NTI Shadow 5
NTI's Shadow is a survivor, and that's a good thing. Version 1 had some issues, and at one point NTI was literally giving it away. Fortunately the company stuck with it. NTI Shadow 5 works well and is actually two programs in one, offering both continuous plain file backup and sync.
Shadow at startup couldn't be any simpler--basically it's a blank page with a large plus button. Click the plus button, and you can define backup, sync, and sync-with-initial-merge jobs. One oddity: The job-creation screens tell you which of the three steps you're on, but they give no indication what that step is until you select something--a minor but confusing lack of labeling.
Once you've figured out that you're defining the source, selecting the destination (or sync partner), and then saving the job, Shadow couldn't be easier to use. I especially like the sync with initial merge, which is great when you have data you want to mirror in two places. Even so, I do have one more interface wish: an animated progress indicator. Lacking one, Shadow sometimes appears to stall.
You may select files for any type of job by category (music, video, documents, and the like) and have Shadow find them for you, or you can use advanced mode to select specific files, drives, and folders manually. All jobs can run continuously as files change, or at 1-minute to weekly intervals.
I was pleased to see that Shadow tags its backups, too; as a result, unlike programs such as CrashPlan, Shadow won't back up to a removable drive that might be issued the same drive letter. Shadow performed well with all three job types, and didn't seem to affect the performance of my test laptop in the least.
Despite an interface quirk or two, NTI Shadow 5 is a very effective backup program that has gone from no-show to prime contender in just a few short years.
Note: The Download button takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software.
--Jon L. Jacobi