Did you like that pun? I thought it was quite witty. Anyway, lets talk about Apple's Time Machine.
Recently I purchased a 2TB external hard drive to store my photos and my large music and video collection along with the games, as 500GB isn't enough to fit all that stuff. Additionally (and the rationale behind my purchase), it is vitally important to back up your computers! If you don't, you risk losing not only your programs and settings, but plethoras of digital content.
All my important documents are backed up using Dropbox, but since I have more data than is reasonable to upload, it was necessary to invest in an onsite backup system.
I did some research and found that the inbuilt Time Machine that comes with every copy of Mac OS X suited my needs. I also played around with the Windows backup utility, and I must say Apple's solution beats the pants off Microsoft's, even with their latest Windows 8.
All you do is open the Time Machine app, allocate some space to your backups, and let it go indexing and backing up your stuff. It is literally that simple. When you plug in your HD, OS X will automatically begin backing up hourly, daily and weekly revisions to your various files.
It is literally THAT simple.
To retrieve your data, Time Machine has two different access methodologies:
1. You can do it on a filesystem-browsing basis, cherry-picking data items from a simplified filesystem explorer, seamlessly able to look at revisions of a file through time. This requires you to run Time Machine from the Mac you have backed up, and is relatively restricted in what it can do apart from what I've already stated. But hey, it has a slick interface.
2. You can migrate all data from a Time Machine backup when you reinstall the operating system, a perfect way to live up to Apple's promise that "it just works", and restore all your personal settings.
A comparison of time machine snapshots - you could save documents that you deleted back when you didn't think you needed them!
Why is it better than Windows' backup utility, you may ask?
Well, for one it's a very simple interface that doesn't require much configuring after clicking "On".
Secondly, it happens seamlessly in the background, and has a method of accessing what appears to be a bare-metal filesystem.
Thirdly, it backups far more frequently than Microsoft's system.
Finally, and perhaps most worrying for Windows purists, the utility bundled with Microsoft's operating system freaks out with any form of removable storage, and will refuse to backup in the future to the drive once it's been removed, making the idea of a portable or USB backup drive completely useless in the context of Windows. How absurd is that? This frustrated me to no end; after all, how hard is it to implement a simple piece of code that polls whether the device is in fact inserted or not?
Nonwithstanding my rant and frustration, regardless of what platform you use, it is vitally important to backup your data, and Apple and Microsoft both make robust tools to do this.