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Paragon Backup & Recovery 10.1 Free Doesn’t Quite Live up to Its Name

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Paragon Backup & Recovery 10.1 Logo Don’t worry, Paragon Backup & Recovery 10.1 Free Edition really is free. And it is a backup and recovery tool. But I’m not sure I would call it a paragon among programs of its kind, even though Paragon Software Group has been developing it for 15 years now.

Unlike many backup products, which are designed to back up your files, Paragon concentrates on creating images of your hard drive. If your drive crashes and you have to replace it, you can insert the recovery CD (or memory stick), follow the directions, and restore the image. Presto! You have everything back: operating system, software, and data.

I mostly find that while it’s nice to have an image of a recently-installed machine with all the software, and while I’m going to want a drive image before attempting anything really strange and tricky, and certainly before reinstalling the computer, you may not want to use drive imaging for your regular daily or weekly backup routine. Image files tend to be large and to take a long time to make, and if there’s anything wrong with your system (e.g. virus infections), the problem will return along with the image when you restore it.

So you want to have an imaging program available for those times when you need it, but even with differential imaging, you may find it’s too time-consuming for backups and too tedious for restoring individual files. Plus they use proprietary archive formats, so you can’t open your backups without a copy of the program that created them.

That’s true of all imaging programs, not just Paragon Backup and Recovery. (More about drive imaging software on the blog.) Different types of backups work better in different situations. You balance the drawbacks against the advantages and decide what fits your needs.

Installation

When you start Paragon Backup & Recovery Free 10.1 for the first time, it prompts you to get a free serial number. Click the button and it takes you to a website where you fill in some basic information, and shortly thereafter you’ll get an e-mail with your product key and your serial number. Fill those in and you can get started.

One of the first things you’ll see is a visual representation of your disk, color-coded for the format (that blue means NTFS), and showing the number of partitions (this drive only has one).

Paragon disk view

You won’t have much time to admire it, though, because you’ll be prompted to create your recovery media. This is what you’ll need to be able to do a “bare-metal restore” from your backup, in the event that Windows isn’t working or you’re dealing with a replacement disk. Despite the illustration showing what looks like a ZIP disk, your options are CD/DVD and Flash Memory.

Paragon Recovery Media Builder

Paragon recovery media type

I started by creating a USB stick with the recovery software on it, but it turns out that neither Enna nor Mena is set to boot from a flash drive. I remember the contortions the Ur-Guru went through trying to get the netbook to boot from a memory stick, without success. This is a bit peculiar for a computer without an optical drive, if you ask me.

Enna is old enough that I’m not sure whether booting from USB is even an option, and I didn’t take time to go into the BIOS settings to find out. I just made a CD instead.

Backing Up (Creating Images)

paragon sidebar

If you click “Back up Disk or Partition” from the menu of options in the sidebar, the Paragon Backup Wizard starts you on your path to creating a drive image. You can choose any of your connected hard drives to back up.

Paragon backup wizard

I don’t know why you would choose not to back up the first hard disk track or the Master Boot Record, but you have the option to refuse—or, I presume, to back up that and only that. I selected my C drive (listed here as “Basic Hard Disk 0”), which is what I would normally make an image of. I haven’t yet come across a situation in which I needed an image of a non-system disk, though it’s possible that using one would be faster than copying the files through Windows Explorer.

There’s a little box at the bottom of this screen labeled “Change Backup Settings” that takes you to the advanced settings. I wish I’d noticed this before, because I would have un-checked the “enable image splitting” box. If you aren’t backing up to DVDs, there’s no reason to divide your backup file into DVD-sized chunks.

Paragon Advanced Backup Settings

Next you choose the destination for your backup (local/network drive or CD/DVD) and whether to back up now or schedule the backup. Then you see an overview of your options, and then, on the final screen, a warning: “The wiza
rd did not commit the changes. Backup & Recovery™ works in virtual mode now. To commit your changes use Apply command.”

This is geek-talk for the more familiar “Are you sure you want to…?” dialog boxes that you often see in Windows. If you click “Finish” to exit the wizard and then “Apply” from the top menu, your backup program will start.

Paragon backup progress

It took a long time to make an image of my 80 GB hard drive. I’m not sure quite how long. I started at 6:44 PM, and it was still running when I went to bed at 9:00. I woke up briefly at 1:30 AM and noticed it was finished, but I don’t know how long before that it finished. The estimated time to completion had been 6 hours, which seemed excessive.

