UPDATE - 4/10/09
Horizon DataSys Inc. has licensed the ISR technology from the original developer and is now selling the program. The review below refers only to the version I purchased from Raxco quite some time ago. A couple of well respected DonationCoder.com members have expressed disappointment over the current Horizon Data version and the lack of support they have received (see here: http://www.donationc...ex.php?topic=17848.0). I have no experience dealing with support at Horizon Data, but please keep this in mind before purchasing this software.FirstDefense-ISR, Raxco SoftwareBasic Info
|App Name||FirstDefense-ISR, Raxco version|
|Technology||ISR designed by Leapfrog Software http://www.leapfrogs...re.com/product_info/ and licensed by multiple vendors for commercial offerings|
|App URL|http://raxco.com/products/fdisr/ - Now available from the new vendor at http://www.horizonda...sys.com/253715.ihtml See UPDATE section at top of post before purchasing.
|App Version Reviewed||1.10 Build 173|
|Test System Specs||Pentium III 866mhz, 512mb Ram, Windows XPSP2|
|Supported OSes||Windows 2000, 2003, XP. 64-bit is not supported. Windows must be English language version.|
|Support Methods||Excellent phone and email support from vendor. Official forum for the ISR technology is on Wilderssecurity.com at http://wilderssecuri...orumdisplay.php?f=84|
|Upgrade Policy||"Upgrade protection" is an additional cost and provides a year of major version upgrades at 50% off. Without "protection" there is a charge for major version upgrades after 60 days from purchase. Minor updates (point releases) are free for all.|
|Trial Version Available?||Trial version is available. It is fully functional for 30 days.|
|Pricing Scheme||Downloadable version is $69.95(USA) for "Workstation," and $475for "Server" version. |CD version can be purchased from authorized resellers for a substantial discount. Resellers are listed on Raxco's website here: http://www.raxco.com...ners/us_com_list.cfm. Raxco provided me with a discount code when I purchased that made their price far better than resellers. Package deals with Raxco's Perfect Disk are also available There are substantial discounts for multiple licenses.
|Screencast Video URL||Video demo provided by developer at http://www.digitalth...veryDemostration.wmv (13.42mb)|
|Disclaimer||I am NOT affiliated with Horizon DataSys, Raxco, Leapfrog Software, or any of their parent companies or subsidiaries. I am a Raxco customer and have received no benefits, monetary or otherwise, for this review.|
Screenshot of main interface:Mini-Review of FirstDefense-ISR UPDATED as of 4/10/09Intro:See UPDATE section at top of post before purchasing.
The ISR in FirstDefense-ISR stands for Instant System Recovery, and that is what this program promises. Let me tell you, it delivers in an astounding way. While at first glance, it may appear that this program is little more than a disk imaging program a la Acronis True Image or Norton Ghost, it is a completely different concept. While the program does provide peace of mind that you can recover from an application gone bad, virus infection, or just plain user error, it does it so quickly that you may find yourself inviting disaster just for the chance to fix it as fast as it takes to punch the reset button on your PC (I am not, of course, suggesting that you infect yourself with a virus or abandon safe hex, but if that kind of thing is your idea of a good time, ISR can and will protect you from most mishaps. Please see my "Needs Improvement" section below
ISR works on the concept of Snapshots. When you install the program, your current windows environment becomes your primary snapshot. You use the program to create alternate snapshots, the first of which will be an exact copy of your primary snapshot. You can have up to 10 different snapshots available in the program at any time. In addition to the snapshots, you can make archived copies of the snapshots for safe keeping as they can be stored on other partitions or external media. That screenshot above is my current set of snapshots and archives.
Now, the magic happens when you want to switch from one snapshot to another. When you reboot your PC, you will see the ISR logo on the screen after the CMOS screen and before Windows starts loading:Mini-Review of FirstDefense-ISR UPDATED as of 4/10/09
By pressing the hotkey (which is customizable) during the time that the logo is displayed (also customizable), you get a menu of your snapshots:Mini-Review of FirstDefense-ISR UPDATED as of 4/10/09Note that this menu does not reflect my real setup as I installed ISR in a virtual machine so I could take snapshots outside of Windows. Rest assured that the actual menu has all my snapshots. Also, you won't have anything marked as "Partial." That is showing because I cancelled the creation of the snapshot in my VM.
Once at the menu, you select a snapshot with your arrow keys, and hit ENTER. Windows then boots as normal, just as fast as it would without ISR
, and you are in the selected snapshot. Each snapshot can have completely different software, different service packs, even different versions of windows as long as they are one of the supported versions listed above. You can think of your computer essentially being dual, triple, quadruple, quintuple, etc boot among your snapshotted versions of Windows.
Once you are booted into a snapshot, you can use the program interface to copy snapshots back and forth to each other, updating them with the data from other snapshots. Creating a new snapshot takes a little while, but once a snapshot exists, updating from other is pretty quick as it only adds, deletes, and modifies the files that are different between the source and target. What this means, if you keep your snapshots updated (the program offers quite a few scheduling options to assist you here), is that if your working snapshot gets trashed you can boot into an alternate, and copy it over the trashed one to fix it. You can only boot to "snapshots," not to archives. Archives can be copied, however, over snapshots. You can password protect snapshots if you desire, and you can disable the preboot menu so a user cannot access the snapshot menu while booting.
