GFI Backup Reviewed

GFI Backup ReviewedWith the wide variety available, I am aware that it is a daunting task to determine which backup software is the most reliable and easiest to use. Knowing this is just one aspect, however, since figuring this out requires that you have a protocol to follow. In an attempt to outline the process, I have put together a partial list of the criteria I use when comparing different backup software programs to one another. I believe that these parameters are a valid means of properly evaluating a software program regardless of the cost of the program or, in other words: if it is a free version, a standard version, or a professional one.

My criteria for backup software is as follows:

  • It needs to have an easy-to-use interface that makes the software simple to use.
  • It should provide a scheduling feature.
  • It must have encryption capability.
  • It should have ready access to a backup registry, as well as files and folders.
  • It should be capable of backing up files even when they are in use.
  • It should be multifunctional in that it has the ability to back up to a local folder, to an external hard drive, to a network folder, or CD/DVD.
  • It needs the ability to complete incremental, differential, and stacked backups.
  • Ideally, all of this is available for free.


This is the criteria I used in my review of the GFI Backup software, which follows:

The GFI Backup startup screen provides a simple-to-understand and easy-to-use GUI that is intuitive even for the novice user. However, despite its seeming simplicity, this interface is just the desktop that covers a full-featured software product that will be able to meet most everyone’s needs.

Will it work for you? While I believe the answer to this question is yes, I realize that just because a piece of software informs the user via friendly looking windows that all files have been backed up properly, the proof in the pudding is how the restore feature functions.

GFI Backup ReviewedSo how do you test your backup software to see how well it works or doesn’t work? I chose an option and methodology that I believe will provide a satisfactory test. Here is what I did:

  • I used a computer with the Windows 7 operating system that had been updated with the latest upgrades.
  • I used a secondary test computer so I was free from the worry of losing any important files.
  • I then loaded copies of all of my personal files from my laptop onto the test computer; these files included regular files, folders, documents, and photos that are important to me.
  • I then used the GFI Backup software to back up my complete inventory of personal files, data files, and registry.

After I finished with the backup, which I stored on a removable drive, I went back into the system and completed the following actions:

  • I deleted all of my personal files — including data files.
  • I went into the registry and changed 10 registry key values (none of the registry keys were for Microsoft software).
  • I cleared the recycle bin.
  • Last, I uninstalled one program from the system, as a test, to see if the restore process would reinstall the program while maintaining the program’s integrity.

After these steps were taken and the restore was completed, I rebooted the system. I am happy to report that after all of these steps were completed, all 10 of the registry keys were repaired, all my files and data were returned to their original location, and the program I had uninstalled was backed up and functioning without a problem.

While I am quite happy with this particular backup software, I am sure that there are other free backup software programs out there that will provide the same satisfactory results.

Still, having used the GFI Backup software, I would suggest that you give it a try; here are the reasons I would recommend it:

  • Ease of use. This alone makes this free software very attractive.
  • Easy backup and restore features with minimal user intervention.
  • Last but not least, it works.

What backup program do you use? Please share your thoughts with us and tell us why you use the software you do.

Comments welcome.

Screenshots are from my personal computer.

CC licensed Flickr photo of hard drive above shared by blakespot.

Reinstall Windows Or Bamboo Under Your Fingernails – Which Would You Prefer?

I guess some things in life can bring grown men to their knees and tears to their eyes. This afternoon I was reading an article in the May 2011 issue of PC World magazine in which the procedure was described on how to reinstall Windows without losing data. Several thoughts flashed through my mind when I read the title. I thought to myself, is this like comparing having sex without getting pregnant? Can reinstalling Windows plus all of your data really be done in one day? What would hurt worse: reinstalling Windows or having bamboo shoved under your fingernails?

It has been about a year since I did a clean install of Windows on a computer system. It was an old Gateway laptop system that I formatted and did a clean install on. I didn’t need to restore data because I was selling the system. The system was running Windows XP and the restore process took the entire day. No, I wasn’t sitting watching the screen for the entire day. Most of what I needed to reinstall was either service packs, updates and revised hardware drivers.

The following day I reinstalled anti-virus software and an old copy of Microsoft Office that I was including in the sale price. I would say the entire process took about eight hours of my time. I would venture a guess that had I needed to reinstall my data the time would have taken at least double, or about 16 hours. However, my experience in reinstalling Windows usually takes me from four to five days for my own personal computer system. I have a lot of software on my system plus a ton of data, pictures, and other various things. Plus I take my time when I do a reinstall. I want my system to be 100% perfect when I am done.

