With all the backup methods available today, it can be hard to choose the best method. Here is a look at some of the methods with their pros and cons.
1. Time Machine
In 2008 Apple released a great OS X Update, known as Leopard. Leopard contained Time Machine, a unique integrated backup system. Because Time Machine is actually part of the system you don't have to give it special permission to copy your data or tell it what you want to back up- it automatically backs up everything. Plus, it's easy to configure. Just connect any Mac-ready external hard drive and Time Machine will ask if you want to back up with that drive. You can back up on multiple drives or back up multiple machines to one drive! Time Machine doesn't require you to keep it plugged in either; when you reconnect the drive, Time Machine picks up where it left off. You can even enter the hard drive to see everything you have backed up and easily retrieve the entire system or a single file.
Conversely, Time Machine's initial back up can take hours as the system makes a full copy of everything on your drive. Subsequent backups take minutes however, and the system checks hourly. If you don't want to back something up, you have to configure it manually. You also have to purchase an external hard drive at least as large as the computers drive and they range in price from $80 to over $500. If you forget to plug in the drive, it may be months before you back up again. If the drive isn't big enough, Time Machine will overwrite the oldest backup file and, to recover anything, you have to have access to the drive.
Pros: Easy to use, Automatic Backup, Built in, Easy recovery, Backs up everything
Cons: Takes time, Drive costs money, Easy to forget, Must recover from drive, Backs up everything
2. Dropbox, Sugarsync, and Box.
Cloud based storage such as Dropbox, Sugarsync, and Box are easy to configure and can help you sync items across multiple platforms (Mac, iOS, Android, Windows). You do have to download the software from their website and the apps to get access, but they are all small apps and don't take up lots of space on your drive. Syncing data across multiple devices is great, but you only have two to five gigabytes of free space. After that you are required to pay a monthly fee for more storage space.
Pros: Easy to use, Cloud based, Multiple Platforms, 2-5 GB Free
Cons: Must have Internet to use, App based, Monthly fees for more storage
Carbonite backs up your data to the cloud for an annual fee. The fees are based per machine but the storage is unlimited. After you download the software and choose which files to backup the process is automatic and secure. Your data is password protected and you can access it on your computer anytime. Just like Time Machine, you can choose to restore the entire system or a single file.
Pros: Automatic backup, Cloud based, Unlimited storage
Cons: Requires Internet Access, Annual Fees apply
iCloud can backup your iOS device. You can choose to turn the backup off or on in the iCloud options in the Settings app. iTunes purchases don't count towards your data limit of 5 GB. Photos in the Camera Roll, Messages, Preferences, Voicemail, and App Data are all backed up. Data synced from your computer will not be backed up. The back up will run once a day as long as the system is connected to the internet, plugged into the power adapter, and the screen is locked. You can tell it to backup anytime over wifi by choosing the Back Up Now option in the iCloud options. If your backup is over 5 GB you can pay for more storage for an annual fee.
Pros: Automatic backup, cloud based, iTunes Purchases backup for free
Cons: Doesn't backup synced data, Annual fee for more than 5GB of storage
Personally, I back up my Mac with Time Machine and have special documents and photos in Dropbox while my iPad syncs with iCloud. Most of my family backs up with Carbonite so they don't have to remember to plug that drive in! There is no "right" way to backup and multiple sources mean there is less chance of data loss.
Which methods do you use?