How To: Buy backup software

At Tech-Pro we sell a lot of data recovery software. We sell more data recovery software than we do backup software. We would really like to change that. We would like to help people avoid that sick feeling in your stomach when you discover that important files or irreplaceable photos have disappeared.

Hard drives fail, CDs become unreadable, viruses infect computers and destroy files, computer users accidentally delete files and folders and format drives. But there is no excuse for losing precious files. The way to protect your files is very simple. Have a backup. Keep a copy of your work somewhere else, in a safe place - or preferably two copies, because a backup can fail.

All modern computers have CD writers, or even DVD writers, so they already provide a place to back up your files. External USB hard drives and high capacity Flash memory drives are inexpensive, and have the advantage of being faster and instantly writeable. Windows XP doesn't include backup software - the NT Backup found in some distributions is unsupported and doesn't support optical drives - but backup software is not expensive. It's certainly cheaper than most data recovery software, and that's without taking into account the cost of data loss in time, nerves and temper.

Don't trust your valuable files to something that is going to fail some day. Don't wait for disaster to teach you that you should have had backups of your data. Get some backup software now, and start protecting your files today!

This article will look at the types of backup software that are available.

Conventional backup software

Most backup software is the kind of backup software that you will typically run at the end of the day. It will make a backup copy of your files, as they are at that moment in time, and burn it to a CD or DVD, or save it as a backup archive to another drive.

Conventional backup software can perform most if not all of the following types of backup:

Except in the case of a mirror backup, backup software stores copies of files inside a backup archive, compressed to save space. Some backup software uses a proprietary format to store the data, but many programs - including the ones recommended by Tech-Pro - store the data using the industry standard Zip format. This means that you can access the backup copies to restore selected folders or files using any Zip file management software, including the compressed folder support built into Windows XP.

For conventional backup, recommends:

Continuous backup software

This is not the only way to back up data. Continuous backup software makes a copy of a file whenever it changes. Called continuous backup, instant backup or continuous data protection, it is not suitable for every situation because it can use a lot of storage space and processor time. Continuous backup also requires an always-available second disk drive to write the backups to in real time - it isn't suitable for use with CD or DVD writers.

But continuous backup is an excellent companion to conventional backup software as it protects against loss of work done since your last backup. It can also provide you with a version control system, as it lets you restore any previous saved version of a file, not just the latest. Some continuous backup products even include tools that allow you to compare the differences between versions of a file.

At we are big enthusiasts of continuous backup. It is an install and forget solution that gets on with its job in the background. But when you need to restore something, even if it's something you deleted or overwrote a few minutes ago - which a conventional backup would not have backed up - you know that you can get it back.

We highly recommend AJC Active Backup. We find it so useful that we would not use a computer for anything important without first installing this product.

Near-continuous backup software

If you don't need instant, continuous backup then you can have a half way house: a backup that runs regularly throughout the day and copies all the files that have changed since the last time.

Some conventional backup software including Backup4All can do this by scheduling an incremental backup to run at intervals. Another application that can do this is SyncBackSE. Though primarily a synchronization tool, SyncBackSE also has powerful backup capabilities and can run in the background, backing up your files while you work.

Which to choose?

Which backup method is best for you will depend on how you use your computer. If you work office hours then it's easy to remember to back up at the end of the day, especially if you use a program like Backup4All that can create a desktop shortcut which will run a backup and then shut down the computer. Just click the backup icon and walk away. If you're a home user and use the computer at irregular times then it's harder to get into the backup habit, but it is still a good habit to get into.

If you're constantly editing files - Word or Excel documents, web pages, graphic images or program code - then continuous backup is essential. It's essential not just for the protection it gives against loss of work since the last backup, but also for protection against undesired changes, when you make a mistake and want to get back a version of the file that you had before.

For what it's worth, here at Tech-Pro we use Backup4All for occasional full system backups and daily full backups of all our work folders, plus AJC Active Backup to provide continuous backup and version control of our work folders.