Yet there was something that struck me as I read the article. Outside of the system I sold, I have not had to do a reinstall of any of my personal systems for at least five years or more. The computer gods have blessed me with a sound operating system, no viruses, and unblemished hardware. I guess I completely forgot about reinstalls until I read the article mentioned above. But just because I haven’t done a reinstall for many years does not mean I have forgotten the aggravation of past experiences.

So what has your experience been?

Comments welcome.

File Sharing – ge.tt

Despite all of the advancements that have been made in terms of sharing files online, plenty of people seem to have no clue that other options exist besides email. This is a real shame because sending files through email starts to become more of a pain as the files increase in size. Not only are there sometimes file size limits, but whenever you want someone to have a file, you have to go through the process of sending it to them from beginning to end. With online file storage, you just upload the files once and link people to them whenever they need access. We can all do our part to educate the public about simple online file sharing by pointing people to ge.tt.

It’s become common for file sharing tools to try to outdo the competition in terms of simplicity, and ge.tt certainly makes a fine showing in this area. Just select your files and link to them – that’s it. You can share as many files as you want and there are no size restrictions. Social and e-mail sharing is integrated, and your files can be linked to individually or in collections called shares. If you create a free account, you’ll also get live statistics and extended hosting. The next time you hear someone complain about sharing files, just tell them to ge.tt with the program.

write.fm

There should be an image here!When the technology industry was first starting to pick up steam, it seemed like the idea was to add as many features to products as possible just because you could. After some time passed, many of us became burned-out on feature overload and traded those principles for simplicity. A lot of the popular applications that you see today are advanced, but they’re usually focused on doing the one thing that they do well. I’ve seen a lot of simple services before, but write.fm takes simplicity to a new level.

There’s not much of anything here, and I love that. The tool exists to enable you to share text and/or files with other people in an easy way. Type the text, add the files, and then use the unique URL to share the content with the people that you want to see it. You can even customize the URL if you’d like it to be more memorable. That’s it, so there’s really not much more to say except that you should bookmark write.fm so that you can be reminded of what real simplicity looks like.

[Photo above by dbdbrobot / CC BY-ND 2.0]

SoundCloud

We’ve come a long way when it comes to sending and receiving files online. No longer are we forced to use e-mail or awkward FTP because an abundance of useful online services have been developed to help solve the file transfer problem. Most of these services are trying to take the pain out of transferring files in general, but different types of files can benefit from different types of approaches. SoundCloud is all about moving music from one place to another, and it focuses on helping music professionals.

When you’re receiving music, you get a nice online dashboard that contains everything for your listening pleasure and enables you to listen to the tracks before downloading them. Uploading and sending music is also fast and easy whether the files are small or large. Once online, the music can be shared through the attractive and customizable widgets that SoundCloud has to offer. Finally, the detailed statistics mean that you’ll know exactly who has been interacting with the music and how. Crank up the volume, folks.

BitDefender Update Clobbers 64bit Windows – Everything Is A Virus

BitDefender issued an update that has apparently made toast out of some users Windows 64 bit systems. The company has stated that they have issued a fix and instructions that users can follow to repair Windows. If you are a victim of the rogue update check out the BitDefender link listed below. On their web site the company states:

We apologize for the issues that you are experiencing on behalf of the BitDefender update released today for Windows 64-bit systems.


The faulty update has been removed and we are quickly working on a fix for the issues experienced by the users that downloaded this update.Here is some background information on this problem:

Today (morning PST) we had an update for 64-bit systems (available on our servers between 8 AM and 11 30 AM PST) that caused multiple Windows and BitDefender files to be quarantined. We are creating a patch that will restore all quarantined files. The patch will be available shortly. We apologize for this error and we will work to prevent this from occurring again in the future.

BitDefender trojan alert update issue: BitDefender has released an alternative solution for users that are able to boot their systems. The details are available here http://www.bitdefender.com/site/KnowledgeBase/consumer/#638 . The solution for users that are not able to boot their system will be available shortly. Thanks for your understanding.

I sincerely hope that this helps those of you who have experienced this problem. If your system will not boot, wait until BitDefender comes out with a fix.

Comments welcome.

