Dolly Drive: Time Machine in the Cloud

As many of the Mac AppStorm writers will tell you, backup is important! It is the single thing that is protecting you from massive data loss, hours of frustration and lots of hair pulling.

With the advent of Leopard, Apple released a built-in backup utility that makes backup a breeze, called Time Machine. However, Time Machine was developed for local use only. It will backup to a Firewire or USB hard drive plugged directly into your computer as well as a Time Capsule device on your local Wifi network. While that is a very good thing, natural disasters do occur, as does theft and simple hard drive failure that can put your backup at risk. What if you could use Time Machine to backup to the cloud?

Introducing Dolly Drive

Dolly Drive does just that. It enables you to use Time Machine to backup to a cloud service, called Dolly Grid.

Backing up to Dolly Grid

Backing up to Dolly Grid

Backing up using Dolly Drive just requires a small application that changes a few things about your Time Machine settings. Instead of backing up to a local hard disk or Time Capsule on your local network, it creates a backup that is transferred up to the Dolly Grid.

Dolly Drive main window

Dolly Drive main window

Dolly Drive Backup Status

Dolly Drive Backup Status

Now one thing that must be remembered is the slowness that is associated with online backup. Whether you use Dropbox, CrashPlan or Dolly Drive, your backups are going to take a bit longer than they would if they were backing up to a local hard disk. However, the benefits (protection against theft, hard drive failure or natural disaster) often outweigh the downside of slower backup.

Cloning With Dolly Clone

Once you have your time machine backing up to the cloud, what are you going to do with the hard drive that is sitting idle besides your computer? Use it as a local backup of course! With most of your data secured online, it can takes hours to download your data to get going again after a hard drive failure or loss of some kind. Having a local backup as well a cloud backup will help you get up and running again in a matter of minutes instead of hours.

Since Dolly Drive takes up your Time Machine capabilities, (Apple doesn’t allow for two different Time Machine instances to exist on one Mac at the same time) you will need to use a cloning utility instead. Recently, Dolly Drive added cloning capabilities right inside their application under the name “Dolly Clone.”

Dolly Clone, selecting a source

Dolly Clone, selecting a source

Dolly Clone is about as simple as it gets. You pick what you want backed up and then which drive it should be cloned to. Then you can chose to have Dolly Clone wipe the backup destination and start fresh, or have it smartly update the drives to be clones of each other. The latter is done by determining the differences between the two drives and then adjusting the destination drive to match the original.

Pricing Online Backup

Dolly Drive is a subscription service (with Dolly Clone being a free download for everyone). They have a few different plans starting at $5/month for 50GB, going up to $10/month for 250GB and even $55/month for 2TB of storage (there are discounts available if your pay in advance). Each plan comes with an extra 5GB per month that you remain a customer. Since Time Machine backups continuously expand, it’s a great bonus to using Dolly Drive.

The two main competitors to Dolly Drive appear to be CrashPlan and Backblaze. However, these don’t utilize the built-in Time Machine system to backup. They each charge $5/month for unlimited backup. It’s important to note though that restoring from these services generally requires logging onto their website and downloading a .zip file. This is much less fluid than using Time Machine to connect to your Dolly Drive backup and restoring from there.

Conclusion

Dolly Drive for Lion, at the time of writing is still in Beta. There are a few bugs that should be fixed with Lion’s 10.7.2 backup, according to Dolly Drive. However it worked splendidly for me.

It is stuck with the normally slow internet backup problem that all of its competitors also face. With a normal home connection, the Internet isn’t really fast enough to match local backup speeds. While it isn’t Dolly Drive’s fault, it is something to think about if you plan to start backing up terabytes of data.

Because it is using Time Machine to backup, there isn’t a way to access your files on a mobile device or different computer, even if your files are located in the cloud.

Should you start using Dolly Drive for cloud backup? I would say yes if you haven’t ever tried online backup. Being so deeply integrated with the Mac operating system is fantastic. I found their support to be exceptional as well. If you are already backed up with another online backup service, I would be a bit weary. This is mainly due to the amount of time that it would take to get all of your data in the cloud again.

Do you use an online backup service? Have you tried out Dolly Drive? Let us know in the comments!


Summary

Time Machine integrated backup in the cloud. It's simple and works great, definitely worth a look for anyone who needs an offsite backup.

