Disaster Recovery

Five tips for more reliable Acronis backups

Acronis is a popular data backup and disaster recovery solution -- and handled the right way, it can be a lifesaver. But as Jack Wallen explains, its effectiveness depends on whether you follow a few best practices.

Backup software might be one of the most important investments your company makes. Without a solid backup solution, everything hangs in the balance when disaster strikes. If your system dies, you want to make sure you have everything in place to restore from bare metal.

One of the leading backup tools is Acronis Backup and Recovery. When Acronis works, it's an amazing tool. When Acronis doesn't work, it's tremendously frustrating. Here are some ways you can make sure that Acronis runs smoothly so you have a reliable backup.

1: Delete metadata when deleting job

There are times when you will have to rebuild a backup job. It's almost inevitable. And when you do, you need to clean house. Otherwise, Acronis is going to throw out errors from a backup job you're sure you deleted. When you delete a backup job, go into the target backup drive and look for the .meta folder. Within that folder, you will see the metadata file(s) associated with any backup jobs that are or have been on the machine. Make sure you delete the file for the backup you have deleted. To know which metadata file is correct, open the file in Notepad and look for clues (a good reason to give each backup a unique name).

2: Create a separate validation task

You can create a backup job in Acronis that will back up, validate, and clean up. That's all fine and good when everything runs perfectly... or if your backup job isn't too big. But when backups are flaky or overly large, a backup job that contains all three tasks will take a long time. On top of that, if one of those tasks should fail, the backup might fail as well. I prefer to create a validation task outside the backup job and run it on an off day or after the backup task has completed.

3: Use the email notification system

Email notification is the best way to know that your backup is working. During setup, in the Options section, you can configure email notification. This should not be an "option" -- especially for mission-critical servers. When you set up the email notification for the backup, change the subject line so the incoming email is immediately recognizable. I like to erase the ABR10 in brackets and replace it with either the client or the machine name. When you monitor a lot of clients, this makes for a much faster job.

4: Make use of the dashboard

Acronis Backup and Recovery 10 has a great dashboard tool that gives you an at-a-glance view of the current and previous months' backup successes and failures. Make a habit of examining this page so you can keep abreast of how your backup jobs are performing. Using this tool, you can get a good idea of the regularity at which your backups are succeeding and possibly find trends that reveal why particular backups are failing.

5: Purchase the Universal Restore option

Although this feature will cost you extra up front, it will save you time and money in the end. The Universal Restore feature allows you to recover an image from a failed machine to different hardware or even to a virtual machine. Should your hardware fail, you won't have to restore the image to identical hardware. This feature comes in handy if your failed server is running on out-of-date technology you can no longer purchase. It also allows you to recover an image to better hardware.

Backup experiences

Any backup solution is prone to numerous problems. But the fewer issues you have with the software and the better you plan your backups, the better your chances of recovering from disaster.

Have you used Acronis? If so, what are your backup best practices? Share your experiences with your fellow TechRepublic readers.


About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

12 comments
me4833
me4833

Back again... I am currently testing ShadowProtect and have had NO problems other than the cost. They could take away Acronis's crown any time now...

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

I am an end user and I find that Acronis is still not as good as the old Norton Ghost. 1. I recover disk images to DVD and the performance is...not good it doesn't automatically check the DVD, and it doesn't check the image to disk. Why not the junkware version of Cyberlink system recover does? I use Acronis to save my disk images after ripping out all the crapware, so the cyberlink freeware won't work it works only for the OEM image. 2. When reloading the images, even when it works it work...not very well. Acronis will hang (even on good disks) in older versions you had to try all over again. On the new version you often can't just click and go the apps see a disk error, you have to browse to the image and then go. So far, I have been able to back into the app and get it to work over the rough spots. 3. All the shuffling of disks is a pain in the (*well you know), first you put in the last disk (what is up with that) then you have to put in the first disk, then in some as yet un-discovered pattern it asks for some middle image disk say 4, then it asks for disk 2, then it asks for 4 again, then three and if you are lucky it will then feed the disks through. The old Ghost was a dream. Build your floppy, insert floppy, boot, navigate to the drive, burn image, repeat and re-image. No shuffling, no stutters, simple and no hassles. I have tried DriveXML, too cludgy I have tried the new ghost, won't save a disk image, so when I can I use the old version. I use system commander for machines with issues, and while I have liked it, it is for the nerd's nerd. Way too much overkill for just a burn and run. I do like it for technical stuff like shuffling partitions, changing the boot order and partition images etc. I have to get my spinner beany cap and pocket liner to get in the mood first. I am now looking at Linux specifically Ubuntu live disks using tools like dd, and a couple of those recovery disks however, too geeky for my tasks and tastes, but it works and is reliable even if it is hard to figure out coming from the Windows world. However so far the Linux stuff has proven bullet proof for my simple needs and I will probably shift over once I get comfortable with doing images in the Linux-ese way. I hate man pages, but with an interpreter they work.

