Recommend Time Machine solution for small office

We have a small Mac-based office, with ~6 Macs at a given time and would like to have a local time-machine backup for everybody. Are we better going with a Sinology or other NAS for this purpose? Trying to mount an external drive to the conference room Mac mini? (It’s mounted behind the television, so there’s not a lot of room or flexibility there for a drive to fit.) Or something else?

Some years ago I used multiple Drobo 5Ns to backup Macs used by our managers and executives. At some point I had problems with all of the TM backups failing for one reason or another. I had much better results using a Mac mini with external drives.

However Apple server software had been steadily declining for some years at that point. I have no idea if it would be worth considering today.

Synology is probably one of the more reliable third party solutions, but I‘ve had problems of TM not being able to validate the backup and thus starting from scratch again in my network, from two different Macs with different versions of macOS. This went on for a while, now there are no more problems to report for maybe 1-2 years.

On the other hand, I do have an old Mac Mini with an external HD attached at a different place, which has been very reliable so far. Even though the Mac Mini is running on a patched version of 10.13.

Based only on anecdotal evidence of having heard similar stories before, I‘d probably look for a proper storage solution with enough bandwidth and redundancy which can be connected directly to the (or a new?) Mac Mini and thus serve as a „native“ Time Machine network target.

Is there a way to randomize when TM starts its backup jobs? Though peak load will probably be Monday mornings at 9 am, when several MacBooks return from their weekends and want to offload their snapshots, in case that‘s a realistic scenario.

If I were in your shoes:

  • Synology NAS with at least four drives so you can use RAID or SHR. This means a drive can fail and you won’t lose everything.
  • Back the Synology (or parts thereof) to a cloud service like Backblaze’s B2, or Synology’s service.
  • Back the Macs up to the Synology using Arq.
  • Back up UPS

Time machine is hit or miss and I don’t trust it. For myself and others who have posted here on the forum, it works for 6 months or so, then the backup becomes corrupt and I/we have to start over.

I wouldn’t use the conference room Mini as a backup server. What if, e.g. Jill’s computer is backing up, and Sarah reboots because Zoom is hung and corrupts Jill’s backup?

Edit: added UPS for orderly shutdown if the power goes off


I would agree with this. I think time machine may be good at transferring existing content to a new mac , but personally I prefer to start from a clean slate anyway

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What is your aim here?

To have multiple versions of backups from each machines, or to be able to restore the machine in the event of a failure.

The reason I ask is that I know you’re asking about Time Machine, but anecdotally, Time machine backups fail eventually and have to be started again from scratch.

I’d recommend a multi later approach.

  1. All files stored on Cloud services. (Not a backup)
  2. Maybe Time Machine for an across network backup
  3. Backblaze on each computer
  4. A Drive cloning tool which works when they’re plugged in in the office.

Option 1 allows for getting back up and running quickly.
Option 2 allows restoration of an old version of a file (which the cloud service may provide)
Option 3 is an offsite backup and allows restoration
Option 4 is your nuclear option if the first two fail.

To be honest I’d pick 3 before 2 or 4 because it’s automatic, location agnostic and off site. for the <$100 a year per machine (dependent on what you’d save) it’s well worth it as insurance.

I use Synology for backing up multiple machines with Tome Machine. works fine. Synology has documentation you can read now on how to do it. Also read how to back up that box.

But more important step back a a few steps and design a 321 back strategy and infrastructure (hardware and softwar). A lot articles on the ‘net describe it. but have three copies of everything on two types of media and one backup version offsite.

Edit: For us, every machine also backs up to a USB connected drive (TimeMachine) and some Chronosync bu’s (for very important stuff) to local and NAS. Backblaze is the offsite bu service.

You have lots of responses on what to do about hardware.

I would strongly encourage you to consider software options as well.

I love Apple, but Time Machine is not one of its best software products. You can - and eventually will - encounter an undetectable errror in your Time Machine backup which causes the entire backup to fail. It does not necesssarily simply fail on one file and move on.

Carbony Copy Cloner or ChronoSync have much more features and most notably are less likely to fail in a dramatic manner like Time Machine.


Add;another to the list of people that encounters consistent corrupted time machine backups, but only when doing so over the network. I’ve used a Mac mini and Dropbox as the target. I switched to local drives on 3 machines, 2 years ago and have had 0 issues.

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