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.

Saving files on your hard drive is the easy part; choosing how to back up those files can be more difficult.

And why do you need backup software? If you ever have a hard drive fail, or get hit with an impossible-to-remove virus, you'll find that a complete backup — including your files, drives, and operating system — is the simplest way to get things back to normal. Not having backups is like flying in a combat zone without a parachute.

Traditional backup programs help you organize, schedule, and maintain your backups, and their newest versions make doing so easier than ever. However, tradition is quickly accommodating new realities. Two of the products we tested — NovaStor NovaBackup and EMC Retrospect Professional — recognize the increasing role of online backup in users' backup strategies.

Online backup is easy, secure, and safer than local backup (by virtue of being off-site, and being stored on drives that are themselves backed up regularly by your online service provider). Nevertheless, it isn't appropriate for everyone; most users have relatively slow upload speeds over their online connection, so online backup can be considerably slower than backing up to a local or ethernet hard disk. With a large collection of digital photos or multimedia, you're talking several days, literally.

Ideally, all backup programs would offer seamless access to all online backup services, but most don't. In the case of NovaStor and EMC, both companies also offer separate online backup services (NovaNet-Web and Mozy, respectively), which made tighter integration between the software and the online service a natural progression (NovaStor does a much better job at this than EMC, which offers basically a band-aid solution).

And while online backup is clearly the wave of the future, don't wait for the future to add a backup utility to your list of must-have applications now. A delay could be one of the costliest mistakes you'll ever make in your computing life.

The backup programs discussed on these pages are all available as downloads — see the link at the end of each review.

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Jon L. Jacobi

PC World (US online)
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