mentora03
mentora03

I have been using Acronis for 5 years. Their product has improved a lot (Enterprise edition). Have not used the home edition. I am currently backing up 40 local servers and 79 offsite servers. The great things is that I can look at the Management console every morning and know if any site has had errors backing up. And have also setup email notification. Saves a lot of time!!

fullerwe
fullerwe

I'm using Acronis True Image 10 Home, but I can't see how to create a separate validation task. Is this only available in version 11?

spin2nz
spin2nz

I have never even bothered to screw around with the backup feature in Acronis. I have a second drive that I use to clone my primary drive to. It takes about 25 minutes for a complete cloning. The cloned drive contains EVERYTHING including a bootable OS and ALL program configs. If I crash all I have to do is swap drives and I am up and running in 5 minutes. To do this you can use an internal or external drive. The external is safer because you can store it offsite or onsite in a fireproof safe or where ever you deem appropriate. The time that I quoted above will depend on the amount of data you have, processor speed, drive speed and bus speed. I clone approx 60gigs of data on 3.8gHz dual core with a 1066mHz bus on 7200rpm drives.

oldguardreindeer-techrepublic
oldguardreindeer-techrepublic

I have tried Acronis 6 and TI Home 2009 and TI Home 2010. All without success. There has ALWAYS been some kind of fatal flaw that prevents it from doing its job. Images have been created, validated, checked and re-checked but when the chips are down...bare metal drive installed, there has always been a problem with why Acronis can't restore the image. That's cr*p in my book. So, give me no tips on how to obtain a more reliable backup and definitely give me no advice that I spend even more to get an option that shouldn't be necessary. What a joke.

MeadowsPV
MeadowsPV

f.y.i. The Western Digital Acronis TrueImage WD Edition 2010 (build 14,010) was released just recently. I found it and installed it on WinXP/Vista/Win7 [triple boot PC] 14 October 2010. Two backups and one restore from within XP SP3 seems to have no issues. I shall try same backup/restore process within Vista and Win7 later, to verify full functionality in all three OS's.

habib_iac
habib_iac

Acronis is the best backup tool I used.

me4833
me4833

I had used Acronis True Image for many years and am very sad at the current state of their software. I will not go into details here. For more info go to forum.acronis.com You will want to register to see the current user comments on their products.

me4833
me4833

Could you tell me what you use to do the cloning?

rld
rld

Jack, you're such a great Tech Writer... But where's your good judgement??? PLEASE dont waste our time trying to convince us that Acronis is reliable when, in your heart, you know it's "Unsafe At Any Speed" and should be shot. The next article you write should compare the flaws in *all* the popular backup software, then let the CONSUMER put Acronis out of it's misery. Fair?

donran
donran

I have been using the full versions of Acronis Disk Director Suite 10 and True Image 11 Home for several years. Although, Disk Director Suite 10 guarantees you the ability run multiple OS, it does not work with Windows Vista. I upgraded it to Disk Director Suite 11 this year, which guarantees the ability to run multiple OS, it still does not work with Windows Vista. As a result of this issue I returned it and got my upgrade refund. There are similar issues with True Image 11 Home as well. I have been in touch with the Acronis Technical support team many times to get these issues sorted out with their products. I have not yet received a reply which gives me any confidence to purchase the new releases of these products mentioned above. All my efforts to point out the problems I encountered with several detailed communications with technical support team were in vain. Donald Technical Product Consultant