Retrospect Professional v6.5

Reviewed by: Paul Schneider, Ph.D., April 2004
Published by: Dantz
Requires: Windows 98 through XP; 128MB RAM, 50MB free hard drive space
MSRP: $89.00

Dantz’s Retrospect Professional software is designed to provide a full backup solution for small businesses and home networks. Retrospect Professional provides the tools needed for backing up a Windows computer and up to two additional computers - laptops or desktops - running Mac OS or Windows.

Let’s face it, backing up your hard drive(s) is a tedious task at best. If you are like most people your backup strategy consists of two words: Hope & Pray. We hope nothing bad will happen and when it inevitably does, we pray we can recover our data. However, when you have an incredible amount of work or personal information stored on your computer(s), hope and pray are not effective strategies. With Retrospect Professional you will be on the way to developing more effective, reliable and elegant strategies.

When I began to evaluate Retrospect Professional I focused on three key aspects: ease of use, features and reliability. In terms of reliability, the software certainly passed the mark. The technology which provides this high level of reliability is called Progressive Backup, a name which essentially describes Retrospect's approach to providing you with a complete and accurate backup without the punishment of long backup times typically required for high levels of accuracy. The first time you backup the system an entire copy and snapshot is created. Subsequent backups review previous snapshots and then create a new progressive backup which focuses solely on those items that are new or have changed. The end result is a ongoing set of updates which enable you to fully restore your system at any time, but without the lengthy backup times typically associated with this level of reliability.

Retrospect Professional is certainly stacked with features. Although the program is designed for small businesses, many of the advanced features found in other products in the Retrospect line are already built directly into Professional and only require an activation key to be enabled. Retrospect Professional, as stated previously, allows you to backup three different computers that reside within the same network. Within this configuration you might have two desktops and a laptop or any other combination. A nice feature when using laptops is that when the laptop is back in the network, Retrospect will automatically start a backup if one is scheduled or overdue.


In general each backup set allows for different strategies as well. For example you might decide to create multiple backup copies and store one of these copies off site. Retrospect Professional will be right there with you, even providing a wizard to help step you through this type of configuration. If you are using your computer(s) frequently you might also run into a tug of war between your backup program and the files that are currently in use. In most instances the backup program loses and your files are not backed up. Retrospect Professional circumvents this problem through a technology they call Open File Backup. This enables Retrospect Professional to lock or shut down files in use, back them up, and then restore the system/files to its previous state. This is particularly helpful for programs like MS Outlook that keep some files constantly active. All of these features and more help to provide you with a number of effective backup strategies that are long, long way from "hope and pray".

As for ease of use I have to admit I had a mixed experience. The program is certainly easy to set up and get running, but some of the conventions and names are, well, less than conventional. There are plenty of wizards that make many processes easy, but then they are not always intuitively named and there is no general wizard for those who want to get up and running ASAP. For example, one of my first backup choices was to backup and restore a single folder, its files and all its subfolders and files. The ability to select and deselect the files from the preview menu was hardly friendly, and I was initially left quite discouraged. Only later did I realize I could easily accomplish this task by designating the folder as a sub-volume. This made the process very easy, but getting there was not terribly intuitive.

Scheduling successive backups and editing these scripts was also quite easy once I recognized this wizard for what it was. Although I did indicate that setting up Retrospect Professional was easy, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how difficult it was to get Retrospect Professional to work with my Dell DVD+RW drive. I first upgraded Retrospect Professional online, but this didn’t resolve my problem. It was a call to tech support and their diligent persistence that eventually led me to another patch on the web site that solved the issue. Although the folks at Retrospect were excellent, it really should not have been that hard.

Retrospect Professional certainly packs a lot of punch. The feature set provides an impressive number of options which easily meet most small business needs and makes upgrades to advanced Retrospect products a relatively painless process with a short learning curve. The one area where it could still use some improvement is the overall interface. Small business owners usually have little time to learn more than the basics of backup and a master wizard would have been a nice touch. One other feature that certainly would have saved me some personal pain would have been an automatic update feature that would poll the web site for any patches or upgrades. Despite these issues Retrospect Professional is certainly a good candidate for an effective backup strategy for your home or small business network. With Retrospect Professional you will be able to rest easy at night, knowing that failed hope and unanswered prayers will no longer result in a lost data nightmare. Recommended.




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