NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, December 2007
Additional Backup Approach Comparisons
By Gene Barlow, User Group Relations
Copyrighted July 2007
gene@ugr.com (click to email author)

Last month I highlighted four of the most common backup approaches used today and compared them to show you why the Perfect Backup Approach is the best way to do backups. You can read that article titled, Backup Approaches Compared on my web site at http://www.ugr.com/nl0507b.html . As soon as I sent this article out, I got messages from users asking why I had not included other backup approaches in my article. So, this month, I will add two additional backup approaches and try to explain where they fit in the comparison.

Internet Backup Approach
Let me start with a fairly new approach to backups that you may have heard about. Using this approach, you backup a few of your key data files to a storage location on the Internet. If something should happen to any of these data files, you can retrieve them from their Internet location. At first glance, this approach seems attractive and some have tried it. However, there are problems with this approach that you should be aware of.

First, it is by no means a full backup solution for your computer. You will only be able to backup a few of your data files using this approach and not your entire hard drive. So, if your hard drive should crash on you, your internet backup of a few data files will not help you to get your system back up and running. You will need to do a total rebuild of your hard drive including the operating system, all of your application programs, your setting files, and any of your data files that you did not store on the Internet. This rebuilding process could take you days or weeks to complete and you may never get your computer working again the way it was before.

That places the Internet Backup approach close to the File Backup approach in the comparisons, but with more restrictions on it than the File Backup approach. Transferring files to the Internet is a very slow process. Also, you will be limited to saving fewer files on the Internet than on an external hard drive. A minimal amount of Internet space may be provided for free, but additional space will cost you each month to use it. Files stored on the Internet will not be quickly and readily accessible like the files you store on an external hard drive. Finally, the Internet has too many security issues for my important files to be placed there.

In summary, I would put the Internet Backup approach at the bottom of my lists of valid backup approaches. It is a partial backup solution at best and the number and size of the files that can use this approach is limited. If you are still interested in this approach, Acronis True Image 10 Home has the ability to do backups to FTP (Internet) sites, but pick another approach and you will be better off.

Differential Backup Approach
Another backup approach I forgot to include was the Differential Image backup approach added to Acronis True Image 9.0 a couple of years ago. This approach is quite similar to the Incremental Image backup approach I recommend in the Perfect Backup Approach. So, let me explain what this approach is and how it is different from the Incremental Image backup approach.

With the Incremental Image backup approach you use True Image to create a full backup image file of your entire hard drive at the beginning of each month. Then at the end of each week during the month, you create an incremental backup image file of just the changes that have occurred to your hard drive since the last time you backed it up (a week ago). At the beginning of the next month, you create a new full backup image file and follow it with incremental backup image files each week. For each month, the full backup image file combined with the 3-4 incremental backup images files make up what is called an image set. The image set can be used by True Image to put the hard drive back together as it was at the last backup or at any week during the month (or at any week in prior months). True Image also gives you the ability to retrieve individual files or folders from any of these backup points. This is the power and flexibility that you get with the recommended Incremental Image backup approach.

The Differential Image backup approach is very similar to the incremental approach. At the beginning of the month, you create a full backup image of your entire hard drive. Then at each following week, you create a differential backup image file that includes the contents of the last differential image file plus any changes that have occurred to your hard drive in the past week. The prior differential image file is left on your hard drive for you to delete after True Image creates a new differential image file. An image set using the differential approach includes just two files, the full backup image file and the latest differential image file. You will notice that the differential image file is a growing file that collects all of the changes to the hard drive after the full backup image is made at the beginning of the month. To make this differential backup image approach work best, you must delete the prior differential image file as soon as True Image creates the new differential image file for you.

How does the differential backup image approach compare to the incremental backup image approach? The advantage most sited for differential backup images is that the file space to store the one differential image is less than storing several incremental images. As a practical matter, the difference in size is relatively small and so this is not a big savings. Another advantage sited for differential image files is that they are faster to restore since the changes are already merged together into one image file. In reality, True Image can merge 3-4 incremental images in just a few seconds, so the time savings on the restore would be just a second or two. Not enough to worry about. The big disadvantage with the differential image approach is that you loose the flexibility to restore to a weekly backup point like you can do with incremental images. With differential images, you can either restore to the one differential image file timeframe or back to the full image taken at the beginning of the month. This is a critical weakness of the differential image approach and is the main reason I recommend doing incremental images instead.

To overcome the flexibility limitation of the differential backup image approach, some users will not delete the old differential image files, but will let them collect on their external hard drive, much like you collect the incremental image files. With many differential image files to select from, you can pick the exact backup point to restore your files from like you can do with incremental image files. So, how does this modified differential backup image approach now compare to the incremental backup image approach? It costs you space on your backup hard drive. The first differential image file contains the changes for week 1. The second differential image file contains the changes for week 1 and 2. The third differential image file contains the changes for week 1 and 2 and 3. I think you get the picture. The result is that the space on your backup external hard drive is being wasted and hence you cannot save as many backup images as the incremental backup image approach. Although the differential backup approach is pretty good, the incremental backup approach is better in all cases.

Backup Approaches Compared
So, letís summarize the backup approaches listed in this article and in the prior article. I will list them along with a ranking from 1 to 10 of the effectiveness of the backup approach. That should show why the Perfect Backup Approach (Incremental backup images) is the best approach to select for your backup plan.

Partial Backup Approaches
Internet Backup Approach (effectiveness: 1) A partial backup solution that is slow and costly. File Backup Approach (effectiveness:
2) A partial backup solution that is a bit faster and less expensive.

Full Backup Approaches
Clone Backup Approach (effectiveness: 3) A full backup solution that takes up one hard drive for each backup. Very inefficient hard drive space usage.

Full Backup Image Approach (effectiveness: 6) A full backup solution that can save a few backups on one backup drive.

Differential Backup Image Approach (effectiveness: 8) A full backup solution that is fairly efficient on backup hard drive space. Lacks restore flexibility.

Incremental Backup Image Approach (effectiveness: 9) A full backup solution that is very efficient on backup hard drive space. The Perfect Backup Approach.

Acronis True Image 10 Home
Acronis True Image 10 Home is the one backup utility on the market that can do all of the backup approaches mentioned in these two articles. That lets you use one product and try the various approaches to find the one that best fits your needs. For this and many other reasons, this backup utility has become the highest rated backup product on the market by PC Magazine, PC World, and many other industry experts. You canít go wrong with this outstanding product on your system.

To order this excellent backup utility, go to http://www.usergroupstore.com and click on Acronis True Image 10.0 Home. You can purchase this product at our user group discount price of only $29 as a download or $33 on a CD. If you order the CD, you also get our Perfect Backup Approach tutorial and some technical papers on how to install and use the product. The order code to use when placing your order is UGNL0707.

I hope this information helps you to understand the various ways that you can backup your computer. Using Acronis True Image 10.0 Home edition and an external hard drive is the best way to go. If you have questions about this article or the use of your True Image software, please send a note to gene@ugr.com and I will try to assist you.

Gene Barlow
User Group Relations
PO Box 911600
St George, UT 84791-1600

This is one of a series of monthly technical articles that I distribute to those that have subscribed to this newsletter. You can subscribe to this informative newsletter at http://www.ugr.com/NewsletterRegistration.html. Watch for them and learn more about your computer and its hard drive. If you do not want to receive these newsletters, simply reply and ask to have your name removed from the list and I will do so immediately. User group newsletter editors may print this article in their monthly newsletter as long as the article is printed in its entirety (Announcements need not be included) and not cut or edited. Please send me a copy of the newsletter containing the article so that I can see what groups are running the articles.

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