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Selecting a good Windows Backup Software

By Dr. Dallas E. Hinton

 

There is a vast collection of software for backing up your data. The challenge is to choose a backup software that suits your computer needs and that fits with the way that you work.

Almost any backup program you choose will do a full backup. A good program will allow you to select  a set of files and/or folders to back up so that you donít have to do a full backup every time. Most programs provide scheduling so that backups can be run automatically.  Many also provide for incremental and/or differential backups, meaning that instead of backing up everything, only the files that are changed get backed up. This feature makes for much faster backups although you should do a full backup of your computer from time to time. When checking the specifics on a backup program you may want to consider how much CPU load it will use. This can be important if youíre going to be using the computer while the backup is running. Itís also important to consider the storage method. Many backup programs use proprietary compression/storage methods which can be a problem to restore. Others use the now-standard ZIPô format which can be unpacked by many different programs as well as by the backup software.

Itís also important to consider your disaster recovery plans. If you can back up all of the contents on your computer and need to recover from a computer disaster such as a hard drive crash, it is nice to do a complete restore including not only your data files but all of your program applications and their settings and the Windows operating system. This kind of backup protection is usually best done with ďDrive ImageĒ software and does not allow you to restore individual files or folders. There are some programs which contain both regular backup and Drive Imaging features but in general youíll require two different programs. Moreover you should also consider that you need to update your disk image from time to time otherwise when you will restore it you will be back a lot of time with your sistem and all recent files will be lost. Creating a disk image takes time!

Another useful feature is called media spanning support. This support allows you to backup your data onto media that is too small for the backup, such as CDs, DVDs, or USB Flash drives. By dividing the backup into small pieces you can split the backup and the software will prompt for the next CD when the first is full.  Support for Volume Shadow Copy is beneficial also, as it allows you to backup open files.

Finally, itís a good idea to test your backup software. First to make sure it actually does what you want (this is where shareware helps, since you donít pay for it until you know it works!) and second to be sure that the restore function will work for you.

Conclusions

Regardless of which program you finally pick, please be sure to use it Ė the most expensive software is worthless if you donít!

Biography

Dr. Hinton is a retired Network Technician and noted Educator. Trained by Nortel, he instructed local teachers in the field of Network Management and also taught Computer Science and Career Preparation at secondary school. In addition he spent many years as owner of Associated Computer Technologies, managing and maintaining networks in business offices and for organizations such as the Down Syndrome Research Foundation in Burnaby, BC.

 

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