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  • Volty

    I tried Dolly Drive a couple of month ago but it didn’t work from behind our proxy. CrashPlan does and has been working great so far.

  • Dl

    No I won’t be trying any new services in the Cloud with Amazon, Google, Apple, Dropbox and net whatever there are so many that are free to spread things around is no problem for me.. I’ll keep our time capsule up to date, it’s 3 TB so it holds all of our computer info, the PC’s included!

  • http://mc-kenna.com/ Damien McKenna

    I use multiple backups: local USB drive for timemachine, Crashplan for offsite backups, and an additional backup of some of my most important data to a local Synology NAS. Dolly Drive sounds really neat but doesn’t fit my specific needs. If I was someone who travelled a lot and wasn’t able to have a handy USB drive at the ready then I would probably use it but in addition to another service.

  • http://www.kraftworks.com Susan Kraft

    I lost all my child’s baby photos when my computer was stolen, and I was even backing up to an external hard drive; but he got them both. Ever since I have been backing up offsite to different services and I’ve pretty much tried them all. (Mothers with kids at school have free time)
    It looks like these guys work for crash plan! because I was not won over. I tried to recover the files and they send you a zip file from the website. Not a good feel. I’m totally in Dolly Drive because it is easy to setup, easy to use the clone (Which I thought was kind of clever; Dolly being the first animal cloned) and it feels good with my Mac because its just for Macs. I give Dolly my a-OK

  • Craig

    My vote is for Dolly. I was skeptical at first. The initial back-up took a while — even over decent connections. However, if you ask, they’ll send you a hard drive you can load and send back to them.

    I have to say, service has been pretty good as well. They did a couple of WebEx sessions where they remoted into my machine to explain and help.

    Noone could be as skeptical as I was about which solution to choose. Once it started working and I could use the amazing Time Machine interface just as Steve Jobs intended, I knew I’d made the right choice.

    P.S. No worries about my data being stolen or destroyed because I have a comprehensive off-site back-up now that I have Dolly.

  • Paul

    @Quintin, you should mention that the pricing you listed is specifically for signing up for 2 Years in advance; it’s more expensive if you pay month to month.

    And the last 2 comments sound very scripted/suspicious….just sayin’.

    mac.appstorm.net’s articles are becoming worse and worse. definite disappointment.

  • Bill

    Another product you might have mentioned is Arq. I’ve been using it for a couple of years now and am very satisfied. It leaves my Time Machine settings alone and provides hourly incremental (i.e., only the difference) backups to my account with Amazon’s S3 service.

    No monthly charge from Arq, and my monthly S3 charges come to a little over $2/month for about 50GB. I figure that’s a reasonable amount to pay for off-site backup accessible from anywhere as a supplement to my on-site Time Machine volume.

    • http://www.branches.dk Esben

      I 2nd Arq. It’s really great software and dirt cheap backup!

      • Daz

        Looking at Arqs prices it seems to be more expensive than Dolly drive plus you have to buy the software initially.

  • Anthony

    Actually those prices seem to be the month to month ones, the 1 and 2 year plans are cheaper.

  • Deb

    What about Wuala? I have yet to figure this all out, but there’s a lot about Wuala that impresses me.

    Any input/insight appreciated.
    Thx.

  • Bob

    It’s obvious people here don’t know how to fully use Crashplan. You can do local back ups and restores in addition to the cloud. You can also restore via the Crashplan client not just the web with zip files(this is just for quick one of restores of a small number of files and what not). I have had 80GBS of photos and videos of my family saved thanks to Crashplan. Read up on how it actually works an you will not be disappointed.

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  • Joe

    DollyDrive has to be one of the best out there! Not only is it super easy to use even for the computer illiterate but it has sync folder for multiple computer syncing of files. Drag and drop is as easy as it gets. Plus an onli e only folder for large files you don’t want taking up space on your computer. It’s like a thumb drive you have everywhere there is a computer without having to remember to bring it with you. Did I mention easy to use! I would recommend it to everyone but especially those that are not real good with a computer.

  • rws1773

    Potential customers be forewarned: this company does not conduct business ethically. They stall when a customer cancels and requests a refund. I have requested a refund several times since Feb 2012 from their so called “Director – Client Services”. Despite continuous promises from this so called “Director”, I still have not recieved a refund. Ask yourself this question: if a company would screw their customers out of a refund, how could you trust them with your data? Consider yourself warned.

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