Just Add Water? Memeo Instant Backup
When I first heard about Memeo Instant Backup, I objected that no program that backed up your entire hard drive could possibly be “instant.” Hard drives are getting bigger and bigger, so copying them takes longer and longer.
Robert Phillips explained to me that the “instant” part refers to the fact that the backup process starts instantly: as soon as you install the product, it begins backing you up. You don’t have to tell Instant Backup anything except where you want it to put your files. It’s designed to be easy enough for your grandparents to use, and the author of the press release tried it on hers to make sure.
I was expecting something designed to compete with Rebit, but that’s not quite what I got. Memeo Instant Backup is simple, yes. It’s got a colorful, friendly user interface, and it gets right down to work. It even works pretty quickly, and after the initial backup, its continuous monitoring doesn’t put too much drain on the system. But it’s got a little truth in advertising problem that you need to know about.
The reason I was expecting a software version of Rebit was this statement: “Protect your entire computer instantly. All files on your C drive will be included in the backup plan.” As I found out after running Memeo Instant Backup, this is simply not true. Let’s walk through it and see if you can spot what’s missing.
One minor but early irritation was the inability to choose which directory to install the program to, but that’s because I’m a “power user” type. The people this product is aimed at don’t care about things like that, if they even know they’re an option. There are very few options available in Memeo Instant Backup, but that’s a deliberate move to avoid confusing the user. In essence, there are two things you can do: back up everything, or restore everything. Oh, and you can pause a backup while it’s running if you need to, say, move or rename a file you just downloaded.
The interface is attractive and easy to understand. An illustration of a computer monitor shows the relative proportions of the different kinds of data you have on your machine, while a progress bar shows how much of the available space on your backup device is occupied.
(In case you’re wondering, I chose the new Metro drive from Buffalo as the backup destination.)
Those colorful icons and the size of the completed backup should be your first hint that Memeo Instant Backup is not really backing up the entire C drive. Enna is a fairly old laptop, so my C drive is only 80 GB, though I have a second 80 GB drive built in, as well. Right now my C drive is about half full: I’ve used 40.2 GB. The size of that backup is 15.4 GB.
What’s missing? The obvious answer is “program files.” Memeo refers specifically to documents, pictures, music, videos, and “others.” If you look at the actual backup destination folder, that’s even more explicit. Instant Backup avoids operating system folders and default program installation folders, so the “Program Files” and “Windows” directories are conspicuous by their absence, are many of the subfolders from “Documents and Settings.”
Leaving out the system files is fair enough, though I don’t think you can make a truthful claim to back up an entire drive if you skip them. But there’s something else missing here, and it’s a pretty big oversight.
Not one of those folders contains my Outlook PST folder. For the uninitiated, Outlook stores all its data in a folder called Outlook.pst that’s stored in Documents and Settings\User Name\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook. You will notice there is no such folder here. That means that my e-mail, calendar, and contacts are not backed up. (Well, not by Memeo. I am, of course, backing them up.) Maybe the assumption is that everybody’s grandparents use Yahoo! or Gmail or Hotmail.
At least the fact that these files and folders neatly replicate the structure on your C drive means that it’s possible to restore a single file via drag and drop, because you can’t do it through the Memeo Instant Backup restore interface. The only option there is to restore all your files, though you do get the choice of whether to restore them to their original location or an alternative location. Whether you will ever then be able to delete them from that alternative location seems to be an open question.
Instant Backup seems to do a pretty good job at the things it does. I do think the lack of e-mail backup is a serious drawback for anyone who uses a POP mail client, and that the claim to back up “your entire drive” should be adjusted to something more factual. Nevertheless, I like the program as a tool for technophobes who need to back up their photos, documents, and music. It’s friendly, easy to use, and unobtrusive. It will also probably improve in subsequent versions, the way Memeo’s other products have.