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Macintosh backup and recovery: Best practices for Mac and PC backup

This tip looks at Macintosh backup and recovery best practices, and some things to keep in mind when backing up Macintosh and PC environments together.

Although there was once a time when most data storage administrators and backup administrators tried to avoid creating heterogeneous networks at all costs, today such networks have become the norm. Often, an organization's business needs can only be achieved by using a variety of server operating systems. This tip looks at Macintosh backup and recovery best practices, and some things to keep in mind when backing up Macintosh and PC environments together.

While the lack of a suitable data backup and recovery software to back up a Windows and Macintosh network was a problem at one time, today it is much less of an issue. To cite a couple of examples, Symantec Corp. offers a Macintosh agent for Backup Exec, and EMC NetWorker also supports Macintosh.

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Not all backup applications support both Windows and Macintosh, so you may end up having to stop using your current backup application in favor of a backup application that offers cross-platform compatibility. If you are forced to switch backup applications, then it is critically important that you keep your previous backup application installed on at least one computer. Remember that all of your prior backups were made using your previous backup application, and if you need to restore any of those backups you will have to use the software that created the backup.

Although cross-platform backup applications are readily available, using such an application may not always be in your best interest. Sure, being able to write both Windows and Macintosh data to a common tape is handy, but it isn't always practical. It really just depends on what your servers are used for, and on your existing backup architecture.

Suppose, for example, that your existing backup solution is only compatible with Windows Servers and you need to add two Macintosh servers to your network. In that type of situation, it would be nearly impossible to justify the cost of abandoning your existing backup software in favor of something that works with Macintosh. In this situation, it would probably be far more cost effective to backup your Macintosh servers separately.

Sometimes you may find that the decisions that you make regarding your backup architecture aren't nearly as cost-driven as they are driven by logistics. Let's imagine that you need to back up a bunch of Windows Servers using one of the more popular enterprise-class backup applications. Would you be able to accomplish your goal by simply deploying a backup agent to each one of the servers that you want to back up? Probably not. Most of the time, agents facilitate file-level backups, but the agents aren't usually application-aware.

Backing up cross-platform networks

This same concept also applies to backing up cross-platform networks. Just because a backup vendor offers Macintosh agents for their product, it does not necessarily mean that you will be able to back up your Macintosh servers in the necessary manner. Using a Windows-based backup application with a Macintosh agent will work fine if the Macintosh Server is acting as a file or print server, but the agent may be insufficient if the Macintosh server is acting as an application server. In those types of situations, it may be better to look for a backup application that is specifically designed for Macintosh (and that supports the applications that are running on the Macintosh servers) rather than being predominantly a Windows application that offers a minimal level of Macintosh support.

Data backup and recovery application vendors have begun making it easier than ever to perform cross-platform backups. Even so, there is much more to backing up a heterogeneous network than just purchasing a backup application with cross platform support. You have to consider which applications are running on your Macintosh servers and whether or not the backup application can successfully back up those applications.

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, has previously received Microsoft's MVP award for Exchange Server, Windows Server and Internet Information Server (IIS). Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. You can visit Brien's personal website at

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