A popular use for Mac minis in our data center is operating it as a backup server. Backing up to your own server means you’ll control your own data while still knowing it is in a very secure location. You can control the number of versions, how it is accessed, how it is restored, and what happens to the data when you’re done.
A common example are photographers who have large amounts of data, and would like to have a quick restore if necessary. In a case like that, they usually just attach a 4TB external drive to their Mac mini. If it’s needed in a rush then we can detach it and ship it to them overnight.
Why not use a third-party cloud service?
There are number of great services out there to backup your machine. They are a great fit for most people and probably the best route for many to take. It’s easy to get them setup to run and then you can just forget about it. However, some people prefer more control. Or perhaps they need to better coordinate backing up external drives. They might be in a field that has strict laws on how data can be stored and who can have access to it. If you have a Mac mini here already, you know that they are very good at multi-tasking. (Here is a great example of that.) In addition to all of your other uses of the mini, may as well have it backing up your most important data as well.
Powerful apps for backing up
Arq Backup is a great tool to backup your data to all sorts of places. In addition to Amazon, Google and Microsoft cloud options, you can also backup to an SFTP server of your own. This is super simple on a Mac mini. You just need to enable "Remote Login" in System Preferences and fill in the information. If you'd like to give Arq a try, you can download a demo from their site.
BitTorrent Sync is another great option to avoid third-party clouds all together. At first, the release of BitTorrent Sync 2.0 was not well received. But in the last few months, they have made some great updates and given the free version some really nice upgrades. The free version is powerful and would be enough for most people. You can also upgrade to Pro if you'd like Selective Sync and other powerful options. They also have nice mobile apps available. See all the platform options here.
Hazel is one of the most popular apps used by our customers. You can create Hazel rules and the app will watch for certain actionable items and then run the rules. In addition to many other uses, it's a powerful tool for backing up. For instance, perhaps you want to back up a large file but you don't want it sitting in your dropbox folder and using your space. You might have Hazel watch a specific Dropbox folder. When you put the file in there, it can wait until it syncs and then automatically move it to a non-Dropbox folder on your remote Mac mini server.
A few other quick and easy options
Setup Mail.app to download and keep local copies of all your email.
Setup iCloud Photo Library to download full resolution copies of your photo streams. (MMC customer Ben Brooks gives a good overview of this and other backup strategies here.)
iTunes Match can help you keep high quality copies of all your music files so your iOS/laptops can stick with the streaming options and not fill up the space.
Once you have all your files syncing to your Mac, use SuperDuper to clone the whole machine to an external drive on a schedule. That way, if you ever need a quick restore, we can just pull the drive and send it to you. It also gives you a bootable backup should you need it.
Do you use your Mac mini to back up data in a way that's not listed here? Please let us know on twitter @macminicolo.