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|Initial post: Feb 9, 2013 7:04:32 AM PST
Pudugramam S. Narayanan says:
This email is sheer rambling. A powerful back up software should be able to backup and restore. We are talking of restoring entire disk image which Acronis claims it does and apparently people are having problems. So what is the correct way to do a sector-by-sector or bit-by-bit cloning so that restoring is effortless. Stop rambling guys and be clear and concise.
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In reply to an earlier post on Feb 10, 2013 6:04:54 PM PST
Pudugramam S. Narayanan says: So what is the correct way to do a sector-by-sector or bit-by-bit cloning so that restoring is effortless
Unfortunately, there is no royal way to reliable backups ;-). The reliability of backup at the end depends on the level of user qualification. There is no way around this requirement.
As for the correct way it depends on your equipment, your data and on your level of qualification. As mentioned before, the latter is the most important factor.
The first commandment is to use for your data a different partition then C:, possibly a different drive. This way you do not need to backup OS files (30-40GB each time you backup your data. For desktops, one way to achieve that is to buy 80GB SSD drive for OS and use the drive that came with computer as the second (data) drive.
For laptops when the danger is for psychical drop it is important to have a SSD drive of the size you need. You need to pay money for that, and if you need over 300GB, substantial money.
And remember that if your OS or laptop goes south you can put your drive in a USB enclosure and read data partition with the different OS.
For small backups one thing to do is to have at least two backups on two different USB drives (for example on odd days you backup to drive A, and on even to drive B). Or USB drive and cloud storage. You also need to have multiple images so that one bad image does not mean a death sentence for your data.
If you have, say, more then 60-70 Gb of valuable data to have a more reliable backup requires dollar investment in better equipment. The way to diminish risk is to use a RAID enclosure with two or four drives and multiple partitions and directly copy you harddrive to one of those partitions With Acronis then all or by second level directories separately periodically (the later can be scheduled with xcopy which is a system utility that comes with MS Windows), so that you are less dependent of proprietary nature of Acronis backup in case of restore. They do not disclose what is the structure of the image so if it is bad, your data are most probably gone. In other words using the monolithic Acronis image to backup data over, say 60-70 GB is a bad idea.
I would like to repeat that in my view Acronis is an imaging program and its forte is to work with system images (resize, move to different computer, etc), not so much to backup your data.
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In reply to an earlier post on Feb 10, 2013 9:24:05 PM PST
Pudugramam S. Narayanan says:
I don't disagree with what you are suggesting. The issue was how reliable Acronis is. Second, you need to understand that most customers are retail customers with a PC wanting to backup their data and restore their machine in case of a crash with minimal effort. Keeping it simple is very important.
The idea of separating OS from data is too outdated. Most desktops and laptops nowadays come with a single internal disk and that too large sized. There is absolutely no harm in having OS and data on the same disk. Second, OS files are as important and changing as data in that they keep getting updated by the manufacturer with new patches and dlls very frequently.
The size of the disk that can be backed up is irrelevant especially if you have a reliable back up software. And having a reliable back up software is the issue most users are trying to grapple with in this review board. I will discuss that now.
Acronis has a beautiful concept of backing up bit-by-bit the entire disk. The problem was how to achieve that reliably. And the answer is to boot the machine using Acronis CD and then back up the entire disk. That way windows or the OS or no other program is running in the background and we are assured of the integrity of the the back up. This is called taking a cold back up meaning backing up a static disk with no other program writing to the disk other than the back up software.
As far as the data is concerned, one can simply back it up using Acronis when running Windows since you can be make sure no other program is touching your data files while backing up.
Once this is clear, all one needs to do is to back up the entire disk maybe once or twice a week and take daily back ups of the data portion only.
An even better solution is to clone the C: disk using Acronis so that if a crash occurs, the recovery time is minimal.
I have been using Acronis for 4 years now and I realized only now that I have been taking the full disk back up incorrectly. But by booting the Acronis CD, my backup came out successful.
Of course one could go with RAID which I think is more expensive and not owned by most retail customers.
