The Time Capsule is the highest end of the “Airport” devices Apple has to offer. In essence, the Time Capsule is a combination backup system and router, which is a great solution for someone who needs both of this functionality in a single device because of its convenience. The Airport Express, and Extreme Base Station, are the other two devices Apple has to offer, the Extreme being great for streaming music to a stereo system through iTunes, and the Extreme being like a Time Capsule without a built-in hard drive.
I will start off by saying up front that the Time Capsule is not for everyone and because of its ?$399 and $499 price for a 2 or 3 TB drive respectively, it might be a bit too expensive for most folks to invest in. However, for me, I was looking for a simple solution for backing up both my Mac Mini and Mac Book Pro that would decrease the number of wires and connections required to do so. I have collected 2 external hard drives over the years, both being Lacy drives with one being a 500 GB model and the other being a 2 TB model. However, swapping cables between my USB hub to my computers and a Firewire connection to boot just was getting tiresome, and I was contemplating the Time Capsule option for a while. I had bought an Airport Extreme Base Station about two years ago to replace my router when it died, so I was quite familiar and happy with using an Apple router for my home network.
Apple’s Black Friday deals gave me the incentive to go through with the purchase. There was a reduction in the 3 TB model of the Time Capsule, and I had some Apple gift cards from family for my birthday to use as well. Thus, my wallet didn’t take a seriously significant hit when all was said and done. I will admit that it wasn’t a necessity to buy the Time Capsule right now, and I had originally planned to do so in the spring, but I noticed the price reduction when I was browsing on Black Friday, and the temptation got the better of me. I also had some money put aside from Mac training that I had done, which merely eased the choice for me.I’m not going to go into a technical blow by blow as far as describing the Time Capsule in detail. Most people are not interested in the finer points of a router, but if you are desiring more details, you can either check out the specs on the Apple website or you are welcome to write me directly. I am not, for the record, a networking guru or the like, but I have spent a lot of time reading about and experimenting with all 3 of the Apple Airport models over the years.
As I said earlier, my main reason for purchasing the Time Capsule was for the ability to have a backup solution for multiple machines in one place. The Time Capsule stores individual disk images, which are Time Machine backups for both my Mac Mini and Mac Book Pro on its 3 TB built-in hard drive. This is seen in my server list under its name, John’s Time Capsule, and I can access the backups at any time I need them. Additionally, well, no more need to physically connect my computers to my external hard drive to run Time Machine.
What is also neat about the Time Capsule and the Extreme Base Station is that they each have a USB port on them. This enables one to connect a printer or, in my case, one of my external hard drives directly to the device via a hub. In turn, in my case, since I have my 2 TB Lacy HD divided into 4 separate partitions, they can be reached over the network by any of my computers, including my Windows 7 desktop. Consequently, in my world, this means less hassling with cables and connecting machines to drives, but also giving me access to all of the partitions at any given time when I need them. It is also conceivable to connect remotely to my network if I am not at home, which I intend on trying in the near future.
Just for the sake of interest for those who will find the information useful, the Extreme and Time Capsule both handle the 2.4 and 5 Ghz bands simultaneously. What this means is that devices connecting wirelessly to your network that can only use the 2.4 Ghz band, such as iDevices, can be separate from, for example, my Mac Book Pro or Mac Mini, which can connect at the 5 Ghz band where wider channels are used. This ability to work in both bands also keeps the network running consistently, as the Airport device will automatically use bands and channels with the least amount of interference on them. I have had, thus far, had far less problems with network signals throughout my house, including the basement, since I have been using the Extreme and now the Time Capsule.
What I also like about the Apple Airport devices is the interface to configure them. Once you have the Airport device either connected via its WAN or one of its 3 LAN ports to your cable or DSL modem or even if you are just using it to extend an existing network, it’s a snap to access the device. One uses Airport Utility, which can be found in your Utilities folder (command-shift-u will open this folder in Finder) to set up or make changes to an airport device. Airport Utility will first present you with your Express, Extreme or Time Capsule when you start it in a table and there is information about its current status easily read by VoiceOver. If you are using more than one airport device at once, for example, a Time Capsule as my router and an Airport Express to stream Christmas music through my stereo, both devices show up in the table and can be selected for any configuration changes.
The interface for configuring your airport device is then pretty simple and straight forward. If you have used a router in Windows, all of the settings you are used to can be found, though, of course, not in the same ways as in a Windows router or non-airport device. However, port forwarding, DNS server information, Wireless Security Settings, and everything else can all be configured using Airport Utility. You just select, manual setup (command-l), after you launch Airport Utility, and you have access to all of the settings you will need. If you have the Time Capsule, you can also erase or archive your internal HD, if you need/choose to do so.
Lastly, if you are curious about learning a bit more about using an airport device and becoming comfortable with the various aspects of networking, I would highly recommend one of the Take Control series of books, Take Control of Your 802.11n AirPort Network (2.0), by Glenn Fleishman. I have found this book to be extremely valuable and, more importantly, an easy read. It explains some of the finer points of the subject, but does so without getting too caught up in technical terminology and nuances that would be over the head of the average reader, like myself. I’ve learned a lot from the book, and would highly suggest reading it if this subject is something you would like to learn more about or if you are just curious.
In fact, I would recommend any of the books from the,
Take Control Books folks.
Overall, if you are looking for a router and whether you are or are not a network expert, I would suggest taking a long look at the Airport Extreme Base Station or even the Time Capsule, if you have the money and/or the need. They are another example of reliable and accessible Apple products that are worth every dime. You can even use these devices to extend a current network or “bridge” parts of an existing network, and, of course, the Airport Express is a perfect means to stream your music from your computer to your stereo or your Apple TV.