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Backup software review: The Top 10 worst backup software programs

This is my top 10 of worst backup software programs out there, the first being the worst:

1. Acronis: Expensive, and damn slow. I backed up all my stuff, it took 14 hours!!! Then I thought next time I’ll do a incremental backup; then it took just the same time.
Then I used a different drive. It ran for 13 hours then stopped telling me the drive is full. When I checked the drive was indeed full, the program gave me three options: OK, cancel and retry. Well OK doesn’t help and retry is not much use because after 13 hours it figured that my backup won’t fit on the drive. so i said cancel. Then guess what happened: it deleted the backup file. Why these morons delete the backup file is a mistery. The PC runs for 13 hours, only short of a couple of files to finish. My entire day wasted. at least it could have kept whatever it had backed up at that point.

Acronis part 2: two of my hard drives died while running acronis backup! Picture that: you run a backup and the backup causes your drives to die. OK, maybe their time had come. But why this happened twice is still a good question….

2. BounceBack: I didn’t find incremental/differential backup capability and no compression. what is the point: i can just copy the files myself if need be. plus way too expensive at $69 considering its inferior features. i heard from others as well that it’s painfully slow….

3. Easeus Todo Backup. Yeah I know it’s free. But how many things that are good are free these days? Especially when talking about software. Free = crap! In this case this applies absolutely. The feature set is so limited, I might as well use Windows Backup. There’s no incremental backup, no schedule, nothing. Save your time people!

4. Macrium Reflect: they try to be the rival of acronis. But in my opinion both suck. Imaging is a thing of the past. Images are pretty much useless. Why? Check this out. Say you make an image just in case your computer blows up. Well try to install that image on another computer. All the software, including Windows and Office, these days has online activation that’s tied to your hardware. Unless you are only your hard drive, the image won’t boot or you will need to re-activate all your software. Good luck. Sure, you might be lucky and it might work if your NEW PC is very similar to your old one. But that’s almost impossible.
Harddrive images are very limited in their use. It’s better to save your files separately and reinstall Windows.
Besides, it’s always good to reinstall Windows on a clean harddrive every now and then. The damn thing gets so slow otherwise. Remember how fast your PC was when you first bought it? No coincidence. And the last thing you want is to buy a new computer and then slow it down with that old image which is full of crap….

5. Paragon Backup & Recovery. OK check this out: $69 bucks! On Version 10 (!) they tout they finally have a scheduler. Oh my God, welcome to the year 2010! New: backup to FTP. Come on guys, where were you in the last decade!

6. Second Backup. “The best file backup software.” ;-) Now these guys still live in the 1990s, look at their website. You can backup files and see which files have been modified. Wow! Who’s gonna buy this may I ask. use xcopy! and the Windows task scheduler is much more sophisticated, so why bother. Free or not, don’t waste your efforts

7. TrueSafe: I couldn’t find incremental backup functionality. Well I don’t think I want to copy my entire 500GB of databases each time the backup runs….

8. SyncBack: Talk about complicated user interface. You need a dictionary and an hour to figure out what is going on. They tried to split it into novice/advanced mode but that only hides most of the features and then you wonder whether the program actually has the feature or not. It’s too limited (the free edition) and the paid edition is complex. Plus there is no incremental backup. If only one row changes in my database, the entire 100GB file is copied. not cool at all….

9. Nero BackItUp & Burn: well what can I say. They are fixated on CD/DVD backups. I guess they haven’t realized that CDs and DVDs are waaay to small for the pro user. And for a novice it’s pretty useless. you can burn CDs with CDBurnerXP for free. So why bother!?

10. APBackUp: To them, incremental backup means to copy changed files. Ah, hello: xcopy can do that too, so why pay $40? OK, it can send it FTP. So can Filezilla…for free!

RAID: Turbo Mode or Mirror Drives for your Home PC?

As an IT admin I come across RAID everywhere. For servers I believe it’s a cool thing, especially when drives can be swapped while the server is on, etc.

A couple of years ago, even laptops started coming out with RAID functionality built-in. Those small and simple controllers are usually capable of doing RAID-0 (stripes) and Raid-1 (mirroring).

Many systems are put on the market with RAID switched off, which I think is a good idea. The average home user wouldn’t want to bother with the additional problems posed by RAID.

If your computer came with a RAID-capable board or extension, I recommend the following:

 Don’t bother with RAID-1. It’s crap. Yes it is, and here’s why.

Mirroring drives, I tell you, for a home PC is not useful. To set up a mirror, you should have two drives of same type and capacity, ideally from the same brand. Think about it: the same brand, same capacity = same lifetime.

Today’s quality assurance procedures make products break at almost predetermined intervals. Every IT admin will agree here: The second drive is likely to die right after the first one. No, this isn’t just Murphy’s Law, this is the result of QA being done too well.

Another example; your rear break light on the left burned out. How long do you think the right one will last? (Assuming they were both the same age, such as in a new vehicle.) Smart people replace BOTH break lights. Think about it: both bulbs were exposed to the exact same hours, climate, and everything. Same brand, same type = same lifetime. And today’s QA manufacturing actually reduces the variance in manufacturing. Hence, death by design.

