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Which backup method should you use to create constant archives of your data?




You've probably heard it dozens and dozens of times: It's important to back up your data. Apple has Time Machine to help you get a regular backup routine, but are there other methods you should use?

Various backup methods use different frequencies as they push updates to an archive. When considering these methods, ask yourself: How many copies are made? How and where are the data stored? How secure is data locked, both physically and with encryption? And often the most important, how recently?

Here are a few popular consumer backup methods

  • File Synchronization Services: These services, including Dropbox, usually monitor specific areas in your Mac storage device and update Changes instantly.
  • Local Backup Software: Apps like Time Machine perform backups on a regular basis, which can sometimes be selected.
  • Internet Host Backup Services: Services like Backblaze can perform continuous backup, but may not be as updated as a synchronization service.

Why do these backup methods work differently? It has to do with the calculation to index files without burning up as many CPU cycles as your system is slowing down.

Dropbox and its category are not technical backup services, even if they keep archives and revisions. Because they monitor relatively few files or directories, with a decent broadband connection, they can remain on top of things.

If you need almost instant backup of documents when they change it, a sync service is the way to go but read their support documents to make sure they really start uploading changes as soon as you save a file, even an open one. Dropbox has a long explanation of how the software tries to balance system and network load and freshness.

Time Machine and similar local backup software attempt to balance drive and computer activity with current files and Apple chose to go every hour. You can force any Time Machine backup from the Time Machine menu at any time. Otherwise, the Time Machine Spotlight index uses which MacOS updates continuously as files change, to determine which new and modified files to add.

Services such as Backblaze that archive files for filing usually work a lot like Time Machine, but often also have a different backup rate approach. For Backblaze, users can set the frequency to continuous, but it does not mean "immediately". As the company explains on a support page, it means that it can take as long as three hours to iron CPU usage, to update a given modified file. 1

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