Online backup has many benefits — safety from local catastrophe, storage on professionally maintained servers, etc — but economy, control and 100 per cent guaranteed privacy aren't among them. Check out these five popular tools for making safe and sound local backups.
Photo by Miss Karen.
Whether you're already in the backup habit or you've been meaning to get around to doing it, we can't recommend reading our guide to proper backups, You're Backing Up Your Data the Wrong Way, quite strongly enough. It recommends backing up complete system images to a local drive, but also keeping your most important files in an online space, like Dropbox. When it comes time to choose a local backup app, here are the five we heard about most from our readers during the week:
SyncBack (Windows, Basic: Free/Pro: $US50)
Syncback is a robust tool for synchronising your files to a different drive, other mediums (disc, removable drive, etc) and over your local network. The basic edition is free and does a more than adequate job for simple file transfer and syncing. The mid-level version, SyncBackSE ($US30), adds in the ability to backup both open and locked files, and the professional version SyncBackPro ($US50) adds even more features, like encrypted backup and tons of customisation options. You can compare the three versions of SyncBack with the aid of this extensive comparison table.
Windows Home Server (Windows, $130)
Windows Home Server (WHS) is essentially Windows Server 2003, but designed to be as consumer-friendly as possible, with heavy emphasis on ease of setup, ease of use and a fire-and-forget system of backing up files. You can buy a compact home server with WHS already installed, or build your own server and buy WHS for around $130. WHS backs up all the Windows computers on your network automatically every day, and you can restore everything from a single file to an entire machine. While you can't run the Home Server Console and backup tools on non-Windows machines, you can still use tools native to Mac OS X and Linux to backup to WHS, sans the convenience you get on a Windows machine. Windows Home Server is an OS, not an application, and requires a dedicated machine for installation.
Acronis True Image Home (Windows, $US50)
The personal and home office version of Acronis's True Image software has a full array of tools for backing up your data. You can image whole disks, back up entire disks, or perform incremental and differential backups, and set an automated schedule for doing some or all of the above. After you configure Acronis True Image Home to your liking, it runs in the background, backing up and versioning your files. You can restore files, folders or entire disks from the app in the event of accidental file deletion or disk failure, making it helpful for both hard drive deaths and oops-wrong-button moments.
Time Machine (Mac, Free)
In keeping with their history of releasing tools that satisfied users will tell you "just work", Apple's Time Machine is a very polished and streamlined tool for incremental and versioned backup. Time Machine backs up all the files on your Mac, then checks on an hourly basis for changes. Hourly backups are saved for a day, daily backups for a month, and weekly backups for as long as space allows before newer backups take precedence. You can supplement the power of Time Machine with the purchase of a Time Capsule, a wireless external hard drive that will backup your machines wirelessly. Time Machine is free and comes with Mac OS X.
Rsync (Windows/Mac/Linux, Free)
Rsync is a powerful synchronisation tool originally invented for use on Unix-based systems. Since its release in 1996, it has been ported in various ways to Windows, Mac and Linux environments. The biggest strength rsync has is its ultra-efficient transfer of data. If you change a single kilobyte out of a 30GB file, rsync will swap just that single kilobyte. In the command line form, it's as Spartan as you would imagine a ported Unix-based command tool would be. Fortunately, graphical "wrappers" abound for the rsync to slap a more user-friendly interface on it.
Have a backup tip, trick or want to suggest an application that wasn't highlighted here? Let's hear about it in the comments.