November 04, 2010, 11:31 AM — Since its introduction as part of OS X 10.5 Leopard in 2007, Time Machine has given Mac users an easy way to back up and restore files. From the beginning, though, Time Machine's design has made it less than ideal for certain backup needs (see "Is Time Machine all you need?"). As time has passed, backup products have evolved. How does Time Machine compare to the competition today?
Time Machine upgrades
Although Time Machine itself has changed relatively little since its initial release, other factors have made Time Machine a more-viable option for some users.
Time Capsule improvements The first two Time Capsule models held 500GB and 1TB, respectively; now the choices are 1TB or 2TB. In addition, Apple has apparently addressed quality issues that resulted in a high failure rate for early Time Capsule models.
Third-party network storage Time Machine has always supported backups to network volumes hosted on other Macs and to Time Capsules, but now an increasing number of third-party NAS (network-attached storage) devices also work with Time Machine--for example, the Drobo FS ($699, drives extra) and DroboPro FS ($1999, drives extra), Iomega's Home Media Network Hard Drives ($170 to $230), the LaCie Ethernet Disk ($700 to $1400), Promise Technology's SmartStor NS4600 Series ($499), and the Synology DS410j ($382, drives extra).
Improved software compatibility Software that stores its data in single huge files has always had trouble with Time Machine, which copies the files in their entirety every time they change--in other words, every time you use the software! But increasingly, developers are adapting to make their products work better with Time Machine. For example, both Outlook 2011 ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice )and Parallels Desktop 6 ($80) now store their data in small, Time Machine-friendly chunks.
Rage against the Machine