The program allows you to anchor data, so that it persists between snapshots. You could anchor your "My Documents" folder, for example, so you can access your files from all of your snapshots. It also offers a "Freeze" function. This allows you to set up a snapshot that will revert to a certain state whenever it is rebooted. This means that it will wipe out all installed programs, changed settings, etc.See UPDATE section at top of post before purchasing.
Another cool feature is that you can create an empty snapshot and install Windows into that snapshot so you have a clean installation while still being able to boot into another snapshot when needed. I use that to do a reinstall of Windows while still having a working installation to do other tasks for work, etc. It allows me to take my time rebuilding the clean installation without the problem of being without a computer. I don't know about you, but the downtime caused by a reinstall of Windows used to prevent me from undertaking it unless it was absolutely necessary. With ISR, I essentially have zero downtime, as I only have to boot into the new installation snapshot when I have some time to install updates, configure programs, etc. Then I can boot right back to a working snapshot to prepare presenations and documents for work.
There are some weaknesses to the program. It can only protect your primary partition. While this is great for most users, if you have a lot of programs stored on other partitions, it won't protect them. Also, it doesn't provide protection for data files on other partitions or data that you have "anchored." Furthermore, the snapshots are very large. Until this current version when you created a snapshot it was the same size as the currently running snapshot minus any anchored data. Meaning that if you had 3 gigs used on your primary partition when you installed ISR and made a secondary snapshot, the secondary snapshot would take up 3gigs on your disk. The current version allows NTFS compression to be applied to the snapshots. Also, since the snapshots are also stored on the primary partition, a hardware failure or malware that wipes out the disk will defeat it. With archives, however, you could still get up and running quickly as you could install a base system, install ISR, and then copy archives on the system as snapshots, giving you the ability to boot back into a "current" system.
In addition to the outstanding performance of the software, Raxco has been a pleasure to do business with. From presales calls to inquire about the software to support calls after, everything was handled in a professional and polite manner. I never waited on hold longer than 5 minutes, and I could tell that the representative was interested in helping me. Also, when I had decided to make a purchase, I called to inquire about buying it directly from Raxco or buying from a distributer. The distributor price was about 35% lower than the direct price. When I asked why I should buy direct rather than from a distributor, the representative provided me with a 40% off coupon code that was good for all Raxco products. I was able to purchase two ISR/Perfect Disk packages for not much more than one ISR license would have been without the coupon.I cannot personally comment on customer service with the new vendor, Horizon DataSys. I can say that the individual who I worked with in getting the July discount was quick to respond to all emails I sent his wayWho is this app designed for:See UPDATE section at top of post before purchasing.
This program is designed for anyone who uses the supported operating systems. It is particularly suited for users who try out a lot of software, like to use alpha and beta software, and generally push their computer to the breaking point.The Good
It just works, and works very well
Immediate recovery from mishaps
Allows testing of software without bogging your system down or encountering conflicts between versions, etcThe needs improvement sectionSee UPDATE section at top of post before purchasing.
The software only works with Windows 2000, 2003, and XP and only if you are using NTFS
The software only works with English language versions of Windows
The software only protects your primary partition
Snapshots are very large and must be stored on primary partitionMalware could theoretically breech the snapshots
, as they are only protected by standard NTFS read-only, system, and hidden attributes. It would seem that the malware would have to directly target ISR, however, and the low number of installs makes it unlikely that malware authors would go to the trouble to do that. There are some filemanagers (notable XYplorer) that can browse into inactive snapshots, illustrating that a breech is possible. I have not encountered any breeches, even with some malware infections
. This is why I still use AV, firewall, etc.
A system reformat will still wipe out your system, as the snapshots are stored on the computer.
ISR requires access to the MBR, meaning that dual boot into an unsupported OS such as Linux or old windows versions is not possible
Vista doesn't seem to be supportedHow does it compare to similar apps
Before purchasing the program in July of 2006, I looked at its main competitor, Rollback RX. Rollback RX had the advantage of unlimited snapshots and the snapshots taking very little space since they were only differential snaphosts. The negatives of Rollback, however, were that it embedded itself so deeply that uninstallation of the program, for example, reportedly took hours.
Also, the company that sells Rollback was offering substantial discounts for reviews of the software on the web at the time. That was an immediate red flag
. I have retracted this statement because I have recently learned that the developers of RollbackRX did not make any stipulations as to the content or scores of the reviews. They are a highly regarded company on sites such as http://www.wilderssecurity.com
ISR does not completely replace imaging programs, as it cannot recover from a hardware failure or a severe malware problem that destroys all data on primary partition. It can be complemented very well by making an image of a basic Windows install with ISR installed and archives on a separate drive or external media.Conclusions
This is truly a killer app in my mind. I feel safe and secure knowing that recovery from a failure is less than 2 minutes away for software failure or at absolute most 15 minutes for a bare metal restore from an Acronis True Image image on DVD and copy over from an archive on the same DVD in the event of hardware failure. Also, any application that has this much power that has no noticeable impact on performance on my "old" computer is great. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.
See the comments at the top of the review. While FDISR is a great program, the recent decision by Raxco to stop selling it is troubling. At this point, I can't recommend purchasing the program even if you find it at a reseller.
- See the update at the top of the reviewOther Reviewshttp://rcpmag.com/re...spx?editorialsid=502http://www.computerp...40c05b.asp&guid=More screenshotsMini-Review of FirstDefense-ISR UPDATED as of 4/10/09 Mini-Review of FirstDefense-ISR UPDATED as of 4/10/09 Mini-Review of FirstDefense-ISR UPDATED as of 4/10/09See UPDATE section at top of post before purchasing.