Backing Up Your Mac Smarter with SmartBackup

I don’t think any AppStorm reader would disagree with me on this: you would be crazy not to back up your Mac. Whether you use Time Machine or a complicated NAS with off-site redundancy, it is vital that you make sure data loss isn’t a possibility.

While many people find the default Mac OS X backup features to provide all the features they find necessary, some users – including myself – don’t enjoy the large downtime involved when recovering from a Time Machine backup (which, if you haven’t done before, can take hours!) Restoring a single file is easy, restoring a full computer isn’t the fastest thing in the world.

Today we’re going to be taking a look at a utility called SmartBackup to see how this handy little app can make backing up easy!

What’s SmartBackup?

For a number of years I have used SuperDuper! as my secondary backup program, allowing me to have a bootable copy of my computer that I can take to any other Macs to work temporarily should I encounter a big system failure.

However, the third party app I’ll be featuring in this article is SmartBackup. The gist of the application is similar to SuperDuper! and other backup solutions like Chronosync: provide a more controllable backup system that can be bootable in case of hard disk failure.

Main Window

Main Window

Creating a New Backup

Creating a New Backup

Pressing ‘Sync’

In use, the basic backup worked well. I never ran into errors during a backup or system clone, and the performance was similar to other applications. Subsequent backups (updates) to your backup folder are much quicker as the program checks what needs to be moved, deleted or changed. Folder syncs will throw errors if you have files already there, so to be safe, just start with a blank folder you want to be mimicked between computers.

Halfway Through a Backup

Halfway Through a Backup

In a similar fashion to Time Machine, SmartBackup gives you options to keep older versions of files. It also offers a number of settings to prevent accidental deletion of that important report, video or pop song.

Options

Options

Scheduling Backups

Scheduling backups is a different story though, and you might find this process a little trickier.

The help documentation explains the different options really well, so be sure to read them before selecting backups, restoring or scheduling backups.

First, there is SmartBackup’s “Autopilot”. When enabled, each time you open SmartBackup a selected backup routine will begin- quitting when the backup is complete. The easiest way to automate backups with this option is to create an iCal event at the desired backup time. For the event’s alarm, set it to open SmartBackup – Autopilot will then take over and perform the sync routine.

iCal

iCal

Another option is to utilize the Mac’s most widely unused program: Automator. SmartBackup has several built in options that allow you build your own application that has a distinct routine. Again, just set an iCal Alarm to start the backup.

Automator

Automator

The final option is to use a shell script. I’m going to skip over this option, as it’s mainly for advanced users, and in all likelihood you’ll take the simpler option of building an Automator workflow.

Conclusion

What surprised me so much about SmartBackup was the combination of a very polished user interface, but without the powerful functionality to match. There is no real option to schedule backups within the program itself, and I think iCal scheduling is a poor option for a paid application that you’ve forked over $25 for. Also, the folder sync option is something that I feel few users would use.

After using the application and reading through the documentation (something I rarely do), I think I’ve figured out who this application is aimed at. The Automator integration and shell scripting options, along with great Time Machine-eque features, make it feel like SmartBackup is targeted towards the professional backup ninja. Those who dislike Time Machine for its limited options and scheduling choices would love SmartBackup. It gives you the ability to adjust all the archival and backup features – all options Apple takes away from their Time Machine product.

SmartBackup can’t be compared to SuperDuper! because they are aimed at different audiences. SuperDuper! and CarbonCopyCloner are great consumer backup options to work in tandem with Time Machine. SmartBackup lets you enjoy simple incremental backup features without actually having to use Apple’s built-in solution.

SmartBackup will work perfectly in conjunction with your current Apple backup scheme, adding in simple cloning options. When you are ready to jump away from consumer programs like Time Machine, SmartBackup can fill that role as well. While I wish there were some sort of in-app scheduling, iCal setup isn’t the most difficult thing I have had to do to get a program up and running.

I know several people who jumped to Leopard for the Time Machine feature alone, paying $129 at the time. SmartBackup costs just $25, and can work as a cloner, archiver and syncing application.

During the trial period you have the ability to backup 20 times without needing a license key. Give it a shot, and see if it fits into your application. However, if you are happy with using Time Machine for a simple incremental backup, look at something like CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper! for bootable backup options.


Summary

SmartBackup is aimed at the prosumer who may want to transition away from Time Machine and other basic cloning tools. It can be a bit confusing at first, however there are lots of powerful features that make this program a great choice for complicated backup routines.

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  • http://a7web.com Aaron

    How well does it work backing up to non-apple approved hard drives / network drives? This is one of the most important pieces of information regarding a mac backup system and you’ve left it out of your review!

  • http://crazyhunk.com Crazyhunk

    hmm… I actually have to say I am quite pleased with Time Machine + CCC…
    :)

  • phunkidude

    I’m struggling to see what this does that SuperDuper doesn’t.

    • richard

      SmartBackup cannot only clone your whole System quickly, it can update an existing clone. For a standard installation of 10.6 on a macbook pro such an update takes about 10 minutes.
      To name just one difference.

  • userz2k

    i use iBackup http://www.grapefruit.ch/iBackup/ for free

  • webba

    It’s a very simple app with a nice interface. I had problems when I tried to backup files with long names (like files from a content management system) and SmartBackup just showed an undefined error. In my eyes this app is working great for simple backups like pictures or word files but not for entire system backups.

    • MAXp0wr

      I use this app to backup my entire system and it works great. Never had an issue with filenames.
      I tried 10+ backup apps and settled on this (about a year ago). It’s fast, easy to use with a nice interface and hasn’t let me down once.

  • Josh

    I use Synk Pro however I’m not keen on how CPU intensive it can be when running and takes considerable time so I only use for specific folders and CCC for clones.

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