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15.09.2010

Apple's Time Machine and Time Capsule Explained

Time CapsuleWhat it is (Time Machine): data backup software

What it is (Time Capsule): external wireless backup device, network drive and router

Data Backup Software

Time Machine is Apple's data backup software and, as the name suggests, it creates different versions of files you're working on. If you think you've gone a tweak too far in the wrong direction, or have accidentally overwritten something, you can move backwards in increments to get where you want to be.

External Backup Device

To complement Time Machine (which they state is for backup and not for storage), Apple then released Time Capsule - an external backup device. However this isn't just an external hard drive, it is a wireless Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive with 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports (1 WAN and 3 LAN) that doubles as a wireless router. In plain speak, this makes the Time Capsule capable of creating and backing up small office networks. Originally available withup to 1Tb of storage, newer Time Capsules offer 2Tb.

The arrival of the Time Capsule was particularly good news for MacBook Air users, as this lightest of laptops has just the one external interface.

Latest Features

More recently, other manufacturers have launched NAS drives that are compatible with Time Machine. Apple have retaliated by introducing two new features.

The first is a second, internet-only wireless network. You cannot use this to connect to other devices on either network, only to the web. This is a handy facility for offices, cafes, schools and other environments where you want to give guests or visitors web access without having to worry about the security of your data or login details.

The second is built-in support for 'Back to my Mac', a facility that allows encrypted connection via the internet from one machine to another - for instance to access the hard drive of a computer in your office whilst out and about. Previously this was available as a patch from Apple. 'Back to my Mac' is a very handy feature and was famously used by a woman in the US after her laptop was stolen to take photos of and gather information about the thief whilst he used the stolen machine, which she passed to the police!

If you don't plan to make use of the network / router capability and only want a backup hard drive, then there are cheaper external hard drives available. If you use a MacBook Air and want easy backup then the convenience and guaranteed compatibility may tempt you.

However, where the Time Capsule really comes into its own is the extra features it offers professional and office users.

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