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  • Review: Retrospect Solo for Mac 17

    Posted on Nathan Parker Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Home Forums AskWoody support Non-Windows operating systems macOS Review: Retrospect Solo for Mac 17

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        Nathan Parker

        For years, I’ve used a Drobo NAS (5N) to backup my Macs with Time Machine, as well as I used the Drobo NAS with Macrium when I backed up Windows PCs. It is also handy for file sharing between computers. However, recent versions of macOS and Time Machine simply do not play well with NAS devices (even Apple’s own Time Capsule NAS drives aren’t playing well with recent versions of macOS Time Machine). Occasionally, Time Machine can throw a verification error which causes the entire Time Machine backup to be deleted and re-created. For Time Machine backups, I’ve moved one of my Macs to a Thunderbolt 3 drive, and I plan to move the other one to a Thunderbolt 2 drive by the end of summer. Time Machine simply works best with a locally-connected drive.

        With that said, I have a perfectly good Drobo NAS sitting on my desk that I would still like to use for backups, even if Time Machine isn’t the best solution for it. I decided to turn to Retrospect as the backup solution for my Macs to backup to the Drobo NAS (this coupled with Time Machine now gives me two local backups of my data, plus I also use off-site online backups as well). Retrospect is now owned by the same company as the Drobo (StorCentric), so the two should play well together. I ordered two copies of Retrospect Solo for Mac (version reviewed is 17) using the subscription license (the subscription license offers support and major upgrades included, the perpetual license does not offer support or major upgrades included). Retrospect originally recommended the Desktop version which offers more features and functionality (plus more options for support where one can purchase a perpetual license and a support contract), but it was overkill for my backup needs. For those who need to centralize and manage backups or backup Windows PCs, Desktop seems to be the best choice. In my case, Solo offered what I needed at a reduced price (Provantage brought the cost down to $30 per year per Mac, and if I ever needed to drop one of the Macs, I could).

        I am glad I went with the subscription (even though I prefer perpetual licenses) for access to support alone. Most of the issues I contacted support about were issues of my own doing (by rushing into the configuration), but there were a couple of support issues I wouldn’t have been able to self-resolve. Their support was there every step of the way and resolved all of my issues.

        Overview and Interface
        Overall the Interface on Retrospect Solo is Mac-friendly and not too complicated, although there is a certain process one should go through in order to successfully backup a Mac. One issue I ran into was when I ran the Retrospect Installer, it installed components that are not included in Solo and actually conflicted with Solo’s operation. It would be good if Retrospect offered a more prominent installer for Solo on their website.

        Once that was resolved and I successfully activated my subscription, I first needed to take a trip to Preferences and under Rules, create a rule of files I wanted to exclude from backup. I used “Any of the Following are True” and “Folder, Mac Path” to specify the paths of the files I wanted to exclude from backup (there are a handful of files I needed to exclude from the backups). I made the mistake of using “Is” instead of “Contains”, which still backed up the contents of the folders until I adjusted that.

        Next I went to Sources and added the IP address and path to my Drobo 5N share, which went smoothly.

        From there I went to Media Sets and had to create a new “media set” to specify how much space on the Drobo NAS I wanted to use for backups, and how to purge older backups. I had some issues originally creating this due to a corrupted file during the install, but Retrospect support resolved the issue easily.

        Lastly, I went to Backups and created the script which told me to backup my Mac to the Drobo 5N Media Set using the excluded files rule, also specifying incremental backups and scheduling the backups (which I am using daily each evening).

        Backup Performance and Reliability
        Now that I have everything configured successfully, Retrospect has been successfully backing up both Macs to my Drobo NAS every evening, and performance has been speedy with incremental backups, and overall, backups seem to be reliable with a “set it and forget it” mentality. Occasionally when I check the logs, I’ll see a minor backup error of a cache file or something having issues backing up (I’m probably working on the file when it tried to backup), but overall, things seem to be solid. I need to perform more extensive tests with file restoring, but it does feel good to know that Retrospect is working far more reliably with my Drobo NAS than Time Machine is.

        Bottom Line
        Retrospect Solo for Mac is a solid backup utility that works far better with NAS devices (such as Drobo NAS devices) than Time Machine, and Retrospect offers trusted backup solutions for both individuals and enterprises. The interface isn’t too daunting, although there is a certain process one should take to successfully backup one’s Mac using Retrospect Solo to avoid issues. I highly recommend investing in the subscription version of Retrospect Solo over the perpetual license for the included support alone, as they were there every step of the way when I needed them (the fact that I’ll also receive major version upgrades is a nice plus as well). I also highly recommend reading the product documentation heavily before rushing into creating the backup rules, as if I had done so, it would have saved me a handful of issues and emails to support. Windows PC users and those needing centralized backups should look at Desktop, over Solo, but Solo is useful for backing up a single Mac or a couple of Macs (each with their own Solo licenses) to a NAS (or other drives). While I’m still using Time Machine (with a local drive) and other local and online backup options, I am glad to include Retrospect Solo for Mac in my backup toolbox and use it to get the most out of my Drobo NAS.

        Nathan Parker

        • This topic was modified 3 weeks, 3 days ago by Nathan Parker. Reason: Cleaned up my HTML code issues
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