Online backup services: why, how & which?

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Macs make automated backup childishly easy: simply plug in an external hard drive and OS X will ask whether you want to use it as a Time Machine disk. Say yes, and you’ll then get fully-automatic, hourly, versioned backups without doing anything further.

Unplug it to take your MacBook out & about, and it will catch up as soon as you return and plug it back in. Even easier, get a Time Capsule, and those backups take place over wifi, so you don’t even have to connect a drive.

But I’m a belt-and-braces chap. I like multiple backups, and I like one of those backups to be off-site. That way, if the house burns down, or a burglar takes both my Macs and my backup drives, I still have access to my data. Which is where online backup services come into play. Think of them as your backup of last resort.

iCloud, covered in my cloud storage roundup last week, already backs up quite a lot of your data – but nothing like all of it. The services covered here are ones that backup either your entire Mac, or a large proportion of it …

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How-to: Set time limits on your Wi-Fi network using AirPort Utility

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AirPort Utility is a built-in Mac app that is used to configure and control Wi-Fi networks using Apple’s AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express, and Time Capsule. The AirPort Extreme is a base station router like you would use when setting up your Wi-Fi network. An AirPort Express is used to extend a Wi-Fi network to a larger area, or can be used to stream audio using AirPlay. A Time Capsule is a combination of an AirPort Extreme and an external hard drive, and comes in 2 TB or 3 TB. It automatically backs up all Macs on your network.

AirPort Utility has the ability to set limits on what time of day the network (and therefore the internet) can be accessed from specific wireless devices. This can be helpful in situations where parents want to keep kids off of the internet after a certain time. Time limits can be set for different times on different days of the week.

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Stock shortages suggest possible new iMac and Airport Express on the way

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MacRumors is citing low stocks of Airport Express base stations as suggesting that a faster 802.11ac model is expected soon to match the capabilities of the latest Macs. This would offer wifi speeds almost three times faster than current 802.11n models, a capability that has already been incorporated into the current Airport Extreme and Time Capsule models.

We’re also hearing similar whispers about constrained supplies of iMacs, alongside price-cuts by resellers …  Read more

Synology launches new 8-bay DS1813+ NAS with 4 GbE ports for $1099

If you’re fed up with Time Capsule and looking for a reliable, feature-filled NAS solution that also packs in some killer iOS companion apps and AirPlay support, we’re huge fans of Diskstation NAS Enclosures from Synology. We’ve reviewed the Synology NAS experience in the past, such as the two bay SD212 Diskstation, but today the company has announced its latest 8-bay unit with the launch of the new “DS1813+” model.

The new unit is similar to the 5 bay DS1513+ model it launched earlier this month, features the same screwless drive bays supporting 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch drives, but also includes four GbE ports and speeds up to 350 MBps reads and 200 MBps writes. On top of some nice iOS, web, and Android apps for managing all of your content, Synology also offers apps for printer sharing, VPN server, ERP software, mail server, web server, anti-virus, and network video surveillance built-in.  Read more

Apple’s Time Capsules go missing from retail stores globally

Shipping times for Time Capsules are increasing steadily across regional online Apple stores in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, France and other territories. While the 3TB version of Time Capsule is in stock at certain online Apple Stores, most now list the wireless backup appliance with up to one to three weeks delivery time. Meanwhile, 2TB Time Capsules in some stores take one to two weeks. Over at Amazon (temporarily out of stock) and Best Buy (sold out) things are not looking peachy either.

This is similar to the AppleTV shortages we noted over the weekend but may not be for the same reason.

Time Capsule constrains could be linked to the Thai floods that have led to global shortages of hard drives and subsequent jacked prices by as much as 28 percent. A disruption in the hard drive supply already affected the 27-inch iMac. That, plus the fact that other AirPort-branded products stay in stock only reinforce the notion that constrained supplies of Apple’s Time Capsule is likely caused by global hard drive shortages.

According to an unnamed tip that 9to5Mac received this morning, several Apple outlets in Australia no longer have Time Capsules in stock:

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Time Capsules accept user 3TB drives?

Apple last week bumped up its Time Capsule wireless backup appliance to 2TB and 3TB models, priced the same $299 and $499, respectively. In addition, Apple appears to be now using consumer public drives from Western Digital (bumped up from Hitachi Deskstar drives). That, plus the $499 price point puts the new 3TB Time Capsule pretty much out of reach on price-conscious buyers. In fact, you’re better off, as we explained, hooking up an external USB drive to your 1TB Time Capsule.

