1997, Gartner Group predicted that exponential increases
in hard drive capacity would make routine, frequent backups
a real necessity for every computer owner. As hard drives
got bigger and bigger, they might be more prone to failure,
thus the need for backups. Hard drives are more reliable
now than ever before. But user errors such as accidentally
deleting an entire folder full of recent work, releasing
a virus into your system or network, or damage from a flaky
installer accompanying some new piece of shareware occurs
with infuriating regularity. Hard drives aren't perfect
either mind you. Fast forward from '97 and we're confronted
with the realities of enormous amounts of valuable files
and data that must be backed up for protection. You need
a life saver. Enter Retrospect Express Backup.
Development has a large line of Retrospect backup software
for Windows and Mac, designed to perform system, incremental
and spot backups of desktop computers, workstations and
servers in home, home/office and network environments.
We tested Retrospect Express Backup v5.5 on two Windows
machines and an iMac. Installation on the PII/350 Windows
98SE and PIII/1GHz Windows 2000 computers and creaky
old G3 iMac DV was flawless. The computers were fitted
with 128MB, 512MB, and 256MB of RAM respectively. There's
nothing quite like reviewing software on underpowered
hardware to really see how well everything can work.
backed up five different hard drives ranging in size
from 12GB to 40GB, containing data sizes between 8GB
and 22GB. Testing consisted of one full backup of each
hard drive in each computer to either a Tecmar Travan
NS20 tape drive, a Seagate Hornet STT28000N tape drive,
a Sony CD-RW CRX160E or an Iomega 2GB Jaz drive. We also
wrote some fresh data to each drive and tried some incremental
and spot backups. After performing backups we wiped large
sections out of each drive (including the Registry on
one of the Windows machines), then did full restores
from either the backup media or the emergency startup
Express Backup works well. However, Dantz Development
needs a bit of a User Interface and Online Help wake-up
call. The UI is not particularly intuitive and Dantz
should consider providing a plain language wizard in
the software or a step-by-step tutorial in the Online
Help system. The existing workflow for straightforward
backups certainly works properly, but novice users will
find themselves questioning different configuration settings.
In addition, the main configuration dialog or window
spawns separate configuration dialogs of its own. New
users should read the online help, readme and printed
documentation thoroughly, walk themselves through the
UI, then do a quick test backup and restore before undertaking
a system backup. The extra half hour spent familiarizing
yourself with Retrospect will be worth the effort, paying
off in quicker backup setups and restores in the future.
UI, poor documentation. The "Forget" command
is used to remove old backup sets from the catalog so that
old tapes can be erased. Forget(?) is not a widely used
term. Erasing a tape should update the catalog and vice
versa automatically. Read all the online help, all the
text displayed on the user interface (especially in the
configuration dialogs), and all supplied documentation.
Failure to do so may foul up your backup and restore efforts.
Dantz could really help itself and its users by doing a
complete UI and workflow review of Retrospect.
UI aside - it's a utility after all - once you get to know
it Retrospect Express works quickly with a wide range of
tape backup devices and CD-R/RW drives. Backup speed is
limited only by the bus and drive speed for the media being
used. We couldn't get it to fail except when we forced
a problem with the CD-RW by using some old 1x CD-R media
- not a Retrospect issue. Restoration of data - the true
test of backup software - was also flawless. Recommended.