Backup Made Easy: A Six Point Guide to Buying Backup Software

Dennis Faas's picture

Continued from Choosing a Backup Solution: An In Depth Look and 6 Key Elements for any Backup Strategy; this article is our third and final installment.


Each year, home and business users lose millions of dollars in lost data because the backup solution they've elected to use has failed to live up to its promises -- often, the result of a failed restore, partially corrupted files, or poor hardware support.

With -- literally -- millions of documents on the web related to "backup software", making an informed decision about an appropriate backup solution can prove to be an extremely challenging and time consuming endeavor.

As we discovered in the previous article: a backup strategy is a great way to determine specific needs, and when it comes to seeking out the most appropriate backup solution. Once your strategy has been formulated, however, the next step in choosing backup software is to identify attributes and features of possible candidates.

Below are Six Points you can use to help identify those attributes:

1. Backup Software: Ease of Use

Some backup solutions offer umpteen different features; however, if the graphical user interface (GUI) is not intuitive, all those extra elements can overpower and clutter the functionality of the software. Try and stick to a solution that is fast, reliable, and easy to use.

Ask yourself: How easy is it to install the backup software? How easy is it to implement the first backup? What about a scheduled (automated) backup? How easy is it to restore all or part of the backup? Is the software interface intuitive and does it utilize a familiar Windows-friendly environment? Does the software offer a "backup / restoration wizard"? Is there a help menu or help topics that can assist you if you get stuck?

2. Backup Software: Value for Money

When comparing backup solutions, try not to look at the price tag on its own; rather, try to make calculations based on the relationship between price, functionality, and time spent on backups and restores.

For example: does the vendor offer a limited "bare-bones backup product," along with pricey "add-ons" that -- if all put together -- provide the necessary functionality and protection of another, slightly higher priced product?

Time is also a major factor. Beware that some backup solutions can end up being more costly to administer over time. For example: some solutions do not offer strong data compression, and will therefore require more media to create and maintain your backups.

3. Backup Software: Reliability

There are many factors of reliability when it comes to backups. Here are just a few important aspects:

a) Data Reliability: What data validation scheme does the product use [if any at all] to guarantee 100% data reliability and restoration? For example: bit-level verification (used by UniBlue Winbackup 2.0) verifies each byte of data after it is copied to the backup medium. Does the product have strong fault-logging (I.E.: the ability to inform you that there was an error during the backup)?

b) Integrity Protection: Does the product offer password protection for your backups? If so, what type of encryption is used? Imagine how horrible it would be if one of your off-site data backups was "accidentally" picked up by the wrong hands.

c) Vendor Reliability: Does the vendor provide technical and customer support? Is the vendor slow to answer? Often the only way to find the answer to this question is to try yourself or to search the Internet and see what others are saying.

4. Backup Software: Performance

In face of ease of use, value for money, and reliability, the product also needs to be efficient. For example: a backup solution that provides bit-level verification should not take take 5 hours to verify a few hundred megabytes of data.

5. Backup Software: Depth of Feature Set

What features does the product have? How does the product compare to other vendors? The most important features to look for when comparing backup solutions are: compression, encryption [password protection], scheduling and reporting, media support [CD recordable, DVD recordable, USB memory drive, etc], validation or verification of data integrity, full and incremental backups [updates to existing backups], restoration of single / multiple / all files, and strong fault-logging.

6. Backup Software: Research and Review

And last but not least -- research the web for backup solutions; read plenty of reviews -- and most importantly, consider the source of the review.

Remember: just because you read it online, doesn't make the review factual or true. Try to stick with trusted sources and mainstream web sites for your research (,,,,,, and similar).

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