Byte Me Article 337 – Data Backup 3

23rd September 2017

Save Yourself from IT Horror

This week we have the last in our 3 week-long series on computer backup devices and software and we focus on backup software.  As mentioned last week there are literally dozens of different brands and titles of backup software which most would assume is much the same.  This is far from the truth so we should look a little closer at the differences.

Firstly let’s look at cost.  This can vary from as much as $1200 for comprehensive software to backup just one server through to the $150 mark which is typical for backup software for a personal PC and all the way back to free – if it is bundled with a backup drive.  So what is the difference?

With the backup of a server you are not only wanting to back up the user data but the configurations of the server as well.  Some servers can literally take 50 to 100 hours of configuration time, especially if it is a Domain Controller with 30 users.  Proper server backup software will back up all of these settings and individual user details so that this configuration work does not need to be repeated.

Typical $150 backup software for a personal PC will also normally back up both user data and Windows configuration settings.  However in this case and in the case of the server backup software above the complexity of the software is also increased.  There can be dozens of options that need addressing when you first set it up and some fine tuning will also be needed every so often.

Another reason for fine tuning is a setting called retention policy whereby you can specify how many full or incremental backup you wish to keep on the backup device before they are overwritten.  We have rarely seen customers successfully setup and maintain this type of software themselves and we have never seen them use it to successfully recover from a disaster.

One of the big obstacles with recovery is again not only the number of recovery settings / options that need to be addresses but also the fact that if you are recovering your entire PC to a new one then you will normally run into trouble with dissimilar hardware and drivers.  Again this specialised recovery is best left to a qualified tech.

It is also the case that a lot of the free backup software that is bundled with backup drives is again fraught with complexity of lack of flexibility.  Many of these free backup titles will try to back up the entire computer to a single compressed and encrypted file.  This process can take 2 to 6 hours and it can be very dubious whether the resulting back file is actually worth having.

Over the years we have seen many customers struggle with back up hard drives and backup software that they have tried to configure themselves.  Some of them leaving their computers to run all night once a week to try and keep an up-to-date backup.  In so many cases we find that either the backup is not able to be restored or in fact they were backing up the wrong folders or the wrong partition.

From our point of view a backup system has to qualify with several important points.  It must be a quick process or you will not bother with it often enough.  It must be initiated with a simple double click on one icon.  It must be user verifiable so that you can easily see that it is working.  It must be user restorable so a single deleted file can be retrieved simply and it needs to be initially setup by a tech.

At $120 we have been supplying our own backup software for the last 16 years that complies with all of the above points.  Although it is often hard to convince a customer of the worth of such a system – until they are looking at an IT disaster and the possible loss of all their data. 

Future Byte Me topics can be emailed to [email protected] and Bruce is contactable at Kerr Solutions, 205 Musgrave Street or on 49 222 400.

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