Doing backups (properly) is a complicated and of course important task. Yes, I am sure there are some built-in backup tools in Mac OS X you could use but these would have very limited capabilities and/or require you to do a lot of the work yourself in terms of scheduling and things like incremental backups.
In terms of built-in options there are the following (and possible some others) -
- Time Machine server
Some of these are merely file copying tools, you would have to use them in addition with a separate task which logs in and mounts the server volume. For example you could log in over AFP, then make a TAR archive as a backup.
Rsync however is a full-blown solution, it can also do differential backups that is backup just those files changed since last time.
Considering the importance of backups I strongly recommend you also consider commercial solutions. Tolis Group BRU looks good as long as you use tape drives (I consider it usless for backing up to hard disks), there is still of course Retrospect which I still use myself. Retrospect is easy to use, for me at least reasonably reliable but dog slow when backing up a volume on which the number of files has grown above a level.
A lot of server admins will probably combine several different types of backups for servers - you can never have too many backups. For example, I periodically do a Carbon Copy Clone of the Server boot drive, regularly run a Time Machine backup of the server boot drive, and do a daily Retrospect backup of the entire server (boot and data drives). The Retrospect backups are then rotated off-site.
In terms of backing up laptops, when in the office they could backup to the Time Machine server, they could also be spotted by a Retrospect backup server and automatically backed up (Retrospect can do this for Macs and PCs), however neither of these is suitable for when they are out of the office. You could provide the laptop users with an external drive and set them up to backup to that, this could be done for Macs using Time Machine and Windows 7 has a similar built-in feature. The other typical approach for laptops is to have them backup to an Internet service like Carbonite, Crashplan, Mozy, etc. Unless the amount you want to backup is small this approach is likely to have significant costs and you also need to consider some people may be affected by Internet bandwidth caps, slow Internet connections, or be in a location with no Internet connection (e.g. on a customer site).
Of course, Time Machine. Extremely simple to setup. And automagic. For all local machines. It's probably not going to be useful for remote machines.. I'd use something like Crashplan, Mozy, etc. We use Crashplan. Once the initial backup is done, it doesn't typically take very long. But, it could definitely use some decent upload speed. So, any remote machine is going to have problems unless they have decent upload speed.
For the laptop users, if you use portable home folders, then, as long as they keep their data in the normal place on the server, they will mostly be backed up as long as they are in the office every so often. Might be good enough.
But, even for the local machines, keep in mind that a local backup to time machine is easy, fast, and likely gives you everything you want except for one thing. It's ON site. So, the building burns down, etc., your backup is toast. Someone steals it, etc. So, offsite is always a good thing in addition to any technique you use locally.
We use time machine, and, crashplan. So, onsite and offsite. Both are incremental.
Part of the plan is for that server to be the offsite secondary copy to the local onsite backup to a fire safe drive in one case. So three parts to the overall plan.
1. Level 1 local backup for my in house systems.
2. Level 2 offsite backup for my friends and family as a second backup beyond their local backup. I might take other drive onsite for the first full backup
3. Level 3 remote target for some who have no local backup option.
Only major gap in the plan so far is no offsite backup for me.
But then maybe I could implement a similar solution at another location.
Crashplan, at a minimum, allows you to use your own machines as a backup destination, local or remote, pretty easily. Once setup, it's basically automatic which is key for any backup of course, for most peoiple at least.
I suppose you could do another location. Using Crashplan to backup to your own machines is actually free. Though for me, I simply use their drives since it was only $6 per month for ALL our computers.That's cheap enough for me to not want to mess with it.
Some additional info.
one of my objectives is to have faster local backup and network attached storage for my own use - as well as faster backup capability when bringing customer machines in house to do things like swap out hard drives - without being limited by USB for example.
the second objective is to provide remote backup to my customers and recoup some of the cost of the hardware - instead of paying someone else to do it.
ultimately I will likely have several TBs of data - including at least one WIndows 2008 R2 server being backed up to my location. some of the services I have looked at get into hundreds of dollars a month for that capability.
I run a Mac mini as a primary server with another Mac mini as its backup server. I use rsync to do do a daily backup of the primary server to the backup server. If the primary server files the backup can be put online with the same files as the primary. More info on how to use rsync is here: