Back Up Made Easy – Part 2

A Six Point Guide to Buying Backup Software

In Part One, I mentioned the six attributes that the backup industry uses to classify the various features of their products. In this second part, I will explain each attribute in greater detail so as to give you a thorough knowledge of what to look for in backup software.

Ease of Use: You need to ask a set of questions in relation to how easy it is to install and configure the software, to use the product to back your data and to use the product to restore your data. For example: Is the install interface clear and unequivocal? Are the steps written in plain English and do not leave any place for choosing the wrong options? Is the product easy to use and user friendly? Is the user interface built in a Windows-familiar environment? Are the user-interface and the commands intuitive? Does the product allow step-by-step backup and restore? Does the product allow non-technical users to make use of this product? How easily can the user browse around the various options to set up backups and restores? How easily can the user browse around the documents and application settings to set up backups? Are there any shortcuts to this data and settings? How easily can the user browse the backup archive to find and restore multiple or single files?

Value for Money: Money is always an issue, otherwise, we would all be living the life of the rich and famous! However, this may not always be the case with backup software. We usually advise people not to look at the price tag on its own but to make calculations as to the relationship between price and functionality and price and time spent on backup and restore. For example, does the vendor offer limited functionality with the bare-bones product and more functionality pricey add-ons that only together will the product provide the required protection? Does the product sacrifice performance and reliability for price? Are upgrades and patches available at a charge? In relation to the time factor, buyers must beware. Beware, some brands may be more costly than others to administer. If, for example, the compression technology of the particular product is not strong, it takes longer to perform backups the data backed up is spread over a larger number of media (taking up more storage space). Therefore, although a product may be less pricey, it may be more expensive to run in the long term.

Reliability: The issues of reliability are three-fold – (a) does the product deliver consistently a 100% accurate restore of the set of data that was backed up? This includes such aspects as reliable schedules, accurate reporting and fault logging features (whether you are alerted when and if things go wrong), and validation of data integrity. Data validation or verification is extremely important because there are certain technologies (e.g., bit level validation) that guarantee that your data restores are 100% accurate. (b) Does the product secure your data from prying eyes? Although, at face value, this may not be important to the user, think about whether you would like somebody else to steal your backup files and looking at (or distributing) your personal data. Therefore, ask whether the product has password protection and supports the best levels of encryption. (c) Is the vendor reliable? Does the vendor provide technical and customer support? Is the vendor slow to answer?

Performance: The product must be fast and it must not sacrifice sheer power for reliability, value for money, and ease of use. You must be able to backup your data securely and accurately in a few minutes and not spend a fortune on such basic functions.

Depth of Feature Set: What features does the product have? How does the product compare to other vendors? The features that you should have are – compression, encryption, scheduling and reporting, popular media support, high data volume support (as few products have actually overcome the problem of memory leakage), validation or verification of data integrity, full and incremental backup feature, restore multiple or single files to original and to any location, and strong fault-logging.

Breadth of Backup and Media Coverage: Finally, make sure that the product backs up your PC (or notebook) and supports a strong list of backup storage media including CD, Pen Drives, and Zip Drives.[by Kevin J. Vella of Uniblue Systems]