But if you hate the clutter and yearn for a sealed, elegant solution with only one plug, you needn’t pony up $200 extra for a 3TB Time Capsule: It would seem that the wireless gizmo accepts 3TB internal drives, if properly partitioned. According to a HardMac reader:

I personally installed a 3 TB WD Caviar Green 3To (by chance!), when it came out 5 months ago, in a 1 TB Time Capsule that I bought around that time as well. I formatted it with Airport Utility to have the 3 partitions that are necessary for Time Machine and it was immediately recognized as a 3 TB disk. I’ve been using it ever since without any problem.

One caveat…

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Time Capsule doesn’t have server hard drive as advertised

French website Macbidouille has published a teardown of the new $299 Time Capsule announced last week. Contrary to some rumors, it doesn’t have an A4 or A5 chip, and it doesn’t run a stripped down version of iOS.

The not so big surprise is that Apple is still using the $80 Western Digital Caviar Green HDD –what most would consider a ‘consumer grade hard drive’.  ($80!) What’s weird, and a little sketchy, is that Apple continues to advertise their Time Capsule having a ‘server grade hard drive.’

And for those scoring at home, the 3TB equivalent of the above drive costs a whopping $133, a whole $67 less than the cost to upgrade to a $499 3TB Time Capsule (never mind the 2TB drive already thrown in).  Full rant on that here.

Hopefully Apple isn’t filling up North Carolina with these for iCloud. Read more

Why buying the 3TB Time Capsule is crazypants

We know Apple charges a premium on storage.  That’s why many people buy RAM and HDD/SSD storage for their Macs from third party retailers, saving lots of money.   With iOS devices, however, Apple is able to keep out third party upgrades because the devices are sealed shut.  That’s why a device with 16GB costs $100 less than a device with 32GB of RAM, which in turn costs $100 less than a device with 64GB of flash storage.  Apple buys Flash for less than anyone else on earth but mere mortals can get storage for a fraction of what Apple charges.

So here’s this Time Capsule thing.

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 $299 for 2TB.  To upgrade to a 3TB drive, you’ll need $200 more.  How absurd is this?  The difference between a 2TB and 3TB drive is like $40.

Not only is this beyond the call of the “Mac Tax” but it is crazy easy to get around.  For an extra $150 (Still $50 less than the 3TB model) you can buy a perfectly good 3TB USB Seagate or Western Digital hard drive from Amazon.  Then just plug it into the back of the 2TB model and you have 5TB of addressable space.    You’ve been able to use USB drives since 2008 as Time Machine backups or Network Attached Storage.

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Of course it is nice to have the drive in a convenient little package with only one plug, but for $200, only getting an extra TB seems a little absurd.   Read more

More on Apple's Airport/Time Capsule and a possible refresh


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We’ve been tracking Time Capsule/Airport shortages reported earlier for about a week. Our sources noted that Airport Express has been plentiful but supplies of TimeCapsule and Airport Extreme have been tightening globally the way products usually do before a refresh.

What we do know is that Apple has been internally testing Time Capsules to cache Software Updates for both Mac and iOS devices.  The way we’ve heard it works is that the new Time Capsule learns which devices connect to it via Wifi.  It then goes out to Apple’s servers and downloads Software Updates for those products.

When the user wants to install the software update, the Time Capsule, which is also the router, routes you to the locally stored update, rather than downloading the whole thing over the Internet.  This works for iOS updates as well, though the updating still happened via the Mac.

Apple’s Mac OSX Servers currently do this for Mac businesses, so the technology already exists externally (though Mac OSX Server just downloads everything – without knowing which devices will be connected).

With Apple’s new iCloud component, we believe Apple has a chance to extend this functionality.  Perhaps Time Capsules could cache parts of your iCloud music locker that you use the most so that it speeds up the streaming process.  It could also cache large documents and files that get used often or even movies and photos you own.

While Macs have plenty of local storage, this would be particularly beneficial for iOS devices which are limited to Flash storage, especially AppleTV which has very little local storage.  As HD video gets bigger (1080P) Apple will need new ways to deliver and store this content.

The system could also work in reverse.  Apple could allow these new Time Capsules to back up your backups to the Cloud.

Will this be part of Apple’s iOS 5/Lion/iCloud announcement?  We’ll just have to wait and see. Read more