I am just a business user of my desktop and all I need is a simple inexpensive way to back up the entire disk bit by bit so that I can restore with minimal hassle. And I think most customers will subscribe with that intention. And Acronis seems to fit that bill.
Acronis does a job good if we understand how to do it right. Sadly, they themselves have not documented it clearly on how to take complete back ups reliably and how to restore.
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Posted on Mar 8, 2013 9:09:21 PM PST
Roy G. Biv says:
I want to thank both Kievite and Narayanan for very helpful ideas on making a RELIABLE back-up. Making a couple of cloned drives instead of disk images sounds like a step up in reliability (and, secondarily, in ease of restore). Likewise, booting from the Acronis CD to make a "cold back-up" (or, really, a "cold clone," I guess) makes sense. I'm going to switch my backup strategy based on these ideas.
For me, I don't need a perfect restoration. I expect a no-more-than-several-months-old clone of my C: drive (system and programs) along with constantly up-to-date backup of my D: drive (data) will be adequate, so long as they really do restore when called upon.
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In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2013 8:06:45 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 9, 2013 9:17:57 AM PST
"Likewise, booting from the Acronis CD to make a "cold back-up" (or, really, a "cold clone," I guess) makes sense. I'm going to switch my backup strategy based on these ideas."
Windows NTFS (which is the name of Windows filesystem) is a pretty advanced filesystem and has mechanism called snapshots. Which Acronis uses. So when you start to backup a disk, the OS redirects all writes to the disk to a different (non-visible to you) area of the disk and then when backup ends, changes are merged. You can edit your documents on it during the backup. That saves time and effort and I not understand why we should make your life more miserable that it already is. Rebooting PC with a CD takes time makes backup more complex and time consuming and adds very little to the plate. Only masochists do that ;-).
Please understand that cold back-up is necessary only in case you backup the partition which contains OS(system partition) or a disk with it. Actually what Acronis does in this case is performing cold backup anyway (note that it reboots the OS in a process substituting "native" Windows for its bootstrap OS), but mechanism is too complex and sometimes fails. So for OS partition backing up from a bootable CD does make sense.
Otherwise this is a waist of time and in no way increase reliability or security, with the exception of the case when your PC is infected (when you boot from a bootable CD, you also avoid all worms or viruses that might run in your PC memory and which might interfere with backup). So while using cold backup for the partition with the OS (system partition) makes perfect sense it is generally redundant for all other disks and partitions.
Restore in Acronis is generally more reliable from the bootable CD. It is just simpler environment and due to this chances for success are higher. In case of desktop or docked laptop with additional disks you also should disconnect all redundant disks, to make the environment simpler and less prone to errors in selection of the wrong partition for the restore.
Acronis "bit-by-bit" mode is bit-by-bit only by name. And in reality this capability is available for everybody for free, as you can always boot a Linux bootable CD (for example Knoppix) and backup the whole disk with the old Unix program called DD and then compress the image with gzip. The speed will be much less and the size of backup with be exactly the same as the size of the original disk (before compression). Also with the real "bit by bit" copy you can restore it only on the original drive or it's exact replacement (it's actually more complex and restore on a larger drive is also possible via Linux ntfsresize utility ).
The main advantage of "raw" image is that this method does not care about corrupted data -- you can backup even a partition that Windows can't see due to some serious problems with NTFS.
Acronis is a derivative of Ghost. The main advance that Ghost (the original program of this class created by Australian firm Binary Research in 1997) implemented is to imitate dd, while understanding the structure of filesystem. So it backs up partitions not bit-by-bit, but file-by-file just imitating bit-by-bit backup. This way you achieve much better compression (note that the size of Acronis image is usually just around 50% of the size of data on the drive, not 50% of the size of the drive as in case of compressed "raw" image, so if you have 10GB of data on a 100GB partition, the image will be around 5GB not 50GB ). And you can perform various manipulations necessary for restoration of those data on the partition of different size, can change id of the drive and can backup parts of the filesystems (in "raw" bit-by-bit mode the only operation available is backup of the whole disk or partition).
