup in case of disaster. However, it doesn't allow for much flexibility in rolling back to one week ago, or two weeks ago, etc.

Leopard Server is a decent product, but a few pieces of it are--in my opinion-- still undercooked. iCal Server is very much a v1.0 product and there *still* isn't much sophistication in administering DNS or DCHP servers in Leopard Server. But as a file server, print server, wiki, etc., it works just splendidly.
posted by at 8:19 AM on September 24, 2008

user profiles/system state

Unlike Windows, Mac OS X keeps all such information in plain files (plist files, often xml). So plain data backup is sufficient for getting that kind of state.

You only need db backup for wiki etc which uses their own database. The simplest workaround is to create a job which exports the db once a day.
posted by flif at 8:26 AM on September 24, 2008

All of the firms I have worked at have used Retrospect as their backup solution for their Mac workstations. Right now, we're using Retrospect 6.1 on about 200 Macs company wide (across, oh, four or five sites?), and backing up to Windows 2003 servers at each office, all running Retrospect 7. Retrospect leaves much to be desired, but echoing the above -- it gets the job done. Also, you can definitely restore a disk or directory from a Retrospect snapshot -- very handy.

I'm not sure exactly why you would need to backup the entire contents of the local hard drive -- it's simple to just backup /Users. Users shouldn't really be saving their documents to any other place, honestly. (I once had a user somehow save over /mach_kernel, which made for a really awesome startup sequence...) Further, it's much less time consuming to create one 'master' image to setup machines with a common set of applications. This makes deployment of new/replacement machines simpler, and saves space and time during the backup process. (If you're going to let users install their own applications, this means you'll need to put their accounts in admin or wheel... not exactly my idea of a good time.) Or hell, you could always setup portable network accounts using an OD server... but that's really off topic.

As for backing up your servers that have open files, just setup a cron job.

I would definitely advise against using Time Machine and a bunch of different external drives connected to each individual workstation. That's just begging for disaster -- especially when those drives fail.
posted by peeet at 8:47 AM on September 24, 2008

Response by poster: Good to know, flif. It's stuff like this I flying blind on at the moment.

Yea, I'm not planning on using Time Machine. Users can use it at home for music/videos, but we're just going to be mirroring their documents to the server so I won't be using backup software on the clients. If something craps out, image, resync, and voila.

I was more worried about the server needing software to properly do the task, kind of like Windows coming with backup software but it's not exactly something I would use for a server. Or how not all backup software is created equal for properly restoring an exchange server.

Thanks for all the other responses so far. Good stuff!
posted by jmd82 at 9:10 AM on September 24, 2008

You will be running databases, and for ical/wiki to work, you will need to use Open Directory to store your user credentials. This is an active database, and a simple file copy will not be enough. There is an export option in the Server Admin Pane for open directory that will let you generate a full backup, encrypted with a password (as this stores the hashes for all the user accounts, etc.).

Retrospect X will have a decent feature set, and in the meantime, I have still used the existing retrospect 6 to backup production servers, it is just slow, and you have to design around it (I used a rotating disk system, backup to storage on a dedicated external drive nightly, on thursday evening take a snapshot from external A to B or C, friday morning someone takes B or C home with them, etc.). is a great resource, and I highly recommend you pickup this 10.5 server training book.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:14 AM on September 24, 2008

also, in terms of system setup, I always build the server with a boot partition and a separate data partition. You can then assign all the user accounts and shared folders and assests to be stored on that partition, so in case you have to tear down and rebuild the server, you can do a wipe / reinstall and then relink up all the shares, knowing that the data is still intact.

If you are considering to host mail and calendaring services on the box, I suggest you look in Kerio Mailserver, runs on 10.4/10.5, provides a full exchange level of functionality (you can point outlook at it and it thinks its an exchange server), not to mention it does activesync, so you can do push mail/contacts/calendaring to the iPhone (10.5 server has no feature to do this right now).
posted by mrzarquon at 10:21 AM on September 24, 2008

Are you going to be backing up just OSX or are you going to have some Windows in your environment? You mention Exchange which is why I ask. I am not sure how far you want to jump, but Netbackup can do both.
posted by Silvertree at 10:49 AM on September 24, 2008

Here is info on retrospect X, these guys are slow, but their products are solid (I mean, retrospect 6 still *works* its not fast, but it keeps running and I can still restore data from it).

In terms of emergency backup, my approach is always: backup configurations, backup settings (these can be documented on *paper*), backup data off site. With those, and the installation media, you should be able to get a server up and running after a catastrophe. It also ensures you have good documentation and change tracking, which makes troubleshooting and managing other problems easier.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:30 PM on September 24, 2008

It's a good thing to have multiple redundancy. Like a boot drive that gets duplicated daily, plus a data drive that's mirrored. On top of that, Retrospect to do archival copies of your data.

I've used a lot of programs and somehow always end up going back to Retrospect. There's also BRU, which is supposed to be a powerful backup program but I've no experience with it.

Retrospect has pulled the bacon out of the fire countless times for me.
posted by diode at 9:19 PM on September 24, 2008

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