Once the archive is complete, you’ll see it in the Archives tab in Paragon Backup & Recovery.

Paragon archive

Your primary options are to restore the archive, check its integrity, or make a differential backup—one that backs up the changes since you created that archive. Even though I haven’t accumulated that much new data on my machine since last night, I hesitate to commit the time it might take after the experience with the first image, so I haven’t tested the differential backup.

File Backup

You can do file-level backups with Paragon, via their File Transfer Wizard. The name of this component is a bit confusing, because it doesn’t say anything about backup. But if you want to copy files from one drive to another with Paragon, this is what you use.

Paragon file transfer source

You can copy files from any drive to any other drive by putting them on the file transfer clipboard and telling it where to send them. You use the same tool for backup and restore. It seems like a remarkable number of steps to go through for what amounts to drag-and-drop file copying, but it does work. You can see the transferred files in the navigation pane of the Archives window by browsing to the destination, and restore them by right-clicking and choosing “Export.”

Note that the File Transfer Wizard does not act as a browser to let you view individual files within your drive image. For that, you need the Restore Wizard.

Restoring Your Data

paragon restore wizard

The Restore Wizard gives you the option of restoring your entire image or just selected files, and you can restore them to their original location or to a different location. I wasn’t about to test the full-image restore on a working system that I didn’t have another, known-to-be-trustworthy image of as a backup, so I tried a file-level restore and asked the Restore Wizard to export the !WordPress Asylum folder into the C:\Temp folder.

Paragon commit changes

Once again, I had to click the “Apply” button before Paragon would carry out my commands. In the case of restoring a disk image and overwriting an entire drive, I can certainly see why you’d want an extra “Are you sure?” step. And, actually, if your backup is going to take 6 hours, you might want that warning then, as well.

The progress gears ground for a little while, and then Paragon informed me that the restore procedure was finished. But when I went to look in my Temp folder, I saw a very odd thing:

Paragon restored files

For some reason, Paragon restored substantial chunks of two folders that I didn’t ask for—but not everything from the folder I did want. Unless, of course, it never backed up everything from that folder. I have to say this was not a reassuring result. Is something wrong with my image, or with the Restore Wizard? Neither is especially good.

Conclusion

Paragon Backup & Recovery 10.1 is attractively designed but not aimed at the beginning user. One could argue that creating and restoring drive images is not a task for the technophobe, but there’s nothing inherently more complicated about using the product than there is about many consumer-oriented file backup programs. In part it’s just the language: “virtual mode” and “commit changes” are expressions for software developers, not ordinary users.

The range of image-creation options open to more advanced users is good. The option to use a USB stick instead of a CD for your recovery medium is a good one. Unlike some programs I’ve tested, backing up to network drives is no problem. Differential image backups can save time and storage space.

But the results of my file restoration worry me. At no time did Paragon tell me there was an error, which you would expect if something had gone wrong during either the creation of the image or the export of the files back onto the C drive. But something went wrong. So how can I entrust my entire system to this program?

Your mileage may vary. It’s possible that you could download Paragon Backup & Recovery 10.1 Free Edition, create an image, restore from the image, and have it all work flawlessly. The company would never have stayed in business if problems like this were the norm rather than the exception. So I’d say you should go ahead and try it if you’re looking for something like this—but test it in a safe environment. If it works for you, great. Come back and tell me about i
t.

CloudBerry: Amazon S3 Backup the Easy Way

Friday, February 26th, 2010

image Back in January when I wrote about Automatic WordPress Backup, Andy K. from CloudBerry Lab popped up in the comments on the cross-post to the WordPress Asylum site asking why I had recommended S3Fox over his company’s product, CloudBerry S3 Explorer. (For the simple enough reason that S3Fox was the first product I’d come across, and worked as a Firefox plugin.)

It seemed to me that I’d heard the name “CloudBerry” before, so I went and checked my collection of backup bookmarks. There, indeed, was CloudBerry Online Backup, so I arranged to download a copy and then talk to Andy about it.

Incidentally, a CloudBerry is not a relation of the BlackBerry. Cloudberries are real fruits that grow in northern climates—like Russia, where CloudBerry Lab is located. Andy explained that he wanted a business name with the word “cloud” in it, but hates made-up names.

CloudBerry Online Backup is not an online backup service like Mozy, Carbonite, or my sometime clients Spare Backup. Instead, CloudBerry provides a simple software front-end to automate and manage backing up to and restoring from your Amazon S3 account.

