You do back up your system and files, don't you? Without backups, you risk days of frustration and possible long-term damage to your business through lost documents, emails and program settings. It shouldn't be necessary to suffer this kind of data loss before installing inexpensive and effective backup software. I've been pushing this message through reviews and features for the last 20 years, but there are still a lot of people and businesses with no backup policy, on even their most valuable information.
So here we go again. Here are five backup products, which can do one or both of two things. Firstly, they can back up folders of your important files to another drive, on the same PC, attached to it externally or over a network, or sitting on a remote server elsewhere in the world. Secondly, they can take an image of your entire Windows installation, compress it and store it in a similar array of places. Should you suffer an operating system failure, not that uncommon an event, you can restore your entire system from the backup.
If you're doing anything non-trivial with your PC, you really do need to consider installing one of these applications to safeguard your work.
Renowned as one of the best system backup tools around, Acronis added individual file backup to True Image in version 10 and now adds Try & Decide, Smart Scheduling and security tools to the mix.
Try & Decide creates a virtual replica of your system as a Secure Zone environment, into which you can install new software that you're evaluating or play around with settings, to see what difference they make. At the end of the evaluation, you can remove the environment and changes to settings and all traces of any software under test. This obviously endears itself to at least one reviewer at Trusted, but should be useful to anybody involved in checking out new products.
Smart Scheduling enables you to schedule a backup based on logging on or off Windows or when the system has been idle for a while. These triggers are in addition to scheduling tasks at specific times and frequencies.
As well as handling back-up, True Image has been able to help with operating system migrations, such as when adding a new hard drive to a PC, and can now clean up an old PC before it's sold on or redeployed, using its File Shredder and Drive Cleanser applets. These utilities erase drives to US military specifications, making it very hard, if not impossible to recover data from them.
Behind all these extras is a solid backup engine which works from its own boot CD. If you buy the boxed product, the program CD is bootable, otherwise you can burn a bootable disc from within Windows.
The True Image recovery interface is Windows-like and leads you steadily through the process of backing up your system, but most functions can be run under Windows, too. At the top level, you can select My Computer, My Data, My Application Settings and My E-mail, but within these categories you can select individual folders or files, settings from selected applications, or parts of your email archive.
The program took 2 minutes 15 seconds to backup a 1GB test basket of files from an internal IDE drive to an external, Plextor 80GB USB 2.0 drive, which is a little slow. Backups can be performed in the background, so you can keep working while they're happening. As well as working with USB and Firewire drives it will back up across a network.
True Image 11 Home is a very complete suite of applications, which continues to be both comprehensive and thorough, while remaining easy to set up and use.