OS X in a WHS Envirnoment?
June 26, 2008 7:16 AM   Subscribe

I have finally completed a overhaul of my home network. There's only one question left - how can I leverage the resources I have to backup my Mac?

After years of doing a half-ass job, but I finally got my act together with my home computing infrastructure.

I now have a machine with Windows Home Server and a couple terabytes of disk space tucked into the corner of the closet in the bedroom (my girlfriend was surprisingly cool with that addition). I have a PC running Vista Ultimate acting as a media center of sorts, playing stuff from the 'ol Home Server. There are also a myriad of other Dell desktop PCs spread out over the house - one in the office, one in another bedroom.

All the Windows boxes backup every night to the Home Server, I'm able to stream media pretty effortlessly from one machine to another, I am, generally speaking, at peace.

Except there's my MacBook Pro.

I'd really like to be backing up this machine, as it has several (several, several) gigabytes of important work.

Time Capsule would work, except it's expensive and I already have several terabytes of empty disk space sitting on the network, so nuts to that.

A USB-disk drive with Time Machine would work, except that my laptop doesn't really have a "home" - it's always on me, so if I have to set it down, hook it up, and back it up on a schedule, well, that's not going to work for me.

I want to be able to back it up over the network to the Home Server. There have been rumors for some time that Microsoft is going to add a little Time Machine plugin for WHS, but as far as I can tell, that's never going to happen - or, if it is going to happen, it's not going to happen any time soon.

The one thing I can do is map a shared drive to the server on my MacBook Pro using Samba.

So, I guess what I need is a robust, reliable piece of OS X software that can backup over the network to a shared drive. Bonus points if it's free, but if it's not, well, my data's probably worth more to me than free dollars, so I'll pay.

I've found a couple pieces of software by browsing through Lifehacker and a couple other sites, but they mostly seem to focus on synchronizing over the network. I don't want that. I want incremental backups.

The end.
posted by kbanas to Technology (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

I've been out of IT for a short while, but this was what several companies I worked for used for decent (not perfect) functionality in a Windows/ OS X environment. I was the Retospect Admin and it was pretty easy to set up, and as long as you keep an eye on it, decent cataloging and retrieval system.
posted by Debaser626 at 7:29 AM on June 26, 2008

A USB-disk drive with Time Machine would work, except that my laptop doesn't really have a "home" - it's always on me, so if I have to set it down, hook it up, and back it up on a schedule, well, that's not going to work for me

Ooops, meant to put this above... there's also a backup server setting for laptops in which when they're hooked up to the network it will auto backup if it has missed it's scheduled backup, hasn't been backed up in 24hrs, etc.
posted by Debaser626 at 7:33 AM on June 26, 2008

I think you figured it already ...

"map a shared drive to the server on my MacBook Pro using Samba"

Drag and drop?
posted by albatross5000 at 7:53 AM on June 26, 2008

I've been using Synk to back up to a share on a NAS box, which is functionally similar to your situation, I think. It's not the only app that will do this, but it does work fine and gives you a fair amount of control.

It would be nice if Time Machine worked with whatever networked shares you've got. There's a hack to enable this, and I tried it, but as the Time Capsule archive gets bigger, it takes longer to mount each time, to the point where the mounting process timed out. At least in my experience. It's possible that the slowness of my NAS box (which is definitely slow) contributed to this problem.
posted by adamrice at 7:59 AM on June 26, 2008

I think you figured it already ...

"map a shared drive to the server on my MacBook Pro using Samba"

Drag and drop?

Yeah, I mean, I certainly *could* do that. But I want a process that's a little bit more elegant. For example, most modern day backup programs work by doing a "full" backup the first time they run, they creating incremental backups after that point by backing up only files that have changed since the last backup. That's a lot of work to do by hand - especially when there are so many programs out there that'll do it.
posted by kbanas at 8:05 AM on June 26, 2008

Synk and Retrospect both look like good choices. Thanks for the advice so far, guys.
posted by kbanas at 8:06 AM on June 26, 2008

Synk and Retrospect are good, but one thing to point out about Time Machine - you don't have to be "on a schedule" with it. Walk around with laptop for a week, plug it into TM USB drive at some point and it backs up incrementally at that point; unplug it later and walk around for another week.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:17 AM on June 26, 2008

Or you can use rsync. Throw in a command in an Automator Script and you've got a shortcut you can add to your dock.
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:15 AM on June 26, 2008

I have (more or less) the same problem as you and here's how I solved it:

I partitioned off (for safety's sake) a good chunk of disk space on the server as a FAT32 drive. I then connected this via SMB to the Mac and started time machine (Google has a wealth of information on this since it's slightly non-standard). The first backup took a day or two over the LAN so to speed it up you may consider down-ing the server and doing the initial backup via a USB/Firewire drive caddy, if you have such.

Then, it's just a case of whenever the drive gets mounted by the Mac, the automatic backup happens seamlessly. I user a wonderful tool called MarcoPolo to recognise when I'm at home (either via wireless SSID or LAN IP address) and then mount the SMB drive to automatically start the backup. Seamless!

Obviously, to restore you'd need to be connected to the remote drive.
posted by gkhewitt at 12:23 PM on June 26, 2008

Reconsider Time Machine. Once set up, you just need to plug in the drive and walk away. If you plug in your machine to recharge while at home, you already have a home base of some sort.

There are also online solutions that are free. My laziness prevents me from googling these for you but they're out there.
posted by chairface at 1:02 PM on June 26, 2008

I don't have a specific non Time Machine recommendation (if you can use it, Time Machine rocks), but if your looking for alternatives this comprehensive list of 91 different mac backup solutions might help you out.
posted by dyslexictraveler at 2:12 PM on June 26, 2008

I use rsync for the document folders to a dedicated share on a samba server. For a (rarer) full backup of the whole system, I have an old disk in a usb case, and use Carbon Copy Cloner, which is simple enough. I'm mostly concerned about the docs...
posted by pompomtom at 5:02 PM on June 26, 2008

rsyncX comes with a gui that will let you define a backup and schedule it to run automatically. You don't want to do this over samba; run an rsync server on the windows box.
posted by PueExMachina at 9:32 PM on June 26, 2008

I'll second rsync, not over samba, & I'd use jwz's backup PSA as a reference on useful commands to backup OSX.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:59 PM on June 27, 2008

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