Online and on Your Hard Drive
NovaStor NovaBackup 10 Professional
If you're wondering what happened to NovaBackup 9, so am I: The company, oddly, went straight from version 8 to version 10. However, if my hands-on testing is any indication, the program simply may have been that much improved.
While the $50 NovaBackup 10 (price as of 7/15/08) has many major changes under the hood, the most obvious improvement to this package is its infinitely friendlier user interface. This interface mimics the design of one of the best, Microsoft Office 2007, with its big-button file menu. Perhaps even more important, NovaBackup's layout and workflow are immaculate--a rarity among the comprehensive backup applications that NovaBackup competes against.
Another huge improvement is the addition of disk imaging, the backing up of drives and partitions in their entirety. I was expecting the feature to be primitive; but NovaBackup's implementation, courtesy of Farstone, is more than adequate for most users and will likely satisfy many professional users. My one complaint: I found the imaging module slow at recognizing drives.
You can back up and restore entire drives or single partitions, restore individual files and folders, and even perform searches within individual images once you mount them as a Windows drive letter.
I enjoyed my hands-on trials with NovaBackup 10 tremendously--especially the seamless integration of online backup storage. If you have an Amazon S3 or NovaStor's Digistor, you can simply add the service as a device, enter your user info, and then select it as the destination for any of your backups. Not that the backup clients for other online services are bad, but using NovaBackup's advanced options and GUI simply make it that much easier. It also allows you to apply the same settings to your local backups so that you're always sure you have everything backed up to each location.
NovaBackup comes with a free, one-year, 2GB DigiStor account that is customized to mesh with NovaBackup, though you need to provide credit card information to use it; if you don't want to keep it, however, the account will be canceled, not automatically renewed.
NovaStor claims that it has reworked many of NovaBackup's internal routines so that backups transpire faster. In my hands-on testing, backups of every kind were as quick as, or quicker than, the competition's, but the program itself was a bit slow to boot, and the disaster recovery (imaging) module was especially slothful enumerating drives--it took up to 30 seconds to recognize them all. Because no progress bar appears during the enumeration, the first time it occurred I was nearly convinced that the program was locked up. Blinking drive lights told me it wasn't, but the experience is just that slow.
As improved as NovaBackup's interface may be, the software still has a few rough spots. Darned if I could figure out a way to save a script that I created using the backup wizard, which actually says 'Create a script to backup your data' (using 'backup'--one word--as a verb is their mistake, not mine). And when I used the disaster recovery module on my system with XP SP2 set to 'Large size (120 DPI)' display mode, the interface suffered glitches; until I switched to 'Normal size (96 DPI)', the module was unusable.
These issues are easily addressed, and NovaStor has promised quick fixes. Overall, the program is simple to use and highly capable, offering file-based backup, support for tape drives, open-file backup, plain backup and file restore, seamless online backup, integrated antivirus scanning, and disk imaging--all for just $50, undercutting much of the competition by more than half.
Download NovaStor NovaBackup 10 Professional (Price: $50, 15-day free trial)
EMC Retrospect 7.6 Professional with Continuous Data Protection Professional Add-in
I wish I could say that EMC has revamped Retrospect's rather obtuse interface for version 7.6, but such an overhaul hasn't occurred. I can report that the most feature-packed file-based backup program on the planet is now even more powerful, albeit just slightly.
I tested EMC Retrospect 7.6 Professional for this story with the Continuous Data Protection professional add-in ($129 plus $29 for the CDP module; prices as of 7/15/08), which adds heretofore missing capabilities to Retrospect.
This latest version of Retrospect is unmatched in the breadth of its file-based backup features: It has superflexible scheduling, disaster recovery, and plain file copy, along with support for remote clients, tape drives, Macs and PCs...you name it. If it fits the traditional, file-based backup role, it's in there.
For version 7.6, EMC offers two primary additions: support for Mozy online backup (first 2GB free) and the $29 Continuous Data Protection (CDP) add-in. Alas, though they sound notable, neither is truly integrated; they can be only roughly categorized as new Retrospect features. You can launch CDP from within Retrospect, but otherwise it's a separate entity complete with its own system-tray app sitting alongside Retrospect's monitor/scheduler.
Lack of integration aside, Retrospect CDP works well. It differs, however, from many of its competitors (including Memeo Autobackup and NTI Backup 5 Advanced, reviewed on the next page) in that it doesn't allow you to select a directory, such as My Documents, for backup. Instead, CDP selects files according to what it calls "protection policies," more commonly known as filters. For instance, you select a filter (policy) to back up all Word documents (*.doc, *.docx) and another to back up all JPEG images. It's an easy-to-understand approach for less-technical users, but I found it restrictive in practice.
What's decidedly not restrictive is CDP's ability to back up to several different locations. You can keep constantly updated copies of your data on a thumb drive, in a network folder, and on an external hard drive, for example. You also have the option either to back up only when a file is saved or to do so periodically (even when open files have not yet been saved).
Online-backup integration is close to nonexistent. I was hoping that I could simply specify my existing Mozy online backup account as the destination for a backup job--but for now, Retrospect can only launch the Mozy client or, for first-time users, whisk you to a Web page for signing up. The first 2GB at Mozy are free; you get unlimited personal storage for $5. I use and recommend the service, but it isn't an actual component of Retrospect.
Other Retrospect 7.6 improvements include a Mac client that now runs in native mode (not emulated) on both Power PC and Intel-based Macs; better support for 64-bit operating systems; and the ability to back up a Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 operating in a two-node Windows Server 2008 Cluster environment.
Retrospect 7.6 Professional is $129, which includes two client licenses for backing up other PCs or Macs over a network. Additional client licenses are $39. The upgrade to version 7.6 is free for registered 7.5 users.
Download Retrospect for Windows 7.6 and CDP (Price: $129 for Retrospect, $29 for CDP; 30-day trial)