Source.

crocodoc

The process of sharing files and other pieces of content online isn’t something that impresses us anymore. We simply expect to be able to do this. Now that online collaboration has also become more commonplace, it’s also an expectation that we now have. If you’ve never done any real collaboration with other people on something online, then you’re missing out. It’s quite an interesting experience, and for someone like myself who works from home, effective collaboration tools make you feel more connected with the people that you work with. A service called crocodoc enables you to share documents online with other people, but it takes things to the next level by enabling them to mark them up.

To get started, all you have to do is upload a document from your computer or a URL. By doing this you get a URL to share the document with others and you open the document up to the editing interface. The editing tools are effective and get the job done, and you can get an idea of how they work by looking at the sample on the site. Invited participants can add comments, highlight things, and strikeout text. You might think your document is brilliant, but it’s a good idea to share it with your colleagues to see what they have to say.

Filebox

While it’s true that much of our computer activity is taking place online, that doesn’t mean that the Internet is all there is to computing. For example, in addition to applications that reside on your hard drive, you also probably have a tremendous amount of files. It’s good to have these files offline on your personal computer, but it makes sense to store some of them online for safekeeping and/or sharing, as well. This is where a service like Filebox comes into play.

There are numerous online file storage services out there, and if you’ve ever tried any of them before, then you’re going to have a real good idea about what to expect with Filebox. Just like with other services, you upload your files, organize them however you’d like, and then share them in the way that you want. The free account should be more than enough for most users, but the premium offering goes a lot further with unlimited downloads, unlimited download speed, unlimited storage, no file expiration date, and a program that enables you to get paid when your files are downloaded. I guess sometimes you really do have to spend money to make money.

Why’s Data Recovery So Expensive?

Q: Why is data recovery on a hard drive so expensive? — Norman

A: Few things in the computing world are as gut wrenching as the loss of data and it’s often made worse when you learn how expensive it can be to retrieve your precious files.

The process for recovering lost files from a failed hard drive can be quite extensive and time consuming, which generally causes the cost of recovery to be expensive.

Hard drives are fairly complex mechanical devices that operate at very precise tolerances and any failure in any of the mechanical or electronic devices will render your data inaccessible.

Many people assume that the amount of data they want retrieved is the basis for what the recovery should cost.

Whether you need 1 file or 10,000 files has no real bearing on the cost of the recovery, because the real work (and expense) is resurrecting the hard drive in order to get any data at all.

The act of copying files from a recovered drive (once it has been rebuilt) requires very little time and requires no human interaction once the process is started.

In general, there are two very common data recovery scenarios: logical and physical.

A logical recovery is performed on a hard drive that is mechanically and electronically functioning properly but the data has become unusable due to corruption or file damage from user error, external hardware failure or virus attack.

Hard drives have a ‘table of contents’ that guide the computer to the location of the stored files. If the table of contents becomes corrupted, locating the desired files becomes impossible for the operating system (Windows, MacOS, etc.)

Logical recoveries can be performed by technicians that have the knowledge and tools to work with data at the binary level to reconstruct the lost files and tend to be less costly.

Physical recoveries are necessary when a hard drive has experienced a mechanical or electronic failure. Physical recoveries require substantially more resources, tools and experience and must be performed in climate and dust controlled environments.

To add to the cost, often times a ‘donor’ hard drive must be located that can be used for spare parts. Locating a donor that is an exact match is critical or the recovery attempt will be unsuccessful.

Locating a donor requires far more than just finding another hard drive of the same size from the same manufacturer. For example, if you have a Seagate 80 GB hard drive that was manufactured in Malaysia, the donor can’t be a drive that was manufactured from the Thailand plant because it won’t have the exact same version of the firmware or supporting electronics.

The secondary market for used hard drives that are cataloged at this level is substantially more expensive than going to a used computer store and grabbing whatever they have lying around, so paying $200 – $300 for a donor once it’s located is not out of the ordinary.

The worst case scenario is a hard drive that requires both a physical and a logical recovery as the cost goes up even further since two separate recoveries are required in order to recover the data.

Of course the best way to avoid ever having to pay an expensive data recovery bill is to keep your pictures, music and data files backed up regularly!

Ken Colburn
Data Doctors Computer Services
Data Doctors Data Recovery Labs
Data Doctors Franchise Systems, Inc.
Weekly video tech contributor to CNN.com
Host of the award-winning “Computer Corner” radio show

Recuva

Gnomie Paul Bolduc writes:

Hi, Chris Pirillo!

I came across this program called Recuva.

