I presently use an external USB drive to back up my Mac Mini with Time Machine which is a little about 1.5 TB total, however, I would really like to be able to trickle those backups onto some other cloud provider or even another location on a desktop located at a different office so I am protected from a massive catastrophe. I realize that upstream bandwidth is a major factor in successfully doing this. (I only have 10 megabit upstream.) I have tried to use ARQ which uses S3 backup, and while it works very well, the costs associated could end up being astronomical which I consider backup up my music, movies, etc..., not to mention the the loads of incidental file changes that I I don't need to capture every time. Also, there is simply no way it could ever catch up with with the amount of TM data that gets churned.

What I am looking for is a solution geared specifically for copying Time Machine backups to a cloud location, and does some things to reduce the amount of data that has to be pushed over the pipe. I would be accept having the Time Machine backups that are pushed offsite be far less frequent and I would accept some lag in getting these backups shipped, but I want to have SOMETHING in case I have a catastrophic incident, like a fire or water is spilled on my computer and Time Machine drive simultaneously.

Solutions like Mozy and Carbonite are simply not well geared for MacOS with its heavy reliance on datastores vs files. Attempting to rebuild an iTunes library from files would be a nightmare.

I am having trouble finding anything out there geared for this, but if you have some suggestions, I am all ears.


4 Answers 4


If I understand your question correctly (and I may not) you would prefer a cloud solution but would be willing to consider another non-cloud offsite solution.

My preference is not to use the cloud for this type of backup. The cloud is fine for low volume data storage and file services (e.g. Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, MS OneDrive, etc), but for this type of backup it's not (at least not yet).

Instead, my recommendation is to do something similar to what I am doing. By way of example, I'll explain how I do this for my iMac (but I follow a similar process for all my machines!)

  • This iMac has a 500GB HDD
  • I have purchased two portable USB 2TB external hard drives
  • I have labelled these hard drives as iMac TM Backup HD 1 and iMac TM Backup HD 2
  • I set both of these external drives to be TM backup drives
  • As both drives are set up with TM they are alternated whenever both drives are available
  • Once the initial backups are done, I physically remove one of the external drives and take it 'offsite'
  • On the same day each week, I then swap them over
  • The net result is that both hard drives will have backups in the order of one week on, one week off (but between them I have a full set of backups).

Now, in terms of keeping one of them offsite, you have a number of options. Over the years I have used as my offsite location any of the following:

  • My workplace
  • A shed in the back yard
  • My car (but this may depend on your climate and where you 'garage' your car)
  • A family member's/friend's place (assuming you trust them!)

Basically, the idea is that your offsite drive is somewhere that protects your data in the event your house burns down or you get robbed. My strong suggestion would be in a locked drawer at your workplace (unless you work at home). Most people's workplaces are air-conditioned, secure, and convenient.


Regardless of the 'offsite' location you choose to keep your hard drive, there are some key factors to keep in mind:

  • Always keep the drive safe from large magnetic fields!
  • Ensure the location has a temperature range between 10 degrees celsius (50 degrees fahrenheit) and 43 degrees celsius (110 degrees fahrenheit). So, keeping it in a car would usually not be a good idea.
  • You seem to grok the question quite well, thanks. Ideally i'dhave tape backup, but the price of tape backup systems are INSANE! I see you're approach with the alternating TM drives (I have read about this) but does each drive have complete information to complete a full restore on its own, even if it is a little out of date? I just want to understand the basics here. If so, that could be a working solution for sure.
    – Darf Nader
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 5:22
  • Also, for you car, are you concerned about the drive getting knocked around from bumps in the road? I'd be afraid of them being knocked around and getting damaged, but maybe I am being paranoid.
    – Darf Nader
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 5:23
  • Re the TM backups, since they're both set up independently, they each have a full initial backup and TM keeps a record of all the data on each separately. In this way they are both full backups. In terms of the car storage, my main concern would be relating to temperature (and to a lesser extent keeping them away from the car's speakers). If you need to ever store them in your car I would ensure they're located within a padded bag (e.g. camera bag, laptop bag, etc) as extra protection from knocks. This should be enough - but not if you're regularly off-road in a 4WD! :)
    – Monomeeth
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 5:32
  • And of course, you don't need to take the week on week off approach. For about four years I had to store absolutely critical data and I used an approach that involved three hard drives that I swapped out every day. One was always connected, and the other two were alternated and kept in separate locations (i.e. one was always connected, one was kept at work, and the last one was kept in a fire-proof safe in the shed). Some people swap them out on a monthly basis, so it all depends on how crucial your data is.
    – Monomeeth
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 5:37
  • So I am going to go this route.The only thing concerning me is that I am presently using a single 4TB Time Machine drive to back up two Macs. The first has the TM drive locally attached, but he second is on my LAN and connects to the same drive that's shared from the first Mac over AFP. This has ben working smoothly so far, but I am wondering if trying to use two remote drives where only drive is going to be shared at any given time will cause TM to balk and require manual intervention each time I swap the drives. If you are not sure, not worries- I can ask this separately. Thank you!
    – Darf Nader
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 6:16

I would like to report that I ended up with a better than 3-2-1 solution that was very different from what I sought out to do in the fist pass. If you are interested in how I did it, please read on.