Another story: I have a friend working for Mercedes. They do the same with steerings. They make the steerings break at a certain mileage. They are hired and spend their entire workday every day to make sure the steering doesn’t last longer than specified. They will change the design to make it break earlier when needed. Next time you buy any car (or bring your car to the repair shop, think about this!) Can you believe it. They pay money to make sure their product becomes crappier! This is what they think will increase future sales…

OK, now that I had an opportunity to rant a little (thank you for still reading this post ;) you get the idea. Mirroring is generally useless because the drives will die one after the other (not at the same time so you will have time to replace and restore the other. OK, it’s not completely useless technology).

But go through the steps of redoing the mirror. You will need again the same drive of same size and brand and type. Well those may not be for sale anymore…..

Another reason why RAID-1 (mirroring) is not so good. Say you have a virus and the virus kills all your files. Guess what, the raid controller deletes them automatically on both disks…duh!

Option two: Set up a RAID-0 (striped disks) AND Turbo Charge your system:

Especially desktops and laptops aren’t usually equipped with the fastests drives. But when you double it, you FEEL it!

1. Make sure that if you use a backup software that boots from CD (you don’t really need it) that it can boot and recognize the RAID controller. Chances are it won’t haha ;-)

2. Make sure there is a way to load the RAID device driver when you install Windows. (yes, chances are you will need to wipe the machine.)

3. On XP you need a floppy (press F6 when installing Windows in text mode) then put in the floppy to get the RAID driver loaded

4. browse the internet to find out if you edition of Windows recognizes your RAID component. This would be the best scenario ever, no hassle.

5. Make the stripe size large, as large as possible

6. When you format the partition, make your cluster size the same size as the stripe size.

7. Beware: by using striped RAID you double the probability of data loss. That’s because either drive can fail and since most files are on both drives, if one drive fails all your files are gone for good…..

8. Since you’re smart and you make frequent backups, when (not if) one drive fails simply buy a new pair of larger and faster ones and use the survivor disk for backup!

9. Having a faster PC makes you more productive and less stressed => hence more happy.

So go ahead, switch on that RAID!!!!

Backup Software: Why Image Backups are of Limited Value

Many tools are available on the market that allow users to create an image file containing their entire hard disk, such as acronis, ghost, and clonezilla.

In the beginning of the 2000s these software packages became increasingly popular, probably because the technology was innovative. Think about it, you can restore the entire system, including your data and the operating system with one file. If you system breaks you can restore everything the way it used to be.

Well this is/was the theory. The reality is different. After working for two decades in the IT business as hands-on adminstrator I have another perspective:

Image Backups are Nearly Useless. There is, however, use for image backups in certain scenarios. Let’s start with the useful side.

Image Backups are useful:

1. If you want to protect yourself from hard drive failure alone. Say, in case your hard drive fails you want to replace it and put in a new one.

2. You need a test machine to test stuff, and then when you’re done, you want to restore your system. For example, you are a software developer who wants to test new software and then revert the system to its old state.

And here’s why image backups are of little value:

1. Today’s computers come with their own (increasingly) non-standard hardware. It almost seems as if the technological development goes backward because the use of standards appears to be decreasing. When you slide in the Acronis boot CD into your new PC (because your old one blew up and you were diligent enough to make a backup just in time), chances are it might not be able to recognize your new hard drive controller. That’s especially true if you buy a new PC with RAID.  Sure, the backup companies are in a chase trying to add new drivers all the time, but it’s a chase and there is no guarantee it will work.

2. Today’s testers who want to revert a system back to its old state, after having experimented with some new software, will not bother with backup images. Instead developers use virtualization, such as Virtual PC, Virtual Server, VMware, or similar products. It’ s now free to set up as many virtual PCs as your machine can handle. Their data is stored in VHD or VMDK file images which can be restored by a simple file copy operation. Even more convenient are ‘undo disks’: the virtualization product simulates changes to the disk but those changes are never actually written to the image. That’s perfect for testing.

3. All Windows veterans know from beginning of Windows’ time: It’s not a good idea to restore your old, messy partition on a new PC. Windows is already slow enough and we all know it gets slower every day you use it. Each time a new software is installed, some residue remains in the system. You don’t want that garbage on a new PC. I would even recommend a ‘periodic’ reinstall of Windows on a regular basis to keep your PC running smoothly.

4. Your new harddrive is always going to be bigger than the old one. You could restore the image but then you will have space left. Not all people want several partitions on one hard drive. I personally prefer ‘open space’ and shrink the partition later if necessary. Sure, the new products can enlarge the partition after restore but the cluster size should be also adapted to the partition’s new size. Whether that’s worth go through is up to your patience level.

Recommendations:

If you buy a new (and most likely) larger hard drive to replace your old one.

1. First, don’t go for the same brand. Find out why the old one died. Maybe improve ventilation and reduce the likelihood of mechanical shock.

2. Format your hard drive with large cluster size to reduce the number of read operations.

3. Install Windows and all your apps from scratch. You will notice the difference and (if you haven’t done this before, you’ll thank me ;-)

4. Then access your backup image and simply copy your data files over.

Advantage:  Faster PC, new and better file structure, new hard drive, more space. Windows is happy–you’re happy.

If you bought a new PC.

1. In God’s name, don’t put that old crappy image on your new PC! The new PC comes with Windows already and it’s all set up with the drivers you need and all that.

2. It’s unlikely your old image will work fine on your new PC. Most likely it won’t even boot! That’s the top 1 reason against image backups by the way.

3. Simply access your backup image and copy over the data files you need.

Advantages: New PC, new Windows, new installation. All your data files are stored in new structure.

So before you head off and buy one of the above mentioned products, think about it: you don’t need them anymore.



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