5 Best Backups for Time Machine

If you are a Mac user, then you probably know that macOS comes bundled with a critically acclaimed backup program called Time Machine. This is great, but out-of-the-box Time Machine only backs up your data to an external physical drive or a local NAS system that supports the Time Machine protocols.

Good data backup practice, however, follows the golden 3-2-1 rule in which at least three copies of your data are kept to ensure against any form of loss.

The traditional formula is to keep one copy on your device (the original copy), store one copy locally but not attached to your computer (such as on a NAS or external hard drive) safely away from any viruses that might affect your computer, and to store another copy online.

After all, a local drive can be stolen, lost in a fire, damaged by water, or who knows what! 

The following Cloud backup services and products support easy and automatic backing up of your Time Machine data to a cloud account in order to provide robust 3-2-1 protection. 

You should be aware that it may cause duplication between the data backed up by Time Machine and data you upload to your cloud account in the usual way.  To prevent this duplication eating up your precious cloud server space you might therefore want to exclude some folders from being uploaded by either Time Machine or your backup software.

5 best backups for Time Machine

Take a look at the list of the best time machine backup services below, click through to the site for more information about their service.

iDrive

IDrive is a reasonably priced backup provider which uses strong end-to-end client-side encryption. It features online file sync, multiple device backup, file versioning for up to 30 previous versions. We particularity like the fact that IDrive supports Linux cloud backup via a GUI or package of scripts.

In order to prevent duplication of files, IDrive excludes the Time Machine data folder from backups by default. It can be easily included, however, by going to Settings -> Excluded Files/folders from backup -> Files/Folders with partial names, and deselecting the Backups.backupdb folder.

Your Time Machine backup will then be saved to your IDrive storage using the path you have configured in the Time Machine settings on your Mac. 

Pros

  • Backup Time Machine data directly
  • Reasonable price
  • Easy to use
  • End-to-end encryption

Get iDrive

iBackup

back-up

This cloud provider has a strong focus on small business data backup. As such, its feature list includes things like full sever backup, a disaster recovery (DR) plan, multiple sub-accounts, HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, GLBA and SEC / FINRA compliance and more. 

IBackup, however, is perfectly usable as a personal backup service, and everyone will find its iOS and Android mobile apps handy. By default, data is encrypted server-side using AES-256, but it is possible to use a private encryption key which is not stored on IBackup’s servers instead.

In order to enable Time Machine backup using your IBackup account, simply open the Mac desktop client, go to Settings, and ensure Time Machine backup is selected.

Pros

  • Backup Time Machine data directly
  • Ideal for business users
  • End-to-end encryption (optional)
  • iOS and Android apps

Cons

  • Not so great for personal use

Get iBackup

3. Cloudberry

cloudberry

Cloudberry Explorer is freeware software (with a premium Pro version available) that allows you manage and backup files to Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Openstack accounts. Cloudberry also offers a fully hosted subscription service using your choice of these cloud SaaS providers.

Whether using just its freeware software with your personal cloud service or Cloudberry’s subscription service, Cloudberry supports backing up Time Machine to the cloud.

This requires a little more configuration than with the above two services, but clear instructions are available on the website. It basically just amounts to selecting your Time Machine’s external backup drive’s root Backups.backupdb folder as your Backup Source. 

Pros

  • Freeware option available (although you will still need third-party storage space)
  • You can backup to a low-cost SaaS cloud platform of your choice
  • DIY or fully hosted solutions available

Cons

  • Time Machine backup requires a little configuration
  • Server-side but not client-side (e2e) encryption

Get Cloudberry

4. DollyDrive

dollydrive

DollyDrive is a cloud backup service designed from the ground-up for macOS. It does all the usual stuff you would expect from such a service, and it has an iOS app for accessing and managing your files from anywhere.

