Save your data with one of these top backup programs

We test five new apps that make saving -- and restoring -- your vital data a lot easier than tools you've tried in the past.

Online and On Your Hard Drive

NovaStor NovaBackup 10 Professional

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If you're wondering what happened to NovaBackup 9, so am I: The company, oddly, went straight from version 8 to version 10. However, if my hands-on testing is any indication, the program simply may have been that much improved.

While the US$50 NovaBackup 10 (price as of 7/15/2008) has many major changes under the hood, the obvious improvement to this package is its infinitely friendlier user interface. This interface mimics one of the best, Microsoft Office 2007, and its big-button file menu. Perhaps even more important, NovaBackup's layout and workflow are immaculate — a rarity among the comprehensive backup applications that NovaBackup competes against.

Another huge improvement is the addition of disk imaging — backing up drives and partitions in their entirety. Since version 10 marks NovaStor's initial attempt at a disk imaging capability, I expected a primitive first-time solution; but NovaBackup's implementation, courtesy of Farstone, is more than adequate for most users, and will likely satisfy many professional users.

You can back up and restore entire drives or single partitions, restore individual files and folders, and even search within individual images — a feature lacking in the top dedicated disk-imaging solution, Acronis True Image Home 11.

I enjoyed my hands-on trials with NovaBackup 10 tremendously — especially the seamless integration of online backup storage. If you have an Amazon S3 or NovaStor's Digistor, you can simply add the service as a device, enter your user info, and then select it as the destination for any of your backups. Not that the backup clients for other online services are bad, but using NovaBackup's advanced options and GUI simply make it that much easier. It also allows you to apply the same settings to your local backups so that you're always sure you have everything backed up to each location.

NovaBackup includes a free, one-year, 2GB DigiStor account, though you need to provide credit card information to use it; the account will be cancelled, not automatically renewed, if you don't want to keep it.

NovaStor claims that it's reworked many of NovaBackup's internal routines so that backups transpire faster. In my hands-on testing, backups of every kind were as quick as, or quicker than, the competition's, but the program itself was a bit slow to boot, and the disaster recovery (imaging) module was especially slothful enumerating drives — it took up to 30 seconds to recognize them all. Because no progress bar appears during the enumeration, the first time it occurred I was nearly convinced that the program was locked up. Blinking drive lights told me it wasn't, but the experience is just that slow.

As improved as NovaBackup's interface may be, the software still has few rough spots. I was darned if I could figure out a way to save a script that I created using the backup wizard, which actually says "Create a script to backup your data" (using "backup" — one word — as a verb is their mistake, not mine). Secondly, interface glitches came up when I used the disaster recovery module on my system with XP SP2 set to Large Size (120 DPI) display mode. Until I switched to Normal Size (96 DPI), the module was unusable.

These glitches are easily fixed, and NovaStor has promised to make them quickly. Overall, the program is easy to use and highly capable, with file-based backup, support for tape drives, open-file backup, plain backup and restore of files, seamless online backup, integrated antivirus scanning, and disk imaging — all for just US$50, undercutting much of the competition by more than half.

Download NovaStor NovaBackup 10 Professional (Price: US$50, 15-day free trial)

EMC Retrospect 7.6 Professional with Continuous Data Protection Professional Add-in

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Though I'd love to say that for version 7.6, EMC has revamped Retrospect's rather obtuse interface, such an overhaul hasn't actually occurred. I can report only that the most feature-packed file-based backup program on the planet is now even more powerful, albeit just slightly.

EMC Retrospect 7.6 Professional with Continuous Data Protection Professional Add-in (US$129 plus $29 for continuous data module; price as of 7/15/2008) can't be matched for breadth of file-based features: super-flexible scheduling; disaster recovery; plain file copy; support for remote clients, tape drives, the Mac, and PCs...you name it. If it fits the traditional, file-based backup role, it's in here.

Version 7.6 has two additions: support for Mozy online backup and the company's US$29 Continuous Data Protection (CDP) add-in. Alas, while they sound notable, neither is truly integrated; they can only roughly be categorized as new Retrospect features. You can launch CDP from within Retrospect, but it's otherwise a separate entity complete with its own system tray app sitting alongside Retrospect's monitor/scheduler.

Lack of integration aside, Retrospect CDP works well. It differs, however, from many of its competitors (including Memeo Autobackup and NTI Backup 5 Advanced, which is reviewed on the next page) by not allowing you to select a directory such as My Documents for backup. Instead, CDP selects files via what are referred to as protection policies, more commonly known as filters. For instance, select a filter (policy) to back up all Word documents (*.doc, *.docx) and another to back up all JPEG images. It's an easy-to-understand approach for less technical users, but I found it restrictive in practice.

What's decidedly not restrictive is CDP's ability to back up to several different locations. For instance, you can keep constantly updated copies of your data on a thumb drive, in a network folder, and on an external hard drive. You also have the option to back up only when a file is saved or periodically even when open files have not yet been saved.

Online backup integration isn't nearly as seamless. I was hoping that I could simply specify my Mozy online backup account as the destination for a backup job, but for now, Retrospect can only launch the Mozy client or, for first-time users, whisk you to a Web page where you can sign up. (The first 2GB at Mozy are free; you get unlimited personal storage for US$5.) I use and recommend the service, but it's not truly a feature of Retrospect itself.

Other Retrospect 7.6 improvements include a Mac client that now runs in native mode (not emulated) on both Power PC and Intel-based Macs; better support for 64-bit operating systems; and the ability to back up a Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 operating in a two-node Windows Server 2008 Cluster environment.

Retrospect 7.6 Professional is US$129, which includes two client licenses for backing up other PCs or Macs over a network. Additional client licenses are US$39. The upgrade to version 7.6 is free for registered 7.5 users.

Download Retrospect for Windows 7.6 and CDP (Price: US$129 for Retrospect, $29 for CDP; 30-day trial)

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Jon L. Jacobi

PC World (US online)
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