With the wide variety available, I am aware that it is a daunting task to determine which backup software is the most reliable and easiest to use. Knowing this is just one aspect, however, since figuring this out requires that you have a protocol to follow. In an attempt to outline the process, I have put together a partial list of the criteria I use when comparing different backup software programs to one another. I believe that these parameters are a valid means of properly evaluating a software program regardless of the cost of the program or, in other words: if it is a free version, a standard version, or a professional one.
My criteria for backup software is as follows:
- It needs to have an easy-to-use interface that makes the software simple to use.
- It should provide a scheduling feature.
- It must have encryption capability.
- It should have ready access to a backup registry, as well as files and folders.
- It should be capable of backing up files even when they are in use.
- It should be multifunctional in that it has the ability to back up to a local folder, to an external hard drive, to a network folder, or CD/DVD.
- It needs the ability to complete incremental, differential, and stacked backups.
- Ideally, all of this is available for free.
This is the criteria I used in my review of the GFI Backup software, which follows:
The GFI Backup startup screen provides a simple-to-understand and easy-to-use GUI that is intuitive even for the novice user. However, despite its seeming simplicity, this interface is just the desktop that covers a full-featured software product that will be able to meet most everyone’s needs.
Will it work for you? While I believe the answer to this question is yes, I realize that just because a piece of software informs the user via friendly looking windows that all files have been backed up properly, the proof in the pudding is how the restore feature functions.
So how do you test your backup software to see how well it works or doesn’t work? I chose an option and methodology that I believe will provide a satisfactory test. Here is what I did:
- I used a computer with the Windows 7 operating system that had been updated with the latest upgrades.
- I used a secondary test computer so I was free from the worry of losing any important files.
- I then loaded copies of all of my personal files from my laptop onto the test computer; these files included regular files, folders, documents, and photos that are important to me.
- I then used the GFI Backup software to back up my complete inventory of personal files, data files, and registry.
After I finished with the backup, which I stored on a removable drive, I went back into the system and completed the following actions:
- I deleted all of my personal files — including data files.
- I went into the registry and changed 10 registry key values (none of the registry keys were for Microsoft software).
- I cleared the recycle bin.
- Last, I uninstalled one program from the system, as a test, to see if the restore process would reinstall the program while maintaining the program’s integrity.
After these steps were taken and the restore was completed, I rebooted the system. I am happy to report that after all of these steps were completed, all 10 of the registry keys were repaired, all my files and data were returned to their original location, and the program I had uninstalled was backed up and functioning without a problem.
While I am quite happy with this particular backup software, I am sure that there are other free backup software programs out there that will provide the same satisfactory results.
Still, having used the GFI Backup software, I would suggest that you give it a try; here are the reasons I would recommend it:
- Ease of use. This alone makes this free software very attractive.
- Easy backup and restore features with minimal user intervention.
- Last but not least, it works.
What backup program do you use? Please share your thoughts with us and tell us why you use the software you do.
Screenshots are from my personal computer.
CC licensed Flickr photo of hard drive above shared by blakespot.