More unusually, DollyDrive offers a feature snappily named DollyClone which creates a complete backup of your entire system. Just like Time Machine does, except this backup is saved to the cloud. So while DollyDrive doesn’t backup your actual Time Machine data to the cloud, it achieves the exact same effect. 

You can, of course, use DollyClone alongside Time Machine itself to also backup all your data locally.

Pros

  • DollyClone feature is a cloud version of Time Machine
  • Elegant macOS interface
  • iOS app

Cons

  • Doesn’t actually back-up up time machine (but so what?)

Get DollyDrive

5. Transmit

transmit

Transmit is an FTP client with built-in support for 11 of the most popular cloud service, ranging from consumer-focused services such as Dropbox and Google Drive, to SaaS services such Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure. There is no iCloud support, however. 

What sets Transmit apart from the million other FTP clients out there is its Panic Sync feature. As the name suggests, this provides a real-time backup of your data by syncing it to the cloud of your choice. And because it supports syncing from external hard drives and NAS drives, you can use it to automatically backup all data from your Time Machine drive.

Pros

  • Backup Time Machine to a platform of your choice
  • Great general purpose FTP, SFTP, WebDav, and S3 client
  • Support for many cloud platforms
  • Client-side end-to-end encryption

Cons

  • Requires some configuration
  • Costs $45 plus third party cloud storage fees
  • No iCloud support

Get Transmit

Final Thoughts

You can never have too many copies of your vital data, and Time Machine provides a very high level of protection against disaster by backing up everything on your Mac. The above services and products allow you to save Time Machine’s level of protection to the cloud so that no matter what happens you will be able to do a full-system restore. And that brings a great deal of peace of mind. 

Written by: Douglas Crawford

Has worked for almost six years as senior staff writer and resident tech and VPN industry expert at ProPrivacy.com. Widely quoted on issues relating cybersecurity and digital privacy in the UK national press (The Independent & Daily Mail Online) and international technology publications such as Ars Technica.

4 Comments

  1. Anthony

    on August 3, 2019
    Reply

    I'm a little confused though. These options seem to be about getting Time Machine backups (as in the files created by Time Machine) onto a cloud service rather than actually using Time Machine to backup to a cloud service directly (e.g. like a cloud drive/NAS type solution). Am I correct in how I've understood this?

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Anthony

      on August 5, 2019
      Reply

      Hi Anthony. There are not many options available for performing Time Machine backups to the cloud, so in this article I have attempted to cover the various approaches you _can_ take. The first two (IDrive and IBackup) directly support backing Time Machine data up to the cloud. The Cloudberry software also supports doing this with a little configuration (please see https://www.cloudberrylab.com/resources/blog/time-machine-backup-to-cloud/). Dolly Drive doesn't use Time Machine itself, but pretty much does the same thing. The last option is probably the least satisfactory one (hence it being last on this list), but it does allow you to backup your Time Machine backup data to the cloud in case of loss.

  2. Emmanuel

    on July 30, 2019
    Reply

    Hi Douglas, thank you for your interesting article. I have a question. Are we sure that if one backs up Time Machine data files to Google Drive or Dropbox or a Webdav server like Transip's stackstorage, the files will still work when you need them? I had understood that Time Machine needs the files to be written away on a disk with the AFP file format, yet I doubt these servers use AFP. When one wants to save a functioning copy of one's Photos library on a Webdav server that is not using AFP, it is apparently needed to create a sparse image file in the AFP format and to place the library in there. Why does it work differently for Time Machine data files? Thanks, Emmanuel

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Emmanuel

      on July 31, 2019
      Reply

      Hi Emmanuel. You will not be able to directly access your Time Machine file structure or files if you upload it to Dropbox or Drive (etc.). But Transmit will sync the entire root Backups.backupdb folder of your Time Machine backup hard or NAS drive to these cloud services. You can then restore this to your hard or NAS backup drive (or a replacement drive) in the event of a disaster, from which you can then perform a regular Time Machine restore.

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