Industry IT Water-Cooler for Power-Users:
Windows 7 Backup Surprise
Posted 4/30/2010 on 4/30/2010
Take Away:

We all want a good, solid backup and restore solution for our machines. This is about a "sleeper" program I found on my new Windows 7 machine.


Belatedly continuing the saga of my adventures with a new Windows 7 machine, I want to talk about data backup.

Before I do, I should say that Win7 is running great. It hasn't given me a single unwelcome surprise since installing it. I'm growing more and more convinced that Microsoft finally equals Apple when it comes to ease of installation,  configuration, and reliability.

Backup is a priority!

There is simply no substitute for a good backup.
--Wes Peterson

Backup and restore are very, very important to me - as they should be to all computer users.  There is simply no substitute for a good backup.

For many years, now, Windows (and DOS before it) offered a rudimentary backup and restore applications. To date, about the only good thing I've been able to say about them is that they do work.  But they've has never met all my requirements.

I may have just stumbled upon a viable solution. Before I talk about it, though, let me list all my requirements for a good backup application:

  • It must allow me to select exactly what I want backed up (and restored), right down to the file level.
  • The business of selecting items must be friendly and straightforward.
  • It must be able to backup and restore other machines on my home network.  I don't want to have to go to each machine and configure backups there.
  • It must run on a Windows Server operating system - and not cost an arm and a leg.  This is a particular pet peeve of mine; far too many vendors of backup and anti-virus software get greedy when it comes to servers.  Probably not one line of code needs to be different for a "server" version, but they see a server, and they see a pile of money. Very aggravating.
  • Restore has to work - every time.  Many people make a huge mistake in this area: They perform backups, but never test restoring from them.  They simply assume that restore will work.  My rule is simple: Nothing works until it's tested.
  • It must offer backup compression.  I'll have four or five machines on this network, with lots of data to be backed up on each. My backup device might be large, but it does not have  infinite storage.
  • It must support incremental backups.  Saving a "delta" (difference) of a file takes a lot less space than saving another full copy of the file.
  • It must allow me to restore a specified version of a backed up file.  I may realize that I've inadvertently backed up a damaged version of a given file. (By "damaged," I include the possibility that it's a buggy version of a project source file.  I want to restore the last known good version.)
  • It must offer backup encryption.  I know, the bottom line of security is always the physical security of your storage media.  If somebody breaks in and steals your computer or backup device, you data is suddenly very vulnerable, encryption notwithstading.  But encryption is one of the available security layers, and it can discourage prying eyes.

For all the above reasons, I've been a big fan of FileBack PC for years. It meets the above requirements,  and it's reasonably priced; only $25 for the "Home" version, $55 for the Enterprise version. It's main drawback is that its user interface looks pretty long in the tooth, and using some of its advanced features seems more difficult than necessary.  Being  a geek, I can live with those minor flaws.  But if I don't have to, I won't.

So what did I find?

If you want professional help, contact Prestwood I.T.
--Wes Peterson

Thanks to LG, makers of this machine's optical drives, a very nice looking backup/restore application was installed when I installed the drivers and programs on the LG CD. It's called CyberLink PowerBackup (probably everybody has seen one of CyberLink's other products,  PowerDVD). 

 A quick "poke around" session with PowerBackup looks very promising.

I've done one quick test:  I chose a particular folder to back up to a new folder on an external hard drive.  I specified compression and encryption.  One of the options offered was to include a restore program, and I chose it, then ran the backup.

Looking in the external HD's folder, I found the backup files, along with an executable that can restore a backup even if you lose your main installation of PowerBackup.  Very thoughtful.

So I ran that executable, which asks you to specify the destination for the restore, and it worked quickly and flawlessly.   More testing is obviously in order, but it looks very promising.

According to the FAQs on CyberLink's site, PowerBackup can back up other machines, perform an unlimited number of backup "jobs," and back up to virtually any media that appears as a drive letter.  Sweet.

Curious about server support, I paid a visit to the CyberLink web site to see what they had to say about system requirements. "Server" was conspicuously absent from the list, but I couldn't tell if that meant Windows Server OSs are supported or excluded.  I sent an inquiry to CyberLink support to find out if PowerBackup runs on Windows servers, and this is the pertinent part of their reply:

"In response to your issue please note that CyberLink PowerBackup software is not compatible with the Windows SERVER.

"The software is meant for home users supporting windows XP/VISTA/7.

The reason I'd like it to run on a server is this: This is a home network. Running machines 24/7 is not an option in the house. But I plan to run a Windows Server machine in my garage where it's fan noise won't bother anybody.

I want the server to be "boss" of all my backup and restore activities.  I'll establish an incremental backup schedule for each machine such that, on a given evening, only the server and one other machine needs to be running.

I don't know, yet, if I'll settle on PowerBackup as my final backup solution. I'm still a little put off by its lack of server support and the fact that Cyberlink doesn't offer an alternative.

Still, it's such a nice program otherwise, that I'm very tempted to just go ahead and use it; let Win7 be "boss."

Now make no mistake. Wonderful as this backup program looks to be, it is a local solution. Like anything else, any kind of local storage device can fail. If you're totally serious about protecting your data, contact Prestwood about our off-line backup solution.

Blog Contributed By Wes Peterson:

Wes Peterson is a Senior Programmer Analyst with Prestwood IT Solutions where he develops custom Windows software and custom websites using .Net and Delphi. When Wes is not coding for clients, he participates in this online community. Prior to his 10-year love-affair with Delphi, he worked with several other tools and databases. Currently he specializes in VS.Net using C# and VB.Net. To Wes, the .NET revolution is as exciting as the birth of Delphi.

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