The question isn't if you're going to lose dataóit's when. You need to be backing up and you need to be using a reliable product to do it. After testing plenty that let you store data on the Web or locally, we gathered together the reviews of the best. Read reviews


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Data Storage Solutions: Backup Software

Definition: Backup software is designed to backup one copy of electronic data by making a duplicate copy of the data on the same or on different media.


backup solutions

Why do I Need Backup Software?

Why not just copy the files you care about onto a blank CD and store it somewhere safe? Thereís a good chance the irritation factor of doing it repeatedly will result in the user neglecting to do it as often as they should. Good backup software essentially makes the whole process a bit less bothersome than it would be otherwise. How?

List of features you can expect to find in any decent backup software

- Data compression. Any backup software worth its salt will be able to compress your data so it doesnít take up too much space on the final storage medium. Savings can be significant. Some packages even allow you to alter the compression values. In general, higher compression rates mean the backups take more time to perform so, if compression settings can be altered, you can decide for yourself what your preferred time\compression trade-off is.

- Encryption. Backup software should allow you to encrypt your data. Some of it could be personal or commercially sensitive. Whether youíre backing up to an external storage medium, or elsewhere on the network, when you create copies of your data you multiply the chances of it falling into the wrong hands. Encryption is essential to making it secure.

- It should be capable of performing incremental backups, meaning that only files which have changed are actually backed up. Without this feature, youíd have to manually sort out old and new files or just copy everything every time you did a backup, of course taking up a great deal of time as you did so.

- Scheduling. Nearly all backup software will allow you to set schedules in advance. That way, backups can be done automatically at a time thatís convenient for you.

- Handling open files. If youíre working with important data on your PC continuously and want that data to be backed up dynamically as itís being changed.

- Controlling CPU usage. Backing up data can sometimes be processor-intensive, interfering with other tasks you want to perform on your PC. Some backup software allows you to throttle the demands it will make on the CPUís resources, allowing you to get on with your work while the backup is performed unobtrusively in the background.

- Help handling special files. For example, letís say you want to back up your the bookmarks in your browser or your repository of emails. They exist as files on your hard drive but do you know where they are? If you do, good for you, but not everyone does. Backup software often comes with built-in procedures for locating and backing up these special kinds of file.

- File Filtering. Almost all backup software will come with some kind of file filtering mechanism that makes it easy to include or exclude specific types of files when you do a backup. For example, letís say you want to include every Microsoft Word or RTF file in your C: directory, or you want to backup everything on your H: drive except mp3 files. With backup software, itís very easy to do this; without it, youíd have to do a cumbersome search and copy operation every time.

- Disc spanning. If you have a lot of data to backup, it probably isnít going to fit on a single blank disc. You can try and save it all in little chunks which you arrange in advance to be no larger than the media you have available, but wouldnít it be nice to have jobs of any size chunked up for you, allowing you to spread them across a number of discs. Thatís what disc-spanning is. Some software will even allow you to make use of multiple drives if you have them. That way, you insert a blank disc into each one, and the software moves to each of them successively as the previous one fills up. It cuts out the need to actively monitor the progress of each backup job, allowing the backup to be completed automatically while you turn your attention elsewhere.

- Disaster Handling. Many backup packages allow you to prepare for extreme situations, such as those where your computer is unbootable or where you cannot access it directly. Some offer the option of creating an emergency boot disc that will restore your computerís essential functions as well as any data you have saved. Another common option is to allow you to save your data as an executable file. That way, you can restore it with just a single click, whether or not you have the backup software installed, even from a remote location.

- Handling open files. If you need to backup files dynamically while they are being used, it can be a problem. Some backup software comes with special facilities to get round it, however.