First off, the attempts to upload Time Machine backups to a cloud data store was a bit of a catastrophe and frankly a bad idea from the start. I just couldn't efficiently upload the sparse bundles for some reason. Plus, I realized that with a 4 TB TM drive performing a restore would have been a nightmare. I was using Arq as my backup client which is normally blazingly fast with its multi-threading and over-the-wire compression. For whatever reason, it took Arq a very long time to scan the Time Machine backup data so upload speeds were always abysmal. I chalk this up to the nature of the TM data store and not Arq, which I can say after a thorough testing is otherwise rock solid, secure, extensively featured, has flexible overhead, and at top speed will probably smoke any other all-in-one provider. The big plus with Arq is that it supports so many cloud data stores so that regardless of the size of your data set, speed requirements, and data integrity needs, you can pick the right provider for you rather than get locked into a single vendor. Plus, it also supports SFTP so you can backup data locally or to a non-native cloud store like Backblaze B2 if you really wanted to.

Because I ended up choosing to have duplicated Time Machine backup drives (which I will swap out every week so one is offsite almost all of the time) and because I have several TB of data, I ended up choosing Amazon Cloud which is about $60/year for unlimited files. With my 30 Mb uplink I can saturate it and then some thanks to Arq's compression. I would probably only need to restore from it if there was an earthquake that knocked out both of my Time Machine backups, or to "top" off files if I had to backup from the offsited TM drive. Also, if there are concerns about data integrity over time, Arq has the feature to vigilantly validate the backups to make sure there is no data rot. If something fails a checksum it's dumped and uploaded again. If it is not available, you are told exactly what was lost. I now have my bases covered. I don't really need backups to the beginning of time but, saving corruption (I don't know how well things "keep" on Amazon Cloud) I will have what I need, which is up to a month's worth of history.

So, in the end I chose backing up my system directly rather than attempting the backup of a backup, which I realize now would have been fraught with peril anyway. Arq's clever techniques of avoiding the backup of unnecessary files seems to put it on par with what Backblaze does. When you restore, you still have to reinstall your apps, but all of your Library data (minus temp files) will be intact. I am backing up 2 hosts separately along with 2 TB of media. It is tearing through the first backup right now at around 3-4 MB/s and at this rate I'll be done by early next week. Cost-wise (and since I already owned Arq) this makes the most sense for me.

In conclusion, this approach ended up being the most convenient and cost effective way to provide 3-2-1 level backups of my data. Also, with much of my data on iCloud or DropBox it's actually more than that. I love the convenience of Time Machine, especially when it comes to restores. It's a one and done solution that will fully restore my system to what it was if I have to replace my Mac. The swapping of drives is a bit manual, but it's only once a week and I have a nice drive case for transport. If I have a fire or theft and am forced to restore from the slightly older offsite drive, I know I have the cloud backup to get my system up to current where necessary. Still, the cloud is mainly for peace of mind in case things really go sideways. I hopefully will never need it, but if I ever do, I will be glad I spent the small amount for it. I hope that documenting this entire exercise will be helpful to others.

  • I would like to also thank @Tetsujin for his info about Backblaze which indirectly got me to use Arq since it applies the same backup approach.
    – Darf Nader
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 21:36
  • Also, big thanks to @Monomeeth for their great info on managing a proper "sneaker net" approach to offsite backups. I ended up combining both of your approaches to satisfy my paranoia. :-)
    – Darf Nader
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 21:36
  • One last comment... it appears the Arq now natively supports Backblaze B2 which is the cheapest backup method available. This obviously puts them in direct competition with Arq with the Mac Backlaze backup product, but at $49 a license, you investment in a solution is more upfront with Arq, but cheaper over time. Plus you can use Arq with another vendor if there is a price war later.
    – Darf Nader
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 20:14
  • Oh yeah, Amazon cancelled their Unlimited plan so as of January my backup costs will triple so it looks like I am going to B2.
    – Darf Nader
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 20:16

Backblaze - $5/m. It doesn't back up the OS itself, as that's easily restored from Apple, but it backs the rest of the machine. I set mine to run overnight so it doesn't upset my ISP's quotas.

First full backup took about two months - something like 2TB of data, but now it seems to shift around 20GB a night. It will keep archived any external device it sees at least every month. Backups are retrievable by date, similar to Time Machine itself.

You can restore single files, folders or the entire archive; over a web interface, or if it's just too big, they will ship it on an appropriately-sized HD [at an extra cost]

It doesn't backup Time Machine itself, as that would be redundant, nor does it backup Boot Camp Partitions.

Backups can be encrypted. Don't forget the password, Backblaze cannot recover it if you lose it.

There's a month's free trial, during which you can test its capabilities, including restore of anything so far uploaded.
I've never needed it [so far, touch wood] for full disaster recovery, but I've tested it on fairly large structures like the Photos Library, which I recovered successfully.

  • Wow, that;s pretty clever that it is able to detect the variances between the vanilla OS and everything else.. Interesting approach. I took a look at their overview and I like that it gives you some data transfer options. Does it come with some utilities to overlay restored files on top of a vanilla install if you had to restore from scratch or do you have to stitch stuff together yourself?
    – Darf Nader
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 4:53
  • 'Stitch it yourself' I think. I've never needed a full restore, but judging from the 'won't backup list' I don't think it would be too difficult to knit yourself a new machine ;) Prefs are saved, but not apps, so I'm guessing an app reinstall would preserve states for a lot of things.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 4:58

A possible cheap solution could be using an extra drive (Time Machine supports that), and storing it offsite. You could even store it in a safety deposit box if you wanted to. The hassle would be the manual fetching and returning of the drive, but with low upload bandwidth, it might be the best option. As someone else suggested, Backblaze works well, but it really depends on your internet connection.

  • What you suggest is along the lines of what I ended up doing, which I took from @monomeeth 's suggestion which is a mix of high-tech and low tech-solution.
    – Darf Nader
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 21:51

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