It is the best of both worlds as you can either Restore your entire computer, like to a brand new hard drive after a failure, or you can select individual files, like that important proposal that you accidentally deleted today, but you know you backed up a few days ago.
The true value of Image Backup software is the incredible time savings in the recovery process and the speed at which you can get back to work and be productive after a hard drive failure. Everything on your computer will be restored like a photocopy back to the time of the last Image Backup. If you backup nightly, the amount of potential data loss is minimized to less than a day.
[Mac users with current generation equipment have Apple Time Machine which offers a proprietary Apple backup solution that essentially accomplishes the same effect as an Image Backup and Restore.]
Many of you are probably thinking, I use DropBox or Mozy, or Carbonite or some other File-by-File, (more specifically “File only”) backup solution. Well some form of backup is better than none but here is the dark secret: Sure your critical data files are protected, but what about everything else? How do you get back all of those Windows Operating System files, software applications like Microsoft Office, your Outlook email and calendar, printer software, scanning software and drivers so that you can access your critical “backed up” data files? The short answer is you really don’t – at least not easily.
Question: How many of you have “all” of your original software installation disks for every software application presently installed on your computer AND the license keys? Did you make that set of Windows Operating System Recovery Disks that you were prompted to make in the first weeks of owning your computer? I am sure that everyone here has their Microsoft Office License Key right? No? I thought so.
Let’s use the following example: Assuming you had all of the above, after a hard drive failure, the manufacturer sends you a replacement hard drive that is completely empty. (Regardless of if you install it or the manufacturer sends out a tech, it is still empty.) It does not even have the original Windows Operating System on it. (Blame Microsoft who claims it is to prevent piracy.) Instead, you have to play computer technician and install a factory fresh copy of the appropriate version of Windows to your computer from a set of Recovery Disks. (Even if you paid for Software Support from the Manufacturer, all the tech will do is install the Windows Operating System – nothing else.) This takes about one to two hours.
Then, you have install any hardware manufacturer specific drivers for your Video Card, Network Card, Motherboard, Audio/Sound card and possibly WebCam and apply the hundreds of megabytes of Microsoft Security Updates and Operating System Patches.
Now it is on to the Applications: You have to re-install Microsoft Office, your Printer Driver Software, Adobe Acrobat Reader (or perhaps Professional), Adobe Flash, Adobe Shockwave, JAVA, and maybe iTunes, AOL Instant Messenger or Skype. If you have a label printer or scanner, you have to re-install that software too. Are you getting the picture here? Hopefully there is a Star Wars Trilogy on TV because you have about six hours to kill while your computer dutifully takes in disk after disk.
And, every piece of software just mentioned in our example probably has an update so Microwave another bag of Popcorn and see what’s on Comedy Central because at this point you really need some Comic Relief.
If you had an Image Backup of your hard drive before the failure, you would place a CD-Rom Boot Recovery Disk (or bootable USB drive) in to your computer after installing the replacement hard drive and simply turn the computer on. In a few moments, you would be asked to point to the location of your Image Backup Set – which would most likely be on the External Hard Drive you use for your daily backup. Then, after selecting the most recent Image Backup, you would sit back for about 45 minutes to an hour and upon completion of the restoration process the Computer would restart and all would be as it was before – EXACTLY.
Your desktop wallpaper, every icon on the desktop, every application fully functional, every file exactly where you left it, every song, picture, Word document, PDF – everything would be identical and 100% operational as if nothing had ever happened (up to the point of the time and date of the Image Backup.)
The last paragraph is a real world example. Today I was at a Business client where Symantec System Recovery for Desktops is installed. (The data files are synchronized and stored on the Office Network File Server and backed up separately.) The hard drive of one notebook computer failed and a replacement hard drive arrived today. This notebook is used by a CPA and it had at least twenty Accounting specific applications, many of which were complex to install and configure, along with dozens of desktop icon short-cuts on the desktop. (Because the applications and configuration do not change that often, we refresh this notebook Backup Image about once a week or when applications are updated. Daily Backups are recommend for any home or single PC user where both the applications and data are stored on the local hard drive instead of an Office Network File Server.)
I installed the new hard drive in the notebook in about ten minutes, started the notebook with the Recovery Program (on a USB drive instead of a CD-Rom), did a couple of mouse clicks to point to the latest Backup Image and in under an hour, the user had his computer back EXACTLY as it was with every application fully functional and icon in its’ place.
File-by-File backup makes Recovery of the Operating System and Applications a Disaster.
Image Backup Software provides true Disaster Recovery that is completely painless.
Note: This article discusses Image Backup Software for Desktops. Similar editions exist for File Servers. For complex Server environments, a combination of both Image Backup Software and dedicated File-by-File Backup Software is more appropriate especially when applications such as Microsoft Exchange, Sharepoint or Microsoft SQL are involved. All of the vendors listed below have a full line and range of Image and File-by-File products for desktops, Servers, and Virtual Machines.
Here is a list of Image Backup Software Products that I like and work:
Symantec System Recovery – Available for Desktops and File Servers
Storagecraft Shadow Protect Desktop
Acronis – True Image Home Desktop
Acronis – True Backup & Recovery Business Workstation (Desktop)