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  • A Super Duper! Backup Solution

    November 26th, 2005

    I have been preaching the frequent backup religion for years, and sometimes people listen to me. Maybe I’m a little more obsessive-compulsive than you, but I actually have two external backup drives. In addition, I will use a DVD or CD for archiving. No, I don’t use bank vaults all that much, but it’s either that or buying a safe. Well, maybe one of these days.

    In any case, I like my backups simple. My backups are actually clones of my startup drive, so in the event of a sudden drive failure, I can reboot from one of those drives and not lose more than a few hour’s work. I also do periodic file backups throughout the day, to avoid even that few hours. Over the years, I’ve had to rewrite whole book chapters twice, and it wasn’t fun. Having a root canal may actually be less painful, although it’s a close call.

    When it comes to simple backup solutions, one application that’s really done the job for me is Shirt Pocket Software’s Super Duper! 2.0. Yes, it’s shareware, and at $27.95, it’s an absolute bargain. Now on the surface, Super Duper! may seem like one of many programs that can clone a drive. Of course you can do that with Apple’s free Disk Utility, but there’s a lot more to consider, a series of clever features that, particularly in the newest version, make it a fairly comprehensive backup solution.

    Among my favorites is Smart Update, which is a brilliant slant on the disk cloning concept. As the name implies, this feature simply updates the files that have changed, and deletes the ones that have been removed. The end result is still an exact duplicate of your original drive, but it takes a whole lot less time to complete, and you’ll want to take this approach after the initial erase and clone process. Suddenly, you can do an updated backup in maybe ten or fifteen minutes a day, because Super Duper! runs really fast. Unlike other backup solutions, it checks your files and makes copies all in a single step, which shortens the process considerably. Programmer Bruce Lacey really knows his stuff.

    You can also restrict backups to your Users folder. It’s not necessary to clone an entire drive.

    Among the usual performance enhancements, version 2.0 adds what I’m sure was a much-requested feature, and that’s scheduling. As with the other features, it’s nearly integrated into the simple setup screens. Whereas some backup applications offer confusing and sometimes difficult-to-comprehend options, Super Duper! offers a “What’s going to happen?” window that tells you precisely what it’s going to do and the end result. Frankly, you’ll scarcely need to consult the online manual, although it’s there if you need a little extra guidance.

    As the backup proceeds, you’ll see a very detailed progress screen, showing you not just how much was done, but the actual throughput of file transfers. In my experience, you’ll pretty much see speeds that come close to a drive’s maximum, and that’s just terrific.

    I’ve been using Super Duper! for months and it’s run perfectly every single time. The new version is noticeably faster at getting the job done. Since my work schedule varies from day to day, I don’t have a fixed backup time, so I don’t need to schedule. But I can run my regular backups with just a few mouse clicks, and it’s fast enough that I can take a coffee break and return with one drive complete, and do the second drive over lunch. It never misses a beat!

    Of course Super Duper! can’t do everything and you may find yourself wanting something more comprehensive, such as Retrospect. For example, optical and tape drives aren’t supported, and you can’t make a bootable drive from a Mac’s USB port. But the latter is a limitation of the Mac OS and maybe Apple will look into that question again with 10.5 Leopard as it begins to use Intel processors.

    In addition, network backups are rather more difficult, because you have to save your drive as a disk image. I suppose this makes sense, though, since a number of users might want to put their backups on the same share and that keeps them separate. I would prefer, however, if Super Duper! could simply treat a networked drive in the same fashion as one connected to your Mac. But maybe I’m alone in making that request.

    To many of you, I know backups are a chore. You put it off and the days pass. One day, something goes wrong. Your drive goes south, or you trash a file by mistake. But then it’s usually too late for simple solutions. True, Prosoft Engineering’s Data Rescue can help in many cases, but do you really want to depend on 100% success? It’s a lot easier to just have a clone of your hard drive available so you can get back to work fairly quickly.

    No matter what your backup approach might be, particularly if you tend to avoid this task, Super Duper! can make it simple as can be. I recommend it highly, and at $27 .95, it’s a steal!



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