Unlike S3 itself, CloudBerry Online Backup is simple and user-friendly. The welcome screen gives you two simple options: set up backup plan and restore backup plan:

CloudBerry Welcome

There are some suggested backup plans built in: My Internet Bookmarks (for people who haven’t started using a service like Delicious), My Pictures, and My Documents. But you can choose to back up any folders you want, on any drive—including your network drives. As I’ve mentioned before, not all online backup tools can even see your network drives, or anything at all besides your C:\ drive. This has as much to do with business models as technology, as Andy pointed out during our phone conversation. Since CloudBerry is selling software, not storage space, they have no motivation to restrict the source of your backup data. It’s Amazon you’ll be paying for storage, not CloudBerry, and Amazon bases prices for its S3 service on a combination of the space you use and the frequency with which you upload and download files, not how many different computers or users are putting their data into your account.

When you set up your backup job, CloudBerry prompts you to choose an Amazon S3 account:

CloudBerry S3 Accounts

Just in case you don’t have one yet, there’s a link so you can set one up. They also walk you through the signup process in detail on their blog. (The blog is on Blogger, but you can’t have everything. This blog was on Blogger for years.)

CloudBerry Storage Overview CloudBerry also has a handy monitor to show you how much Amazon storage you’re using. And as of the latest build, you can delete files you no longer want from your S3 backup by right-clicking on the file name in the “Backup Storage” tab and selecting “delete.”

As you can see from this snapshot, I chose a fairly small directory for my test backup. The real issue with any kind of online backup, no matter where you are storing it, is upload speeds. You can both encrypt and compress backups with CloudBerry, but nevertheless, it pays to exercise some judgment and be selective about which files you back up.

Subsequent backups (which you can schedule or run manually) will only back up files that have been changed. You can choose a number of versions to save or a length of time to keep old backups.

That said, the upload went quite speedily, and I was able to see my files in CloudBerry’s browser window. You can restore and delete files from there through the contextual (right-click) menu, or use the “restore” button from the welcome screen. Either method gets you to the same restore wizard:

CloudBerry Restore Wizard

For my test file, I chose “latest version,” though as it was a file I hadn’t changed between backups, it didn’t really matter. I restored it to a different directory just so I could make sure it really was being restored. Yep: it worked just fine.

These are the strengths of CloudBerry Online Backup: it’s easy, and it works. It’s also got a decent feature set, one Andy’s team is slowly expanding in response to user requests. The software retails for $29.99, both for the regular version and the Windows Home Server version. You’ll also be paying Amazon for your storage space. On the other hand, Amazon is charging 16.5 cents per GB here in Northern California; since signing up in January I’ve incurred $0.25 in charges.

If you’re a blogger who will write about the software, you can get a free license for CloudBerry Online Backup. I still have to go collect mine.

Andy also offered me 3 free licenses to give away. The first three people who post a comment to the blog explaining what they would back up on S3 using CloudBerry will get them.

GoodSync—and File Backup, Too

Friday, February 19th, 2010

GoodSync-banner

A good two months ago—or perhaps not so good, from his point of view—the long-suffering Richard Krueger of SS|PR contacted me about GoodSync Enterprise, the new corporate version of  GoodSync Pro, a consumer tool that’s been around since 2006 but about which I hadn’t written before. (So much software, so little time.) It was a good press release: nobody was excited, and the quote from a VP contained relevant information. I was particularly struck by this passage:

Extremely flexible, GoodSync Enterprise can intelligently recognize storage devices and tie specific jobs to specific USB disks; for example, all marketing materials can be synchronized with a thumb drive, while all PowerPoint presentations and Access databases are synchronized with a portable hard drive. Workers in different departments, different geographic locations, at a worksite, or who are telecommuting or on a mobile device, all have access to the right files in their proper context. Furthermore, jobs linked to devices recognized by GoodSync Enterprise can be set up to start automatically once each device becomes available.

There’s just one problem: I’m not in a position to test enterprise software. There’s no way I could test mass deployment or Active Directory integration, and if I could, most of my readers wouldn’t care. This is a blog about backup for small and home office computer users.

GoodSync-box So Richard suggested I take a look at the consumer product instead, which I eventually managed to do. I thought I’d try GoodSync 2Go, the portable version, instead of installing yet another backup program on Enna. Besides, it seemed to make sense to run a sync tool from a memory stick. It saves installing the thing on multiple machines. GoodSync 2Go normally costs $39.95, which is $10.00 more than GoodSync Pro or GoodSync for Mac, but as of this writing (February 19, 2010), it’s on sale for $19.95.

