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Backup Software Basics

Backup Software
Article about backup software

What is backup software?
Backup software is any kind of program that automates or helps the process of creating secondary copies of data, so that the data wont be lost even if the original data source is lost or corrupted.

Why is backup software necessary?
All computers and hard disks will eventually fail. Most people are aware of this fact, and almost everybody knows they should backup their important files. But the truth is most people do not create backups, and those that do only create them irregularly! Why is it so? One of the main reasons is because creating backups manually is tedious, and time consuming. Good backup software solves that problem, because it automates the backup process. Also, backup software products offer features that would be impossible to achieve manually, for example creating complete copy of the hard disk.

Types of backup software:
There are different types of backup software for different types of requirements. The basic types include:

Home and small business PC backup software: Such software has the ability to backup important files that you have on your computer, some software can do a full backup of your entire hard disk, some software offers both these features.

Software specific backup utilities: Such tools can backup the files, settings, or other data for a specific application. Such as email backup software, this kind of utilities have been specifically made for creating backups of email messages, addresses, and other data. There are also

CD/DVD backup software: This kind of software is specifically for making duplicates of your DVD's and CD's, so you have a copy of them in case the originals are damaged or are lost.

Server backup software: Software specifically designed for creating backups of data on a server.

Enterprise backup software: Such software has the ability to create large scale backups, for example backup thousands of computers on a network.

Specific types of backup software home and small office:
There are many kinds of backup software suitable for home and office use, some software are a combination of different types.

File backup utilities: Allow you to backup individual files and folders, but do not have the ability to backup a whole hard disk.

Full backup utilities: Also known as "hard disk imaging software" or "hard disk cloning software". Such software can create an exact copy of your entire hard disk including all system and program files, this copy is called an "image". A hard disk "image" is usually one large file, or a set of such files. If your hard disk gets corrupted, the image can be used to fully restore the hard disk. The data within an image is compressed, so you can usually only browse its contents with the same software it was created with.

Remote backup software: Software which allows you to backup your data to a remote location via a network or Internet connection. Such as an FTP server, or another computer on the Internet, or another computer in the same local network. This software can also be called offsite backup software.

Online backup software: Software provided by an online backup service, that creates encrypted and compressed backups and transfers them to the online storage facility provided by the online service.

Features and other things to consider when choosing backup software:
Ease of use: Creating backups and restoring them should be a simple process, not requiring professional computer expertise.

Accessibility of backups: Some backup software allows you to browse through the backed up files and folders easily, even if it has been compressed into a large file.

Ability to backup open files: If you are creating a backup and some files to be backed up are open, then the software should have the ability to copy the data regardless. Most modern Windows backups software has this feature, some older or simpler backup utilities may lack this.

Logging/reporting: Does the software keep a log of what has been backed up? Some software will give a report after each backup.

Documentation: The software should come with adequate user guides.

Continuous data protection: This feature monitors data for changes, and keeps continuous backups of all data. And copies of old versions are archived. Continuous backup is handy if you are constantly editing files. For example, if you created a text document, and you accidentally made some bad changes to it, and had already saved and closed it with the bad changes. If you had continuous backup, to replace it, you would simply get an archived version of the file. The disadvantage of this features is it may use up a lot of storage space, and will also use some of the computers processing resources.

Semi-continuous Backup: This software feature monitors for changes in data, but only backs them up according to a schedule, or when it is given permission to do so.

Mirroring: Creates a mirror of your files and folders at another location such as an external hard disk. The files and folders are not compressed, or merged into an archive file. So you have the files and folders in two locations. Some mirroring software will sync files between the two folders automatically. A possible disadvantage is, if you delete, or make a bad modification to a file, then the mirror version will have the same problem.

Inclusion of disaster recovery functions: Some backup software comes with disaster recovery features. Disaster recovery features include the ability to undelete files, or restore the system back to a functioning state.

Where can it backup: Can the software create backups on different types of storage media, such as DVD, USB drive, external hard disks, local networks, FTP server, online service, blue-ray disks, etc.

Reliability: You need to be able to trust the software to perform without glitches and errors. If you are serious about backup this rules out most free software, since they are not always up to date with modern technologies, and have more chance for errors, since the makers have less resources for testing for bugs.

Backup whole files or only parts of the file that have changed:
Good backup software will have the ability to backup only changes made to a file. For example, if you have a very large file, and you make only a small modification to that file. If the original has already been backed up, then the software should have the ability to extract only the information that has changed to the original file, and backup only that part.

Automatic: Backup software should have the option to be fully automated, so no human interaction is needed in the backup process.

Archiving/Versioning: A good backup service will keep multiple versions of your backup data. If you accidentally deleted some important information 10 days ago, and you didn't notice it until today, you would need an older version of the backup than the one from the day before. This would require your backup provider to keep multiple versions of your data. Some companies archive backups for 30 days, some companies keep archive backups until you choose to delete them.

Cost of backup software
Backup software can be considered an investment, it will save you time, therefore it will save you money. Also, the cost of backup software is very small compared to the cost of losing valuable data. If a hard disk crashes, and you don't have backup, the cost of recovering data from a crashed hard disk by professional data recovery companies is very high and not guaranteed to be possible. Really, if you have valuable data, you cannot afford to not have backup.

What hardware is required?
See: the section "Where to store a backup" at:

Tips for using backup software:
-Always test backups, it is no good having a backup if it doesn't work.
-You may want to test your hard disk for errors before creating a backup.
-Keep the original files on your computer in good order, so your important files are easy to find, and navigate. This makes the process of backing up easy, and restoring lost data off a backup easier.
-Before buying backup software test the software if they have a free trial period.
-Many problems are caused when installing or uninstalling software, so it is a good time to do a backup before doing so.
-Check periodically for upgrades to your backup software.
-A good backup strategy will include both an on-site, and an off-site backup.
-Create and printout a backup recovery manual, that you or somebody else can go through in the case of a data emergency.

How Secure is a backup created with backup software?
Backup files may not be as secure as the files on your computer. For example many users restrict access to their computer with password protection. So files on the computer cannot be easily accessed without the password. However a backup of important files on external hard disks, or DVD's/CD's might not be password protected.

Fortunately, some backup software allows you encrypt or password protect your backups. The encrypted data is only accessible with a password. Modern encryption methods are very secure, and they are relied upon daily by banks, militaries, and other high security dependant organisations.

The most easy and secure option for storing backups is online backup:

Who uses backup software?
The benefits of backup software can be enjoyed by any individual or company that has valuable data they want to protect. Some businesses are required by laws to create backups, and keep them for a certain amount of time. For some businesses creating backups is a vital part of their existence, because if they lost their data they wouldn't be able to function, such as accountants, lawyers, publishers, schools, universities, etc. Basically any business that uses computers to store information requires a backup strategy.

Choosing the right backup software:
There are hundreds of different backup software products. We will be reviewing the top backup software packages on this site.