Implementing a Backup Strategy

As a data recovery professional I should know more than anyone the importance of backing up files. But I am now going to make an admission: as I write this, neither my personal laptop at home, nor any of my family’s computers, are adequately backed up.

Why on earth did I allow this to happen? Part of the reason is that we recently lost both the main laptops, one to a flood and the other to motherboard failure. In one case the hard drive itself was irreparably damaged, in the other case the drives were fine. Thankfully, I had a regular backup strategy so lost nothing of importance. Since then, we have two replacement laptops, but despite several months having passed, my own machine is not backed up at all, and the other machine has only been backed up very occasionally when I remember to do so.

The loss of the computers should if anything have reminded me of the importance of a backup strategy, but implementing a backup strategy is very like writing your will. In both cases, significant effort is involved, but there is no return on your investment, until or unless the worst actually happens. At that point, your decision to make the effort is of utmost importance, but while we believe the worst will never happen, we can put off the onerous tasks indefinitely, because we do not have the time owing to all the vastly more urgent other tasks that are competing for our attention.

This is not to say that I have not attempted to sort out my backup situation. In fact I did attempt to install Acronis TrueImage on my machine, a backup solution I have relied on for years, and which has saved my data on more than one occasion. And I should add, that Acronis also allows the whole system configuration to be backed up, as well as files and folders themselves, so that it is a simple job to restore your system after a hard drive failure, to exactly how it was last time the backup ran. I also particularly like the way that the backup files can be mounted as a logical drive, so that you can see your backed up files inside the archive.

However, it seems that the particular version of Acronis which I used was incompatible with Windows 7, despite information which appeared to indicate the contrary, so I spent some time on and off attempting to install this version, and hence delayed putting a proper backup plan into place. This is how I find myself in a situation where my backups are totally inadequate, and today is the day I will act to change this. I write this in hope that these words will encourage you, my reader, to do the same, if you too are in a similar situation.

After some research I have concluded that the free software Comodo Backup is one of the best free solutions. It produces backup files which can be mounted as logical drives. It allows backups to external drives, or across the network, or even to an ftp site. It allows backup onto CD or DVD. It allows you to back up the registry and machine settings as well as files and folders. It supports encryption of backups, and a mixed backup strategy using several different media, e.g. backups scheduled both to an external drive and an online storage space. It even allows important files to be sent by e-mail as part of the backup process. And as with most backup software, it allows backups to be scheduled.

Another piece of software to consider is Comodo Time Machine. This is not backup software, but instead allows you to revert to a previous version of the system configuration, just like the Windows restore option, but in a much more flexible way. The windows restore function has allowed me to restore computers from a virtually non-functional state to a fully working system in the past, but is limited in various ways, and Comodo Time Machine provides a simpler and more powerful solution.

I would also urge you the reader to consider other backup solutions such as Acronis TrueImage Home. This is currently on the PC Pro A List, and has been given a top rating by PC Pro. The latest version at time of writing is Acronis TrueImage Home 2011 currently available for under £30. It is worth reading the features on offer and comparing with the free software such as Comodo, to come to a decision as to which is the most appropriate software for your needs. Features offered by Acronis include Acronis Nonstop Backup, i.e. continuous monitoring of changed files, and backing up of these files, without having to run a scheduled backup, and also backup to a VHD (Virtual Hard Drive) file, so that you can have a full copy of your hard drive in a file which can be used with a Virtual PC. These are impressive and potentially very useful features. However, it’s worth noting that some reviews on amazon indicate users have had problems, and PC Pro recommend trialling the software for the 30 day free trial to make sure it works well for you.

Please also see our article Backing up to an external hard drive and note that the prices of external drives are now so low that – particularly in conjunction with free backup software – there is no reason not to be adequately backed up.

If you have successfully implemented a backup strategy as a result of reading this article, or if you have any other feedback, please do drop us an email at or contact us via our contact form. And we would be delighted to hear from anyone who has successfully restored their data after a failure, as a result of reading this article – even if that means you do not require our data recovery services.