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October 14 2011

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.


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!

April 14 2011

Backup 3: The Backup Program You Didn’t Know You Had

New subscribers to MobileMe generally know the basics: contacts, email, calendars and notes can sync across computers and devices, you get some storage, and a fancy email address to share with all of your friends. But if you’re anything like me, you opened up your iDisk for the first time, saw the Backup folder and thought, “What’s this for? There’s no way that a Time Machine backup would fit in the 20GB allotted for iDisk.”

Turns out, the Backup folder is for a program called Backup 3, which is made by Apple. What’s this for, and why would I need it if I use Time Machine?

Good question – let’s find out!

Why Backup

When Time Machine was introduced, backup freaks everywhere rejoiced. “Look, now we have an easy way to backup all of our files! Yay!” Although Time Machine is a great tool, there’s still a big issue: most Time Machine backups are kept on a USB drive stored next to the computer.

Unless you take that drive with you everywhere you go, chances are good that you’ll lose everything should tragedy strike your home or office. That would be bad.

Backup 3 is focused backup for your Mac.

Backup 3 is focused backup for your Mac.

Backup 3 doesn’t work like Time Machine. This is focused backup, aimed at backing up the important things on your Mac on a remote drive, which in this case, is iDisk. Once a day, you backup your info, and then once a week or month you back it up to CD or DVD for a hard copy. Simple, right?

What You Backup

Backup 3 focuses on the important things that you don’t want to lose. Choose between your Home Folder, personal data & settings, iLife data and your iTunes library. Pick between one of the four things — or all of them — and hit continue.

Backup 3 keeps it simple.

Backup 3 keeps it simple.

Once you’ve picked your poison, now you can get to specifics. By double clicking on the item in the list you can specify which folders and files are backed up, and where to.

By default, everything goes to your Backup folder on your iDisk, but if you’re not a MobileMe member you can choose your own location, like a Dropbox folder if you so choose.

Filter everything down from there, designating the time for the backups, how often they happen and so on. This means you could setup a backup to run every night at 3am, when it’s less likely you’ll need the processing power.

Getting Advanced

You can backup more then just the basics it turns out – you just have to dig into things a bit deeper. Backup 3 provides has a QuickPicks section that highlights all of the items you might want to backup, and even narrows it down to application type. So if you’re really paranoid about losing all of your Microsoft Excel docs, select that option to keep those spreadsheets safe.

Once you've selected your backup options, everything gets uploaded to your iDisk.

Once you've selected your backup options, everything gets uploaded to your iDisk.

If you have a specific folder you use frequently, choose that as well by delving into the Files & Folders option. Keep in mind that if you’re backing up to your iDisk that you’re limited on the amount of data you can move per month and store overall, so don’t pick a large folder unless you’ve paid to upgrade your MobileMe storage options.

So Why Use It?

That is a good question. Time Machine makes backing up stupid easy, so much so that people that never used to backup their computers are now doing it automatically. It almost seems redundant to have to backup programs running at the same time, even if they are free.

Fine tune your Backup settings.

Fine tune your Backup settings.

Turns out, there is no such thing as backing up too much. But more importantly, having an offsite location for your backups is critical. Without it, a tragedy could wipe out all of your data, and you with a heap of lost memories. Imagine losing just your iTunes library — to some, that could be devastating.

The problem is, Backup 3 isn’t super user friendly like Time Machine. The program seems geared more towards the pro user, because you have to click around a bit to figure out exactly how it works.

For example, I didn’t realize until 10 minutes into my first backup that I could select individual files or file types. If I hadn’t been hunting for it, I’m not sure I would’ve found it.


Is Backup 3 the perfect backup program for all of your needs? No. Most likely that’s Time Machine, because it’s built into the OS and it’s very easy to use.

But if you want something more specific, a program that will backup very detailed things on your hard drive and send them to your iDisk account, this is the program for you. It’s a bit of a niche app, but for some people, that’s exactly what they’re looking for.

May 24 2010

Parachute: Professional Backups Made Easy

How many times have you wished you could easily backup your data on-site or onto a remote server? Parachute is a simplistic backup application that is designed to compliment Time Machine with features that allow you to back up locally and remotely. On top of this you can set the scheduling of the backups as well as ’smart backups’ (similar system to Time Machine).

The most obvious reason for backing up to a remote location is if your computer/hard drive become damaged or stolen. However it’s always a good idea to have a ’second backup’ – better to be safe than sorry right?

Backing Up Locally

Backing up to a local drive is a breeze. You simply create a new backup task, add the folders you wish to backup and choose the destination for the backup. It works much the same way as Time Machine where it calculates the changes and then copies the files across.

If you have ’smart backups’ enabled, Parachute will only backup the changes that are made, or, you can instruct it to keep the last x amount of backups.

Local Backup

Local Backup

Backing Up Remotely

You can also set up remote backing-up. In a similar process to that of creating a local backup, you simply select the folders you wish to upload. From there instead of selecting a destination drive/folder, you input your server (or MobileMe) details. You can even test your connection to make sure it will work before relying on the backup being made.

Once you are sure it works, do a back-up, set-up a schedule and let it go. Knowing that your data is absolutely safe is priceless, and this is a great solution for your sensitive/must-have documents. Back them up!

iDisk Backup

iDisk Backup

Scheduling and Other Options

Parachute enables you to schedule your backups for a specified time and frequency. This has proven to work 100% so far. Every night at 8PM my backups ran, as scheduled. The cool thing is I didn’t even need to have the Parachute app open – it opened itself.

I would advise the use of schedules because I know most of us would forget to manually back up. Setting up schedules is easy, just choose a frequency and time. I would recommend one when you’re computer is always on (e.g. 8pm for me).

Setting Up a Schedule

Setting Up a Schedule

As previously stated, you have the option to enable ’smart backups’ – so only the changes are backed up. You may also choose to keep the last x backups. You can also set the application to warn you before deleting remote files.

General Preferences

General Preferences

Future of Parachute

While backing up may seem like a straight-forward process, there are a few features that are planned to be implemented to fine-tune the process. Planned future developments include excluding hidden files, symbolic links, and files that match a given pattern.

As the application progresses I am sure more and more useful features will be implemented, but for now, it works fantastically as a clear-cut backup program.


Parachute is a great back-up application that is both simple to use and easy to customise. Within seconds you can have your most important files backing up to your server on a nightly basis.

Parachute is designed to work with Time Machine to give you that additional level of safety. For those of you who have files they would ‘die’ without – Parachute is a must have.

July 01 2008

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