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Why you should buy GRBackPro

by N. J. Stone B.Sc.

Director, Langfine Ltd.

Introduction

I recently purchased a CD-rewriter for use as a backup device. The supplied backup software was too inflexible so I set about the task of choosing a new backup program. I compared several five-star shareware programs and "Microsoft Windows Backup" as supplied with Windows XP / 2000 / NT. My criteria were suitability, reliability, ease of use, cost and level of support. My final decision is to use the shareware program GRBackPro, by GRSoftware. This article explains my choice and describes some of the features of GRBackPro.

Microsoft Windows Backup

As Microsoft Windows Backup is supplied free of charge with Windows XP / 2000 / NT, this was the first program I looked at. Its interface and configuration options are excellent. However, it appears to have been written primarily with tape backup devices in mind. Indeed, at first it completely refused to accept my CD-rewriter as a backup destination. The way around this was to configure my CD-rewriter as a mounted volume. The main problem with the tape backup approach is that the backup is stored as a single file. The contents of this file cannot be viewed nor restored without use of Microsoft Windows Backup. Also, a full backup involves writing a single huge file; a very time consuming operation. When this file was too large to fit onto a single CD-RW, my system produced a bundle of error messages which resulted in my cancelling the backup.

GRBackPro software

GRBackPro overcame these problems; it was designed with removable disc storage in mind and is very happy with CD-RW as the backup destination. Its main advantage is that it backs up by creating standard compressed zip files. The directory structure of the data to backup is replicated on the backup CD-RW. The files in each original folder are then stored in a zip archive file within the corresponding backup folder. Thus the backup files can be viewed (or restored) by any zip file manager, such as WinZip (by WinZip Computing Inc.) I consider this to be a huge advantage. If my files are backed up to zip files, then I can retrieve them at another computer without the need for GRBackPro. Also, once the initial full backup has been performed, I can keep this backup up to date by simply refreshing individual zip files. This is faster, neater and more convenient than creating separate files consisting of one "full" and several "incremental" backups. When the data for backup proved too large for one CD-RW, I was prompted to insert a fresh one; the backup then continued and was spread over two CD-RW's.

Other Software are missing ...

There are several excellent backup programs available as shareware. However, none of them seemed to provide the power and ease of use of GRBackPro. This is very important. The user must carefully ensure that the data for backup is correctly selected and that files not required are omitted. Blind inclusion of every file on your computer will lead to much larger and slower backups than are necessary. Typically, temporary files, temporary Internet files, and the recycler should all be omitted. Also, backups stored on your hard disk (e.g. .bak files.) GRBackPro provides powerful and very easy to use options to facilitate this. Folders for backup are selected from an Explorer-like window. Files which should or should not be backed up are selected by a variety of point and click options. Many different backup "sessions" can be defined and stored for later re-use. Each session consists of "jobs"; each job specifying which folder and subfolders should be backed up, together with other options. The jobs can be run individually or one after the other, as part of a session. The selections made for each job are clearly displayed in a top level window which can be easily checked when starting a backup. Of course, it takes some time to learn precisely which options are best for your own scenario. The options that I have chosen provide a very convenient and quick way of performing a daily backup.

Most backup programs store data in compressed format. GRBackPro provides an option to specify the level of compression; 0-9. Level 9 provides the highest level of compression but takes the longest to achieve. My tests showed that Level 9 produced better compression than Microsoft Windows Backup. Personally, I always use this level; I am happy to make my computer do extra work if it means that I have to insert fewer new CD-RW's! A "Disable Compression - Force File Copy" option is also available to copy files directly to the backup without compressing them into zip files.

Zip files can be password protected; this encrypts the backed up data so that it can only be retrieved if the original password is known. I store my backup CD-RW media in an unsecured location, so this option is very important. Of course, I must remember the password I chose; don't use this option if you habitually lose passwords!

One important option missing in some shareware programs is the "Registry Backup". The Registry is the depository in which Windows stores information about the configuration of your system. Windows locks the relevant files whenever your computer is running so they are not included in a normal backup job. GRBackPro provides an option to overcome this.

Reliability

The most important feature of any backup program is its reliability. There is little point in performing backups if you cannot be sure of your data integrity! Once I was convinced that GRBackPro provided the configuration options that I needed, I set about testing it for correctness. I performed a variety of backups, both of my entire system and just of selected folders. I ensured that some backups were spread over more then one CD-RW. I produced zip files with and without password encryption. I also used the "force file copy" option. I checked the backups by restoring them to an alternate location on my hard disc (a useful additional option provided by GRBackPro.) I then used FolderMatch to compare the restored data with the original. This process first showed some configuration errors that I had made with GRBackPro. This stressed the importance of understanding your backup software and your chosen backup methods. In my case, I had selected my entire top level folders (and subfolders) for backup but had omitted to select my root folder; so, the files in "C:\" were forgotten! Once this was corrected, I re-ran my tests. All my data was restored correctly without problem. Now that I have configured GRBackPro appropriately, I have a very high level of confidence that my backed up data will save the day - should I ever need it!

Support

Perhaps my favorite feature of GRBackPro is its ability to shutdown my system once a backup has completed. Once I have finished work, I close all programs and then kick off the backup. I then leave my office in the knowledge that when the backup completes, my computer will shut down and power off. The computer's energy consuming fan is not left running all night! I adore this option! However, when I first tried it, I had a problem. The computer did not power down. I e-mailed details to the makers of GRBackPro - GRSoftware. A reply came the next day with the promise of an impending fix. A few days later, I was using a corrected beta version of the program. This highlighted another related issue, which again was remedied within a few days. It may seem strange to mention faults in a program that I am recommending. However, the point I am making is that GRSoftware provide a fantastic level of support. Even the largest software manufacturers release products with bugs. I have e-mailed fault reports to these manufacturers but have never received a reply, let alone a corrected program! My personal experience demonstrates that GRSoftware provides truly excellent support. Also, GRSoftware have been around for a few years and their web site gives the impression of a well-established company. I feel confident that any future problems will be quickly resolved.

Final notes

I now use GRBackPro as my main backup tool. I perform a full backup every month, and do daily incremental backups. My system is large and the full backup is spread over eight CD-RW's. I have two separate copies of the backup. GRBackPro provides me with the options to easily, conveniently and quickly manage this. I have every confidence that my data is secure. I am delighted with GRBackPro.

Disclaimer

I have attempted to write this article in an unbiased and fair manner. However, for legal reasons, I must make the usual disclaimer; I cannot be held responsible in any way, for anything, to any body, for anything in this article.

 

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