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Hands on: Chronosync 4.5 for OS X

updated 04:57 pm EDT, Tue June 10, 2014

Single backup and sync tool may be one tool to encompass many jobs

Mac users have relied on a pool of backup utlities for years, with three standouts being Apple's own Time Machine, Retrospect, and Bombich Software's Carbon Copy Cloner. All three fit slightly different niches, and serious techs and users have probably used all three at one point or another. A fourth entry is Econ Technologies' ChronoSync, just updated to version 4.5, which purports to be a more universal tool for all of one's backup needs.

ChronoSync, simply stated, is an application that runs on a Mac that can synchronize, backup, and create bootable backups. However, that blurb belies what it can actually do. We've used it not only to back up OS X locally, including a fully bootable backup, but it also can backup other machines, Windows-based data, external drives, Network Attached Storage devices, and really anything mountable on an OS X desktop across a local area network.

TimeMachine is Apple's backup solution, and it's pretty solid. Solid, but slow, - almost excruciatingly so. We did a full bootable backup of a 250GB drive with 212GB of data on it with both applications, and had a wildly different experience. Backing up to a 1TB USB 3.0 drive, the backup with Time Machine took nearly five hours. ChronoSync performed the same task in a quarter of the time, in one hour and 23 minutes.



Taking the same machine, and working with it for a month, we updated the backup. Time Machine took another two hours to change 88GB worth of files. ChronoSync updated the backup in 41 minutes, again less than half the time.

We added 100GB of data on an external drive to the backup. Time Machine essentially choked on it, and re-backed up the entire mess, taking eight hours to complete. ChronoSync added it seamlessly to the backup in 38 minutes.



These were just the numeric tests we applied to Time Machine and ChronoSync. The filters on the app are much more granular, allowing more precise control over what gets backed up and what gets left behind. Technically, we've migrated laptops to new SSDs with it, we've backed up and restored media libraries, synchronized two folders with thousands of text files which needed to be consolidated, and much more.

Using the ChronoAgent tool (an optional $10 add-on), we've also synchronized files to and from remote computers. As a user case, think along the lines of a shared computer lab -- overnight, an admin can (with proper licensing) use ChronoAgent to wipe an entire lab, and restore a clean file set. No user files strewn across the desktop, no custom app settings, nothing. Clean slate, every morning, without monitoring - or a manual hard drive and reinstall process.



We've done limited tests across the Internet through a VPN, and only been limited to upload and download speeds. We've setup a server to remotely get backups from the network overnight, we've configured it to backup once a week, and not get hassled by Time Machine. We've had no issues with network backups at all, either over congested wireless or gigabit Ethernet, both of which are problematic without some trickery on Time Machine, unless you're using an Apple Time Capsule or Apple's 802.11ac Airport with internal drive.

Long synchronizations between two disparate data sets can take ages, and be riddled with errors. The app allows fine control over what to do with problematic files, as well as control over what trips an error, and what to do with it. Want individual file control? No problem. Want to skip over all but the most egregious issues? Also not a problem.

Whole-system backup and restores have been fraught with peril, since the dawn of computing. One false move in what can sometimes be an arcane interface, and you're left with a corrupt backup, as well as a bad restore, disrupting everything, possibly without the chance for restoration. Does everybody need ChronoSync? No. If your needs are more complex than simple backup, or you want solid network functionality, then ChronoSync is your tool. At $40 (plus $10 for the optional ChronoAgent), the tool isn't a free one, and users accustomed to dollar-App Store utilities may balk, but if you need a comprehensive tool for a backup regime - and like the idea of a one-time price for lifetime updates -- its hard to go wrong with ChronoSync.

ChronoSync is best for: Users with more than the simplest backup needs. Anybody performing any sort of network backup.
ChronoSync is not for: Users for whom plug-and-play backup is all they want or need. If Time Machine fits your bill, then you don't need ChronoSync. But if you're paying for a backup solution, we think ChronoSync offers the best bang for the buck, and is priced very competitively with the best alternatives.




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. akent35

    Banned

    Joined: 12-17-13

    Note that the article 1) does not include another stand out backup utility (using the same language as in the first sentence), Super Duper, and 2) has Time Machine (man, is it ever slow!) and Carbon Copy Cloner (same functionality as Super Duper) "lumped" together, as a "plug-and-play backup". Time Machine and ChronoSync, besides making backups and creating bootable backups (like Carbon Copy Cloner and Super Duper), also can do synchronization, that is, making exact "at a specific point in time" backups. CCC and Super Duper, of course, do not. But, for a number of users, CCC and Super Duper are acceptable backup utilities.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    Super Duper and CCC are functionally the same, as you point out, so perhaps the author (not me) didn't feel a need to mention every possible backup alternative program, or didn't mention SD because he personally has no experience with it. As you say, SD and CCC are also fine options for people who have simple backup needs but would like a bootable clone as well -- but for around the same price as CCC or SD, they could have the superior ChronoSync.

