With every new OS, there are a few "Must Have" features that make the upgrade worthwhile. For Vista, it was the security and reliability features, with recent Linux distributions, it has been the addition of Compiz. The addition of Time Machine to Mac OS X 10.5 was the feature that caused me to pre-order Apple's latest release for my MacBook Pro.
Since the beginning of time, Apple Backup solutions have, for lack of a better word, sucked. I have had nothing but back luck with Dantz's Retrospect, and Apple's own (aptly named) "Backup" utility should be taken out back and shot. Not only are you required to purchase an annual $99 subscription to their .Mac subscription to even backup to a local drive, but the functionality and UI at version 3 resembles a midterm project by a college student straight out of "Introduction to programming in C 101". A decent list of backup clients for OS X can be found here.
But with two-and-a-half years of development, Apple has surely gotten backup right in Leopard, right? Time machine certainly demos well... Having installed it tonight, however, I can tell you that Apple's advertising is correct. Time Machine is a "giant leap backward".
Time machine supports a ridiculously limited ability to backup to a network share. Specifically, the ONLY network shares that Leopard will backup to are:
- Hard Drives connected to Leopard Server
- Hard Drives connected to Leopard Client.
You bought a Buffalo Terastation NAS? Too bad. You're using Windows Home Server? Apple doesn't care. Bought an Airport Extreme FROM APPLE with an attached USB Hard Drive? Don't expect Time Machine to recognize it. Want to keep a second Mac running Tiger (10.4)? Also a non starter for Time Machine...
Mac OS X can mount these remote hard drives with no problem (the SMB support is actually quite robust), and reading/writing files is a breeze. You just cannot backup with Time Machine unless the target hard drive is hooked up to Leopard.
You can also not backup your home directory if it is encrypted with FileVault.
So, long story short: If you want to backup your unencrypted Leopard install to a local USB/FireWire hard drive, you are good to go. If you want to backup multiple Macs to a central file share, you could just pickup an XServe RAID. Who doesn't need Fibre Channel in the home? If you want to have files that are both encrypted and backed up... well that's just asking too much.
Other than the shortcomings of Time machine, the OS itself is quite nice. I will post some more thoughts once I have had a chance to play with it a bit.