Twin: The All-in-One, Flexible Backup Solution

Slowly but surely, awareness about backing up computer data is on the rise. Much of this attention toward backup comes from the recent crop of cloud based storage solutions. The problem with these online storage options is the unavailability of options to backup data over your own network or external drive. There’s also the time it takes to download data from remote servers when you need to restore.

Twin bridges that gap. Nowadays—especially if you’re a freelancer—there is a very high probability of having a web server for running your own website/blog, so why pay an additional monthly subscription for storage?

And in the case of small and medium businesses, there’s likely to be a network storage device or a bunch of RAID servers to use for your backup.

After the break, let us take look how Twin can help us back up data efficiently within our existing storage infrastructure.

Installation

Twin has a simple one-click installation process, and the installer is lightweight too (less than 10 MB). Immediately after launching the app, you will be taken to the licensing screen. Here you can enter the license key you have purchased to unlock all features or choose to continue to use the app unlicensed. Twin will cost you a cool $130, but you are promised that all future upgrades will be free for life.

License Information Screen

License Information Screen

If you go down the unlicensed route, the app will come with a limited feature set. You will be able to perform a single backup of 250 MB in size every 15 days. Also you will be allowed to restore only one file at a time during this period. It is surprising that they do not offer a time bound full trial of the app like other Mac apps. Without a full trial version, am not sure how users will be able to check if the features like continuous backup work seamlessly.

Setting Up a Backup

Selecting a Backup Type

Selecting a Backup Type

After passing the licensing screen, we are shown options to create a backup or to take care of existing backups. I decided to go ahead by creating a new backup of the files from my hard disk.

Adding Folders

Adding Folders

Navigate through the file system to select the folder(s) to backup. It goes without saying that any sub folders and files inside folders also get backed up. At the same time, if you want to exclude a file(s) from inside these folders from getting backed up, it can be done after this initial selection.

Naming a Backup

Naming a Backup

Twin offers you the option to rename the backup to avoid any confusion or to follow a naming system you have in place for all the backups.

If you are backing up sensitive data, say financial documents or medical records, Twin helps you encrypt them at this stage. You are saved from the hassle of going through the process of encryption with a separate app even before planning a backup. The encryption process requires you to enter a password and as Twin recommends, the longer and complicated the password is, stronger the encryption will be.

For those curious tech savvy types, Twin uses AES 256 algorithm. It’s worth noting that if you forget the password, the backup cannot be decrypted.

Fixing the Filesize Limit

Fixing the Filesize Limit

Twin has an interesting feature that lets you set a maximum file size limit for the backup files. If the files from the folder are smaller than the maximum limit, they will be grouped together and if the files are bigger they will be split.

This feature would come in handy if you have a batch upload schedule or a bandwidth bottleneck. Being a long time Windows user, I have in the past used a couple of third party backup apps but none of them had this feature. So, that’s a +1 from me.

Choosing the Backup Location

Choosing the Backup Location

Next up is the backup location. Twin offers all options available across the board. Files can be backed up locally, over the network, or to popular cloud destinations like Amazon S3 and Apple iDisk. I chose to use my webserver to backup files and entered the FTP login information along with the directory path.

After a quick verification, I was displayed the file structure on the webserver to make sure the files are at the right folder.

Dashboard

Dashboard

Dashboard

Backup in Progress

Backup in Progress

Once you have input all the relevant data, you will be taken to the dashboard that displays information pertaining to the backup plan you have just created. After a quick review of the setup and adjusting the bandwidth limit from the Preferences section, you can initiate the backup.

As soon as the backup begins, you will see the progress bar at the top of your screen and the Twin icon on the status bar will start rotating. You can pause or abort the process anytime. Twin uses bzip2 compression to reduce the size of the files and it skips already compressed files (JPEG images, Zip archives etc.) to save time.

Reports & Logs

Reports & Logs

Events are logged extensively in the Events tab complete with date, duration and status of the backup job.

Scheduling Backups

Scheduling Backups

Twin has a great scheduling system to automate your backup process. Either you can choose the time & date, specify intervals, or initiate a backup upon launch. You also can make the app skip the backup process with specific set of instructions – based on power source, IP address, network location etc.

Final Thoughts

I found Twin to be a brilliant swiss-army backup solution, with its ability to support storage options across the spectrum. It covers all the backup options under the sun and is extremely simple to use.

The only drawback worth mentioning is a fairly steep price tag. Unlimited cloud backup is available at less than $50 a year and lot of external hard disks come with a bundled backup app.

However, if you add up the cloud backup subscriptions over a period of two years and if you already have access to abundant network storage or a webserver, Twin will fit perfectly in the backup equation. Do give it a try!


Summary

Twin is the most flexible online backup solution for Mac OS X, compatible with most Internet servers. It even supports offline backups to external drives.

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  • Eli

    At the screenshot of “backup in progress”, what’s the black bar at the top? (what app) :)

    • http://stravarius.com Justin Stravarius

      That’s the status bar of Twin when backup is in progress. :)

  • http://curtismchale.ca curtismchale

    Most web hosts say you can’t use the server as simple file storage (at least the ones with unlimited space). If you get caught they take the server offline in pretty short order. Typically paying for simple file storage plans from hosts is expensive enough that using Mozy ($5/month) is a no brainer.

  • Laurent Rathle

    Twin is certainly a nice solution, but the price is really to high (99 € / 130 $ without VAT which makes 118 € / 155 $ VAT included in France), even with lifetime upgrade. It’ perhaps interesting for business people, but not for personnal use. I use Chronosync which certainly a more complicate to learn, but which costs 40 $ with lifetime upgrade, without forgetting Time Machine.

  • http://codewut.de pulsar

    tech / shell savvy people: take a look at duplicity: http://duplicity.nongnu.org/

  • Andrew Ford

    I’ve dabbled with Twin. In the end it came down to the pricetag. For less than half the price of Twin I can get a cross-platform application with all the same functions Twin offers. The only thing I sacrifice is the simplicity of Twin’s interface and its attractive Mac appearance. /shrug

  • http://www.vespierre.com Charles-Henry Vespierre

    You can buy it right NOW on the mac app store for 70 $. 50% rebate!

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