Backups are always a touchy subject. I can’t remember how many times I have listened to a frantic phone call, with a person on the other end near the point of the tears…all over the fact their photos from <insert trip> were on what is now a dead hard drive. The first thing I ask is do they have a backup. 99% of the time, the answer is a flat out no. The excuses are wide ranging. Some people just never bought an external hard drive or took a few hours to burn 5 DVD’s worth of data. Others have the external hard drive, but remember to plug it in maybe twice a year. Still others manage to backup often, but forget to take a copy offsite prior to a major fire.
Apple’s Time Capsule and Microsoft’s Windows Home Server are finally filling part of a huge void that has been there since the beginning of the personal computer age. Both allow you to setup automated backups so you don’t have to manually start them. Basically, set it up once and let them do the rest. However, both take wildly different routes to reach this outcome.
Microsoft went the route of saying ever home needs its own server. Microsoft’s solution goes all out, offering everything from backups to remote access of data to even remotely controlling your computer. It is as if it was a true server in some company data center. The trouble of course is not everyone needs all of this, most people would be quite content with a simple device that does backups. You have to power what is essentially a desktop computer or even a server depending on how powerful the machine is. What if you turn off the server and forget to turn it back on? No more backups. Plus there is higher electric bills, higher complexity, more chances for things to go wrong. Oh yeah, a high price tag too. However, you gain a very powerful server, that offers amazing features and capabilities. It sounds like a must buy for any Windows power user. For your casual Windows user though? I believe it is way overkill. I don’t picture my grandparents buying one of these.
Apple went their classic route of simplier = better. Inside a small square box that isn’t even an inch tall, you have an internal hard drive and your wireless router. Just one device to power (there isn’t even an external power brick, just a simple power cord), no separate server. If it is off, you will know it, since the Internet won’t work as well. As long as your Mac’s are online and configured to backup to it, every hour Time Machine will silently backup the latest changes to the Time Capsule. If you ever need to restore something, a simple launch of Time Machine will let you browse around to the exact date and file you want to restore. Setting up Time Capsule was very simple. A few clicks and everything was working.
Time Capsule is perfect for your typical home user who needs backups without any hassle. I highly recommend it, despite myself being a classic power user. I just want backups to work, without intervention from me. The initial backup took awhile (I highly recommend using ethernet for the first backup), but the hourly backups work fine, even with a Mac that uses Wireless-G. A little slow, but it still works. That is all we care about, right?
Now the only backups I need to worry about is bringing an occassional one off-site to guard against fire or theft.