A crucial and often overlooked aspect of every systems administrator’s job involves data management through regularly scheduled backups. However, the reality is that more than half of the SMB’s surveyed do not conduct daily backups.

Deemed “not an efficient use of their time,” many IT admins are reluctant to perform this necessary task due to the sheer time and/or lack of resources involved in not only backing up all devices, but also proactively testing these backups to ensure data is recoverable, if needed.

The solution for both SOHO and SMB users alike is OS X Server’s Time Machine service, a centralized backup solution that provides automated, incremental backups of all enrolled systems without the need for user intervention.

Configure the Time Machine service

Here are the requirements for configuring the Time Machine service:

  • Apple computer with OS X Server (1.0+) installed
  • Static IP assigned to OS X Server
  • Broadband Internet access (Ethernet or Wi-Fi)
  • Create users and groups
  • Available disk storage (internal or external)

Follow these steps to configure the Time Machine service:

  1. Launch Server.app and select the server you wish to manage
  2. Login with administrative credentials
  3. Select Time Machine from the Services pane (Figure A)
    Figure A
  4. Click the plus sign [+] to add storage that will be used by Time Machine to save backup images to
  5. Under New Destination, click the Choose… button (Figure B)
    Figure B
  6. Navigate to the target folder (Figure C), then click OK to select that location
    Figure C
  7. If you wish to limit the amount of space allocated to each backup locale, check the box next to Limit each backup to “X” GB of disk space (Figure D), and click Create to save your changes
    Figure D
  8. Repeat steps #5-6 to continue adding storage space for Time Machine to utilize. Do note, however, that as storage is added, all Macs will perform a new, full backup for each added drive. After the initial full backup, Time Machine will perform only incremental backups on just the data that’s been modified since the last backup. (Figure E)
    Figure E
  9. Move the slider to ON, to start the Time Machine service (Figure F)
    Figure F
  10. To test that the service is operating properly, open the Time Machine preferences pane by going to System Preferences | Time Machine, and click the Select Backup Disk… button. A pop-up menu will appear, and you’ll see a listing of the backup folder(s) linked the Time Machine service. Select the one you wish to use for backups, and click Use Disk (Figure G)
    Figure G
  11. Both the server and node have now been configured for use with Time Machine. Remember, the first backup always takes the longest, since it performs a full backup. Subsequent backups will take less time, as only the data that has changed is backed up.

Maintaining a working backup solution should be effortless and automated. This removes any errors associated with manual configuration and will not tax already overburdened IT personnel with additional workloads. Furthermore, it is seamlessly integrated to the organizations already existing infrastructure, which reduces hardware and software licensing costs.

Time Machine is an elegant and efficient, set and forget it backup solution that’s scalable to grow with the demands of the enterprise — and of course, being an Apple product, it just works!

What backup solution do you use in your organization? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.