Since GoodSync 2Go takes up less than 10 MB when installed, you don’t need a large memory stick for it. But you may find it a bit confusing once you finish installing and run the program. Unlike a lot of today’s tools, GoodSync doesn’t have any wizards or pre-set configurations. Fortunately there is a manual in tolerably good English online.

GoodSync’s basic unit of operation is the job. A job is either a backup job, meaning GoodSync copies the data from left to right, or a sync job, where data gets copied in both directions (usually replacing older files with newer ones). You need to create a new job for each location you want copied. In that sense, GoodSync works just like Karen’s Replicator or SyncBack.

GoodSync copies files to and from a wider range of sources and destinations, however. Your choices for each are My Computer (any local drive), My Network (any network drive or computer you have permission to access), FTP, WebDAV, Amazon S3, SecureFTP, and WinMobile. (I presume that if you get the Mac version, that last option is different.)

My first test was to sync Outlook PST files between Enna (the 17” laptop I use for most of my work) and Mena (the netbook I take with me to events and when traveling). All that happened was that I overwrote the older PST file on Mena with the newer one on Enna. No great loss there—I can retrieve the few messages I might have had stored on Mena but not on Enna (replies I made while out of the house) from the Rebit. But GoodSync is not the answer to my wish to keep my two Outlook calendars in sync (the mail is much easier). Oh, well.

For the second test, I decided to back up some files to my Amazon S3 account. (You’ll be hearing more about S3 next week, too.) It took a minute to figure out how to get logged in properly and create a new “bucket”, but once I did that, the backup job ran smoothly and quickly. (It wasn’t very large.)

Once you’ve created a job with GoodSync, you can automate it by clicking the little “Auto” button (the one that looks like a clock). The portable version lacks some of the scheduling options of the regular version, presumably because you won’t always have your USB key plugged in, but you can still schedule the job to run On GoodSync Start, On Folders Connect, On Logoff, or Periodically in increments of hours and minutes.

You can set filters to exclude or include certain files or file types, decide whether the program should “propagate” your deletions (why the default is “yes” on a  backup job, I couldn’t begin to say), keep previous copies of your files, and run scripts before or after you run GoodSync. All in all, it’s a fairly sophisticated program, even if it doesn’t synchronize individual Outlook items.

As its name implies, however, GoodSync is designed mainly as a synchronization program. It can make a perfectly adequate file-level backup program, but you’re probably not going to want to pay for it unless you want its multi-source, multi-destination sync capabilities.

If you want something that will just take all the data on your machine and back it up in one fell swoop with no brain activity involved on your part, this is not it. Go back and read about the Rebit SaveMe. But a no-brainer backup device can’t do what GoodSync does, either. They’re different jobs. Sometimes you need one thing, and sometimes another.

Last Chance to Get a Free Copy of Paragon Backup & Recovery 10 Compact

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

I happened across this in my Google Alerts the other day and figured I had to check it out. It’s true: until midnight tonight, January 19th, 2010, you can download a copy of Paragon Backup and Recovery 10 Compact (normally $39.95) and get a free serial number. That link will take you to the V3.co.uk store, which actually has a number of free software offers.

You’ll be prompted for your serial number as part of the installation process. Just click on “Get free serial” when you see this screen.

paragon-free-serial

You’ll be taken to the registration page to fill in your name and e-mail address, after which Paragon will send you the product key and serial number.

The product itself seems fairly comprehensive, all things considered. I just did a very quick test yesterday; a full review will have to wait. According to the product comparison page, the compact version lacks several features offered in the full suite. It still seems like a real bargain at $0.00. Go grab a copy while you have a chance.

FTC disclosure: I have no relation to Paragon, to V3.co.uk, or to anyone else involved with this promotion. No one either paid or asked me to write this.

Are Your Backups Usable?

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

When I was preparing for my most recent visit to Cleveland to see my parents (that’s Cleveland, Ohio, for any of you reading this from outside the USA), my father said, “Bring a PC.”

I haven’t traveled without a computer since the days when they made you turn your computer on at security, back when you had to hunt all over the airport to find a power outlet, long before wi-fi was invented. Now that I have this nifty netbook (on which I’m typing while waiting for the plane from Chicago to Oakland to fill up), there was no chance I wouldn’t bring it along, especially since I had an appointment to talk WordPress with my brother’s law firm. (I won’t link to their website; it would embarrass them. There’s a story behind the website, and it isn’t pretty.)