“Recuva (pronounced “recover”) is a freeware Windows utility to restore files that have been accidentally deleted from your computer. This includes files emptied from the Recycle bin as well as images and other files that have been deleted by user error from digital camera memory cards or MP3 players. It will even bring back files that have been deleted by bugs, crashes and viruses!”

I know everyone has been here, accidentally deleting a crucial or important file. Here is a way to finally get that important file back that has accidentally been deleted. To download this program, visit the official Web site.

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File2.ws

Having files on your computer is one thing, but if you want to share them with others you’ll have to figure out which solution works best for you. If you have a solid list of people that you want to share a file with, then you can send it to them through e-mail or upload it to a server and link them to it. When you want to share a certain file with the public in general, then it makes sense to use a Web host, but a lot of the free hosts out there are all about simply sharing files. File2.ws is a service that turns the files that you want to share into their own Web pages.

This site supports a bunch of different file formats and doesn’t require you to create an account of any kind. When you upload a file, it turns into its own URL. The nice thing about these custom pages is that they aren’t just simple landing pages that provide a link to download a file. While they do offer that, they also let you preview the file before you download it so that you have an idea about what is it that you’re downloading. In many cases, users won’t even have to download anything because they can experience it right away.

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Gazup!

When you have a file that you want to share with other people, what do you do with it? Do you send it to them through e-mail? This may work if you don’t have a long list of recipients and the file is relatively small, but if the file is big and you want the general online population to be able to access it, you’re probably going to have to consider hosting it somewhere. If you have your own server space, then you can do this very easily, but if you don’t, you’ll likely just pick one of the free online file hosts. Of course, why only pick one when you can use a good number of them all at once? Gazup! distributes your files to other hosts without any fuss.

The service provides you with a selection of hosts that you can choose to use, and once you’ve made your selections, you then upload the file in one of three ways (file upload, remote upload, FTP upload). This process saves you time because the Gazup! servers do all of the work faster than you can on your Internet connection. As a bonus, whenever you upload a video, Gazup! generates a screenshot presentation that you can share.

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Dropbox

I own several computers, and I can tell you right now that all of them don’t have the same files. Different things are on different hard drives, so I sometimes have to switch between computers to get what I want. Additionally, I do have some backups on physical media, but certainly nothing automatic and online. This data chaos is only hurting me, and it’s about time that I started using something like Dropbox so that I can be sure that my files are synced and safe.

The software is available for Windows, OS X, and Linux, but no matter which operating system(s) you use, the online component transcends the desktop software component. Dropbox isn’t complicated to use and doesn’t get in your way. Files are automatically synced and can be accessed online at any time even if you’re not on one of your computers. Files and photos can also be easily shared with others, which makes Dropbox a useful Web hosting solution in some ways. The first 2GB of storage are free, but you’ll have to pay to get more space.

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Backblaze

I haven’t always been very good about backing up my files. To be quite honest, I’m still not. Like many of you, I’ve lost files in the past without having any backups, and when that happens, you promise yourself that it’ll never happen again. However, a false sense of security seems to have a way of creeping back in, and before you know it, you’re back to where you started by losing even more files. Even if you have backups in your house, what would you do if a fire destroyed all of them? It’s recommended that in addition to backing files up locally, it’s also a good idea to have off-site backups. Backblaze makes off-site backups a piece of cake.



The key to the process is a downloadable application that finds all of your important files and backs them up online to a secure data center for you. Your files are even encrypted to ensure their protection. Storage is unlimited and you won’t have to think about a thing. If you ever need to restore your files you can either download them or have a DVD or USB drive sent your way. All of this is offered to you for only $5US per computer per month. Thanks to services like Backblaze, we just don’t have an excuse to lose files anymore.

Posterous

It’s become so easy to post content online that almost anyone can do it. You can pretty much take your pick of which service you’d like to use, but no matter which one you choose, the basic functionality remains the same. I thought that we had reached the limits of simplicity that could be achieved in terms of enabling people to create blogs and post content, but I was mistaken. Posterous makes creating your own online space as easy as sending an e-mail.

Seriously. All you have to do is send an e-mail to them that contains whatever you want and they’ll instantly create a site for you. Posting videos, pictures, and audio can sometimes be tricky, but with Posterous, you just have to worry about getting it to them through e-mail and then everything else will be taken care of. Your content will be formatted and posted as if you actually had to work at it. The service sounds simple, and it is, but additional features are a part of the package to help give it some flexibility and more are on the way.

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