Since I built a new machine last month, I've been going through various backup tools like Google goes through startups :) And to DBC's question I must say, none of the above. So far, it's been none of the above to all I've tried, and I'm trying to figure out what it is about backup that no-one can get it quite right (at least not for my needs).
Since all the strong points of various backup/synchronize apps have been discussed pretty thoroughly before, let me just list the major weaknesses I've found:SuperFlexible
- I find the interface awful. I know I should be dragged over hot coals for saying so, since most people here have lauded what they consider a well laid-out interface... well, I think it's horrid. For one thing, it's too crowded. (Have the authors given any though to localization? The Run button has space for exactly three characters. In Polish we need seven.) The pane that lists jobs is much too small if you want to have meaningful names for the backups. The profusion of tabs, horizontal and vertical, with options that are mutually exclusive, but you never find out until you try to run a job, because the program does not consistently grey out settings unavailable in a given context. The one-click menus - who puts Exit as a top-level menu item? (Joel Spolsky once wrote a whole usability article on just this one UI design mistake.)
Also, by not using a separate editing mode, the program makes it easy to make an accidental change to a backup profile, and when it then asks to save the changes, I don't know what changed and why, since I didn't intend to change anything, and cannot easily see what has changed and cancel the changes. With this number of configurable settings, a program must be really considerate to the user and very clear about what is being done and to what. To me, the UI in SFFS is chaos, which is unforgivable in a tool whose only purpose is to give me peace of mind, an assurance of my files being secure.
- The help file says it cannot encrypt zip files when target is what they call z "zip package" (which is just a zip file to most people :) This appears to be wrong, because the program does produce an encrypted zip file (using zip password), although TotalCommander is unable to extract files from the resulting zip, which gives me a pause.
- The scheduler has me totally confused. I have to start the scheduler manually, otherwise backup jobs won't run - how good is that? Once the scheduler is running, I cannot view the backup jobs or edit them until I disable the scheduler (again, manually, and the program helpfully asks me to "Also, please close this message window"). If the authors ever come across "About Face", a book on UI design by Alan Cooper, they will find themselves very, very ashamed, and I mean it. Yet this is not just a UI design issue - it's a critical failure of reliability, because none of the backup jobs will run if I forget to turn on the scheduler, e.g. after tweaking a profile.
(Aside: I've had it with programs that install their own scheduler services. I now have four of those running: Acronis, PerfectDisk, Avira updater, and one other I forget. I am torn between disabling them and losing important functionality, or allowing them to run and consume about 30 MB total just for what should be tiny timers. Windows has a perfectly good scheduler, which everyone should use - if you want to have your own, at least make it an option, like Backup4All does. Ugh!)
- Zip file handling, high weirdness. By default SFFS insists on zipping each file individually - expect fun manually unzipping thousands of files, one by one, if you ever need to access the backup without SFFS! And when you tell it to create a "package" it still puts large files unzipped, in separate folders, unless you specify high enough values for two options (Start new package after and Max file size). Would have to repeat this for every backup job, as there seems to be no way to just tell it to put all the files in a single zip file and shut up about it already...
No redemption for SFFS, even though it is
capable and it is
fast. Moving on...SyncBack SE
Dead simple here: it will not compress or encrypt backups to FTP. It seems to be the only (major, popular) backup program with this limitation. Compression is of course important for bandwidth and FTP disk space, which isn't always cheap. Encryption though is simply critical, because an FTP server at a third-party ISP is much more vulnerable to break-ins and abuse (including by their own employees) than my home machine. I cannot put important personal data on FTP unencrypted.
When I contacted 2BrightSparks about it, first they told me I was wrong and SyncBack could zip to FTP. Then I sent them a screenshot of the program saying "Compression is disabled because you are using FTP", and was given a workaround: create one profile to zip up files locally, then another profile to backup the zip file to FTP. This is a workable solution, but it adds complexity to an already complex scenario.Backup4All
What I've been using for about a year, chosen mostly because of the clear interface. As many have observed, it is slow - slow enough to give Delphi a bad name. I'd love to have a peek at the source code, Delphi apps are not normally that sluggish! It's not just the backup jobs that run slow, the whole application does. I run all backup jobs at the lowest priority setting, which means they take even longer to run, but at least then they don't clog both CPUs :) I find it does FTP and encryption very well, although I've had major problems with firewalls. (I had to drop Outpost after three years of use, simply because it would not work with Backup4All, no matter what. One day it let ftp through, another day it did not, while other FTP clients ran fine.)
Among other issues, weak error handling. Any FTP problems result in "connection error", regardless of what actually happened. I once mistyped the server name, so the error was a DNS failure, and it took me a few minutes to spot the typo, where the program should have told me exactly what was wrong. Also, you have to dig for any errors in the logfile, without any markup or highlighting - so I am never 100% certain if my backups are running smoothly, and that's a big deal for me. (A backup profile signals errors with a special icon, which is great, but you are mostly on your own trying to find what went wrong.)
No way to initiate a backup whenever a file or a folder changes. (This is really a weakness of Windows' scheduler, but Backup4All doesn't offer this option even when you choose to use its own scheduler).
Cannot pause a running backup job or temporarily suspend it (except directly in Windows scheduler).
The worst issue for me, Backup4All will not make up for missed jobs. The author advised me to run the computer 24/7 if I didn't want any jobs missed. Well, I will, the day the author starts chipping in for my electricity bills :) Again, no security in my backups, just because I had to leave home, switched off the machine and an important profile didn't run.
Poor versioning support, though no backup program I've seen does it any better. You can either back up frequently, and have lots of very recent backups, or backup rarely, and be able to go further back in time, but with gaps. (That is, unless you want to back up like every hour AND keep unlimited number of versions, which would eat up disk space like mad).
What I'd love to see is what Time Machine does on OS X: keep hourly backups for the last 24 hours, keep daily backups for the last month, and keep weekly backups for all previous months. No, let me make this big and loud, because this is what versioning looks done right:Keep hourly backups for the last 24 hours, keep daily backups for the last month, and keep weekly backups for all previous months
Backup software vendors, is it too hard to do? HandyBackup Pro
Haven't tried this one yet. I'd love to hear comments on it. The feature list looks good, but so did many others. It's expensive ($99), and there are two different versions of the product homepage (handybackup.net, handybackup.com), with conflicting information about features. One of the pages lists "open file backup" and "modified file backup" as "coming soon", which isn't very comforting, at that price.
So after all that bile let me mention two backup-related apps I've found to be fantastic:WebDrive http://www.webdrive.com/
Makes a permanent, secure FTP connection (also supports WebDav and a few other protocols) and assigns it a drive letter. This could help a lot with backup programs that make fuss about FTP, since they won't know any better). It optionally caches files on the local drive, so access is really smooth, and has its own simple backup/synchronize tool. Bought it yesterday ($59, not cheap), love it.MirrorFolder http://www.techsoftpl.com/backup/index.php
There are many real-time mirroring apps, but this one has won me over. It has a somewhat dated interface and doesn't look powerful at all until you click Options for the mirror, which is where I became impressed. And it works, too - any change to the source is instantly reflected in the mirror. Open or locked files are no problem. It's a relatively small program, has no perceptible effect on system performance. The service takes about 7 MB, so it's not tiny, but it seems to be highly reliable. I'm not sure if mirroring is the right thing for me, since if you make a bad change and save it, the mirror will go bad too (although MirrorFolder can also zip up previous versions of the mirrors it creates on schedule). I absolutely love how it works though and am severely tempted to buy it first and find a use for it later :)
I apologize if I've stepped on anyone's favorite program's toes, as I probably have...