The ability to reliably back up and restore data has long been a big issue for computer users. There are countless backup programs on the market, ranging in price from free to thousands of dollars. Of course Windows XP comes with its own backup software, but I have never found the Windows XP backup software to be very effective. I've had a lot of problems with unrecognized media. Because of this, I use a third-party backup.
Although I use a different product, I've been hearing a lot about a product called BackUp MyPC from Stomp—formerly Backup Exec Desktop by Veritas. Because this software has been receiving so much press lately, let's take it for a test drive and see if it lives up to the hype.
Acquiring and installing BackUpMyPC
BackUp MyPC is free to try for 30 days, but a permanent license costs $69 for a downloaded copy and $79 if you want the software on CD. You can download BackUp MyPC from Download.com. Once I downloaded the 8.04 MB installation file, I simply double-clicked it to launch the installation wizard. I clicked Next to clear the wizard's Welcome screen. The wizard then extracted a few files and took me to another Welcome screen.
I clicked Next again and saw the software's end-user license agreement (EULA). After accepting the EULA, I was prompted for the location to install the software. I entered the installation path and clicked Next. The following screen gave me one last chance to cancel the installation or to go back and change the installation path. I was satisfied, so I clicked the Install button to begin the installation. The Setup wizard took a couple of minutes to copy files and then presented me with a screen that indicated that the installation process had completed. I clicked Finish to close the wizard, and then I rebooted my machine. (You must reboot your computer before using the software.)
Using BackUp MyPC
After rebooting my PC, the first thing that I noticed was that the mouse pointer was displaying the hour glass for an unusually long time after the desktop appeared. Eventually though, the hour glass went away and everything appeared normal.
Next, I went to the Start menu to find the BackUp MyPC software. I found the software on the Start | All Programs | Stomp menu. The Stomp menu offered some interesting choices. There were icons for the BackUp MyPC software, a scheduler, a one-button backup, a one-button restore, and an option to Configure Devices.
Since this was the first time that I had used the software, I decided to start out by using the Configure Devices option. When I did, I was presented with a summary of the CD drives on my system, as shown in Figure A. If I selected a drive and clicked the Settings button, I was simply given a more detailed summary of the drive's statistics. There were no settings that could be manually set. I suspect that this might not be the case if your machine has a tape drive. However, my machine isn't equipped with a tape drive, so I can't really say for sure. One interesting thing I did notice, though, was that the software didn't detect my ZIP drive as a backup device.
|The Device Configuration section has no configuration options. The software also failed to detect my ZIP drive.|
Since there was really nothing to do in the Device Configuration section, I decided to go to the main backup software. When I launched the main BackUp MyPC component, I was welcomed with the standard evaluation software splash screen. The screen told me how many days were left on my trial and gave me the opportunity to purchase the software. I clicked the Continue With Evaluation button and was presented with the main backup screen, which was overplayed with the Automatic Data Protection screen, shown in Figure B.
|The Automatic Data Protection screen allows you to quickly and easily schedule backup jobs.|
As you can see in Figure B, this screen automatically configures the software for an incremental backup occurring at midnight. Never having been a fan of incremental backups, I scrolled through the list of days and found that the scheduler will also allow you to do a full backup on all weekdays or every day.
I went ahead and scheduled a nightly backup. This required that I also specify the target media and the administrator's password. After scheduling the backup, the software asked me if I would like to create a disaster recovery set. I chose to avoid this right now and decided to try creating a regular backup.
The software then presented me with a menu that asked whether I wanted to run the backup or restore wizard or if I wanted to open a blank or existing backup or restore job. I aborted the menu and went straight to the main backup screen shown in Figure C.
|This is the main BackUp MyPC screen.|
The software's main screen looks a lot like the Windows Backup screen. There is a Backup, a Restore, and a Compare tab. At this point, I decided to back up all of the files on a network drive connected to one of my servers. I chose this particular drive because it contained a lot of data and several of the files were open. I decided to back the files up to a file on my hard disk and to use the Verify and Compress options. I saved the job and started the backup.
The software took about 45 minutes to back up around 3.5 GB of data. When the software reached the verification phase of the process, something strange happened. The server that I was backing up generated the Blue Screen of Death. In all fairness, the backup software was running on a different machine and shouldn't have caused the blue screen. Also, this is a server that has never given me any problems.
The other reason that I suspected that something weird was going on was that the verification process continued even after the server containing the files being verified had crashed. How can the software possibly verify backed up files by comparing them against files on a server that is off line?
I decided to uninstall the software to see what happened. I used the Add/Remove Programs icon in the Control Panel. The program seemed to uninstall with no problems, but a closer examination revealed that while all of the menu options and registry entries were gone, there were a few program files that remained after the uninstallation.
But, one of the remaining files was the backup file. Since I hadn't yet tried to restore a file, I reinstalled the software and attempted to restore one of the files the software had managed to back up—a tiny 12 KB file. On the first try, the recovery process ran for almost 17 minutes and then failed. A look at the error log revealed that the failure occurred because the software was configured not to overwrite anything. I reconfigured the software to allow overwriting and attempted to restore the same file. This time the restoration worked, but the recovery process took 16 minutes. This seemed like a very long time for the recovery process to be working from an image file that existed directly on the hard disk. It isn't like I was waiting on a ZIP or tape drive.
Overall experience left me uncomfortable
In the end, the software did manage to back up and restore a file. Though the software technically works, I got some bad vibes from it—especially because this is actually the second time that I have written this review. My first copy was destroyed when my server crashed. Again though, the crash may or may not have been related to BackUp MyPC. If you've used BackUp MyPC and had a similar experience please post a comment to this article. Likewise, if you've been using BackUp MyPC with no problems, we'd love to hear your experiences as well.