/ Backup

Time Capsule

I've been looking for a wireless access point that supports the wireless-n standard for a while. Both our MacBooks support wireless-n, but the access point from our ISP only supports wireless-g. While searching around for an access point I came across Apple's Time Capsule. It's a wireless-n access point, four port gigabit switch, router, NAS drive and wireless Time Machine backup node all rolled into one package.

I was sold on the Time Capsule and bought one from the Apple store. Everyone says it, but I feel it's worth repeating - the retail experience at an Apple store is second to none. They have staff that know what they are on about and don't mind spending time talking to you about their products.

Migrating my backups from our current server was not as straight forward as I would have liked. I instructed Time Machine to backup to the Time Capsule to force the creation of a machine specific sparse bundle on the Time Capsule - no need for a full backup. I then mounted the new sparse bundle and the existing backup sparse bundle in Finder. Then I used Disk Utility to 'Restore' the existing backup into the new backup. It took a while (overnight) and I had to unmount the new backup and the Time Capsule before Time Machine would recognise it, but I can now browse my old backups and my machines do incremental backups to the new Time Capsule.

There is a USB port on the Time Capsule so you can plug in printers, external drives and the like. If you plug in an external drive you can 'Archive' the Time Machine backups onto the external disk to keep an off-site backup. Given that Time Capsules only have one disk and previous generations have documented problems this is a good idea. Archiving took a long time (overnight again) but it feels good to have a copy of my backups off-site.

We use BT Infinity for our broadband service. This requires a Infinity modem which connects to a BT Home Hub over cat 5. The BT Home Hub is useless as a router, the configuration interface is clunky and you can't do a lot of what you can with a Netgear equivalent. Luckily Jan has found out how to trick the Infinity modem into thinking the Time Capsule is a BT Home Hub. You can then use the Time Capsule as a router. Configuration is via Airport Utility and is both powerful and flexible. Not as many features as a Netgear equivalent, but all the ones that I typically use.

I'm very happy with it, the wireless doesn't drop out and is really fast, making the internal disk the limiting factor when backing up, so I no longer need to connect an ethernet cable to get the best performance.