But what my father meant was “Bring something that runs Windows.” Dad retired at the end of 2008, and my stepmother had convinced him to switch to a Mac, something she’d done about a year before that.

Now, I have nothing against Macs. I used to own one myself. (Okay, that was back in the days of System 7.1.) The hardware is beautiful and  the UI (user interface) is slick, though I’m not sure it’s really so much more intuitive for someone with no experience.

Regardless, they have some definite drawbacks if you’re coming out of 40 years in corporate America, and one of them is the fact that Microsoft Office for the Mac does not work the same way as Office for Windows. (I know, they’re coming out with a new version of it. And I also know, and explained to Dad, that you can run Windows quite nicely in a Virtual Machine on a Mac—something you’d have a much harder time doing in reverse.)

The big problem, in this case, was Outlook’s famous proprietary PST file. Dad had three of them, given to him by the IT staff at BP when he turned in his company laptop (an undistinguished Dell). Outlook somehow (Microsoft experts, feel free to help me out) manages to store your contacts, calendar, e-mail messages, attachments, tasks, and everything else in a single PST file. But without a working copy of Outlook, getting anything out of that PST file is…just a bit difficult.

Not only won’t Entourage for Mac won’t open PST files, Microsoft appears to have entirely failed to make any kind of conversion tool. The “Genius Bar” at the  local Apple store couldn’t help either; they insist they know nothing at all about Windows programs. So it was up to Yours Truly, the family geek, to find a way to restore Dad’s e-mail from his backup CDs.

Dad had already had his contacts exported to an Excel spreadsheet (though he didn’t know how to import them into Entourage, and it turns out that the contact fields in Entourage and those in Outlook don’t match, so you have to map them onto each other by hand), and the calendar didn’t matter, but he wanted the e-mail attachments. Someone had turned him onto a program called O2M (for Office to Mac) by a company called Little Machines. (Based in San Francisco, as it happens.)

The program is only $10, primarily because it relies on a working copy of Outlook (and, of course, a Windows computer to run it on) for most of its function. I imagine that its creators envision their customers using it before they get rid of their PCs, rather than afterwards. I downloaded the Outlook XP/2003 version onto Mena (since I’m still using Office 2003 on her, so as not to tax her more limited resources), tested it, and then paid for the license. Then I copied Dad’s PST files onto a USB stick (no, not the one that got smashed), opened them in Outlook, and started up O2M.

As you can see from the screenshots, the interface is very straightforward.

o2m-welcome

o2m-folders

o2m-email

Once you’ve checked the mailboxes you want (in this case, I excluded all my own mail, contacts, and calendar items), O2M asks whether you want to include all your attachments or just those under a certain size or in a certain date range, and then proceeds on to calendar and contact items. Dad’s PST files only contained mail items, so they were easy to export, but it took a while for the program to process the messages. (It seems to run pretty fast, but it has to handle them one by one.)

The output of O2M’s e-mail conversion is mbox files. I remember those from the days when I used Eudora. The curious thing about Entourage, however, is that even though it will, allegedly, import mbox files, the import process didn’t work; the files on my memory stick remained grayed out. So I decided to RTFM (Read the Freaking Manual, which you get to by clicking that little “Help” button in the top left of the O2M window), and discovered that there are special directions for importing the O2M files to Entourage.

Here’s how to import mbox mail files into Microsoft’s Entourage program:

  1. Start up Entourage. If this is your first time using it, you might want to create one or more folders where your imported emails can be dragged and stored.
  2. Drag the mbox file you want to import into Entourage’s folder list and drop it. Entourage will turn the mbox file into a new mail folder. Open the new folder, and you’ll find all of your imported emails inside it. If you like, you can move one or more emails from the new folder to other folders to organize them.

Dad had a folder for “Imported Mail” in Entourage already, so I dragged all the mail into that, renamed the mail folders to something less clumsy, re-created the subfolder structures—and we were in business. All the attachments had come through.

So if you’re leaving the corporate rat-race and want to switch from Windows to Mac, I can recommend O2M. And I definitely recommend getting it before you dispose of the Windows machine. Otherwise you might spend almost a year waiting around for your geeky offspring to help you turn your backup CDs from useless pieces of plastic back into your e-mail.

FileSlinger Backup Blog at Blogged

 

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