  1. Mike Wuerthele

    Managing Editor

    Joined: 07-19-12

    The list of backup utilities in the opening paragraph wasn't intended as a comprehensive list of solutions, nor a list of "plug and play" utilities, but rather just an example of some "stand out" backup solutions for the reader. No comparisons have been drawn, other than speed, to any of the listed utilities other than they're all backup or synchronization tools.

    This article is a "hands on" for ChronoSync -- not CCC, SD, Time Machine, Retrospect, punch cards, tape backup solutions, or stone tablets.

  1. akent35

    Banned

    Joined: 12-17-13

    Originally Posted by EstaNightshiftView Post

    The list of backup utilities in the opening paragraph wasn't intended as a comprehensive list of solutions, nor a list of "plug and play" utilities, but rather just an example of some "stand out" backup solutions for the reader. No comparisons have been drawn, other than speed, to any of the listed utilities other than they're all backup or synchronization tools.

    This article is a "hands on" for ChronoSync -- not CCC, SD, Time Machine, Retrospect, punch cards, tape backup solutions, or stone tablets.



    But, Super Duper is certainly not a stoned tablet. It is just as viable an option as CCC, Time Machine, Retrospect, or ChronoSync, and of course another "stand out" backup solution. I firmly believe it deserves to be mentioned in the same "light" as the others.

  1. Mike Wuerthele

    Managing Editor

    Joined: 07-19-12

    Originally Posted by akent35View Post

    But, Super Duper is certainly not a stoned tablet. It is just as viable an option as CCC, Time Machine, Retrospect, or ChronoSync, and of course another "stand out" backup solution. I firmly believe it deserves to be mentioned in the same "light" as the others.



    As I mentioned, NOT AN EXHAUSTIVE LIST. Just examples.

    When you do the review, you can include whatever you want. Keep your eyes peeled, maybe something's in the works someplace for user reviews...

  1. mdirvin

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 10-26-12

    ChronoSync

    I have been using ChronoSync for a while now and love it. In my search to find a backup solution for my managed Aperture library (400GB). I tried several programs. The requirement to backup over the network to NAS devices eliminated several programs. I believe that was the issue with SD, and CCC. They didn't support backing up to a network device. As the reviewer mentioned it is fast compared to the other solutions that I have tried.

  1. James Katt

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 03-02-08

    I own Chronosync with Chronosync Agent, SuperDuper!, and Carbon Copy Cloner.
    1. Carbon Copy Cloner is the fastest at making clones. It can make several clones to multiple drives simultaneously by using up all available CPU power and file system transfer resources. And, unlike SuperDuper!, it can clone drives which are nearly full - on which SuperDuper! chokes. It can do so because it runs clones of itself in RAM as root processes, not processes running on your account. The primary weakness of making so many clones simultaneously in parallel is that when there are too many, the Finder and file system can crash causing all of the backups to freeze and your Mac may also freeze forcing you to do a hard reset. So be careful how many you run at the same time. My MacBook Pro's limit is about 6 simultaneous backups. You really don't have a choice of not doing parallel backups with Carbon Copy Cloner. It singlemindly wants to do all backups simultaneously as a feature per the developer.
    2. SuperDuper! unlike Carbon Copy Cloner can run clone backups serially - one after the other on a queue - rather than doing them all in parallel. This way, you don't risk the Finder crashing and the file system freezing the ongoing backup. I moved over to Carbon Copy Cloner, however, when SuperDuper! couldn't clone a nearly full hard drive, telling me that the destination drive doesn't have enough room. SuperDuper!, however, seemed to have bootable backups that worked better than Carbon Copy Cloner - whose bootable backups are slowed tremendously by Spotlight rebuilding its indexes. If the hard drive I am cloning has sufficient space and I don't want to risk the Finder and file system crashing, I use SuperDuper!
    3. ChronoSync is my favorite backup method. You can do everything SuperDuper! and Carbon Copy Cloner can do. But it is significantly slower than either one. Which is why I still use SueprDuper! and Carbon Copy Cloner. For doing any other backup - such as backing up single folders to other drives every hour and across the network, I use ChronoSync with ChronoAgent to speed things up.

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