Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Software Reviews


Reduce Backup Frustrations with Backup Plus
by Bob Gowan

We've all heard it - time and time again: "The question is not if your hard drive will fail; it's when it will fail". But what do we do about it? We may think about for awhile, even do a full backup of our system, once or twice. But do we keep it up, routinely, consistently? If you're anything like me, you've always found backups a real chore.

I certainly hadn't taken it very seriously until the first (and so far, only - knock on wood) time a hard drive crashed on one of my computers. Fortunately for me, I had done one of my infrequent backups not long before, and I was in the habit of e-mailing some the most important things to another site, so I didn't lose much. But it was a badly needed "wake-up call". For starters, I replaced my archaic, undersized and dreadfully slow tape backup system with a 1 GB removable disk (SyQuest SPARQ) system. As with similar systems (such as Iomega's Zip or Jaz, that I've also used), the SPARQ comes with the standard software utilities for backup and restore and for scheduling backups. This was, of course, a considerable improvement - more capacity and faster than the old tape system, and although the software was easier to use and more versatile than Windows Backup, I was still less than satisfied. I looked into other more versatile software but they were out of my price range.

Then I saw a review of Backup Plus, from Avantrix Inc., which was listed as WUGNET's Pick of the Week in February 2000. I discovered that this product has received similar awards from almost all of the most popular shareware sites. According to a more recent WUGNET reviewer, "Creating Backup Sets with Backup Plus is very easy. In fact, you'll be up and running in absolutely no time, as the program's interface is very intuitive." (Chris Spera; WUGNET; see http://www.wugnet.com/csreviews/software/backupplus/) If this was true, this Canadian product could be my solution to the backup dilemma. So I contacted Avantrix and offered to review the product. They responded promptly and provided both a review copy, and a copy for the club to raffle (more about that later), both on CD and with copies of a printed manual. The product is also available via download from Avantrix's website.

The 77-page manual is well-arranged, easy to read, and seems complete. It is well-illustrated, with numerous screen captures, and many useful tips that stand out clearly in the text. System requirements, and what the software does, and doesn't do, are laid out in the first chapter. The second chapter provides concise descriptions of each of the menu options. There's not much detail provided here, but it does not seem needed. The next three chapters are the most lengthy, covering in detail the important steps of creating backup sets, determining backup settings, and performing the backup operations. For each step, all available features and choices are explained. The manual doesn't just tell "what" to do, it also explains "why" or "why not" make each selection. The sixth chapter, covering restore operations, is relatively short, but provides adequate detail and examples. The following chapter, which explains the task manager for scheduling timed backups and tracking backups, and the various steps and choices for each, is also one of the longer chapters. The final chapter, entitled "miscellaneous" contains the type of information often placed in appendices: FAQs and other common questions, Error Codes and company contacts. There is also a short index.

Backup Plus works with Win9x, Win NT4+, Win2K and WinME, and takes about 8 MB of disk space when installed. There were no installation instructions in my package, nor does the CD include a "readme" file. However, the installation program starts from autorun, and is straightforward and quick. With a few clicks and a system re-boot, you're ready to back up your hard drive to floppy disks or super disks, other hard drives or networked drives, most removable disk drives, including Zip, Jaz, Orb, SPARQ and magnetic optical (MO) drives, as well as CDR and CDRW drives. Backup Plus backups can be set up to span multiple disks, including CDs, provided a CD packet-writing software like DirectCD (Adaptec) is used. Backup Plus does not write to any type of tape device, and because of current zip compression limitations, has a 4 GB archive size limit.

The main screen layout is clean and intuitive. A backup wizard is available to create basic backups in just three steps. In doing this, Backup Plus creates a text file, called a backup plus set (bps) file that contains all the information needed to create the backup. Thus, this file can also be used in a command line instruction or desktop icon to launch the program and create the backup. Any number of sets can be created and saved for repeated use. More complex sets can be created from the toolbar buttons, or menu items. Numerous archive settings, including full or incremental backups and several data compression settings are available and easily located and set. Individual files, folders or wildcards can be included in, or excluded from, any particular set. Backups can be timed for periods as short as one hour and as long as 30 days. Each backup set can have its own unique schedule and destination. There's also a toolbar button to access the most commonly used "favourites".

I tested Backup Plus on several desktop machines with Win95 and Win 98 and a laptop (all under Celeron 500) with SPARQ, JAZ, ZIP and floppy drives and other hard drives. In all cases it performed for me just as the developer claimed, in fact, flawlessly, and was surprisingly fast. Unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity to test the backup to CD media, or with other versions of Windows (NT, 2K, ME). It will take a little time to set up all of my backup sets, but once established, backup will be routine. As a result, I am convinced that this product will be the answer to my backup problem.

Backup Plus is a product of Avantrix Inc. of Edmonton, Alberta (see http://www.avantrix.com). It lists for $39.95, but the company advises that user group discounts are available. Further details will be available at the November meeting.

 


Bottom Line:

Backup Plus
Proprietary Software ($39.95 for downloaded version)
from Avantrix Inc.
Web site: http://www.avantrix.com


Copyright and Usage
Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

The opinions expressed in these reviews may not necessarily
represent the views of the OPCUG or its members

Page updated: 09-Nov-00