This review is from: True Image 2013 (CD-ROM) For those new to Acronis True Image 2013 it may be helpful to know that the previous release, version 2012, was fraught with issues. There are extensive reviews and comments on the 2012 version, including one posted by me under the same name as this review here: True Image Home 2012 PC Backup and Recovery [Old Version].
So I think a fair question is; What has Acronis done to address the issues brought up by users of the 2012 version of the software? I bring this up because as of the very last update to TI 2012 before releasing TI 2013, I know that at the very least some of the issues I for one was focusing on had not been resolved. I must state up front that I personally am in no position to know inclusively which issues with TI 2012 were resolved in either the final 2012 release (build 7133), or this new 2013 release. Thus I am suggesting we make this a "living" review, if you will, that will be updated throughout the life of this version as new information comes to light. On that note here is the first update:
UPDATE: September 12th, 2012
Just installed TI 2013. I first uninstalled TI 2012 and used the Acronis supplied cleanup utility to remove the last vestiges of the old version. I highly recommend you do the same if you have an existing copy of TI installed (you can google "true image 2012 clean up tool" to locate it).
Upon installation of TI 2013 the first question I had about the product was answered. The question was; "Has the program been completely revamped, as the marketing speak would intimate, or is it the same old "pig" with fresh lipstick? I'm afraid the answer is the latter. TI 2013 seems to be more a TI 2012.5, with the only truly new "feature" being support for Windows 8. However by calling it "2013" we get to pony up $29.95 to enjoy whatever improvements are to be had.
TI 2013 is sporting the same user interface as the 2012 version. In backing up first, my operating system partition (which is True Image's bread and butter capability from the product's inception) it proceeded as with version 2012. Then backing up my data (Libraries, My Documents, etc., which live on a different partition), again the program behaved exactly as 2012 did, including the same wildly inaccurate estimate of the back time (65GIG of data).
So I think it's safe to say that TI 2013 is using generally the same user interface and core backup/restore engine as version 2012. In that case let's take a cursory look at what Acronis is calling "new" features. In general the features touted are mostly about MOBILITY and PORTABILITY (wait, I think those two words say the same thing!). Anyway, As with Microsoft's Windows 8, Acronis is catching up with an ever increasing mobile population migrating from the desktop, and the even laptop, to tablets, smartphones, and other such devices. But in fact, these "new" features appear to simply be enhancements to existing features. Let's break it down:
1) First we have "Perfect sync", which purports to allow for synchronization and sharing of files among multiple devices and people. I truthfully did not use the sync feature in previous incarnations of True Image, and so far haven't tested Perfect sync in 2013. Windows 8 supposedly has the ability to sync multiple devices, and there are other 3rd party solutions, so it will be interesting to see who it turns out does this very very helpful job best.
2) "Mobile file access" is being touted as a separate new feature, yet it appears to be nothing more than an applet you can download to your mobile device to enable Perfect Sync.
3) Then we have what is now being termed "The Cloud", which True Image has in fact had for years under a different name. Traditionally it's been called 'Online Backup' and has been a reasonably priced, reliable service used for off-site backup. I have used the service for my clients who run True Image and it works. Acronis more recently expanded this online service to include the sync functions. And now it is being called "The Cloud" because of course that is what literally everyone is talking up and talking about these days. Seems like if you're not in The Cloud, you ain't cool baby.
(By the way, the cloud has been around forever. All it is in this day and age is the Internet, really. The idea is that you can access a file or service that runs on a computer "somewhere" on the Internet... you don't need to know where. Data goes into the [Internet] cloud and magically comes out at the correct location. You don't need to be concerned about what route it takes to get there. I think the cloud is great for certain functions, except I wouldn't want to store sensitive data there [just look at the fine print of Amazon's contractual agreement for its cloud services and you see that *your* data basically becomes *their* data, and they then grant you the *privilege* of accessing it]. And, I wouldn't want to store the only copy of whatever data I do put there, there. One day the cloud may go away, and that would rain on everyone's parade who became too dependent on the service).
How much does The Cloud cost? One month free trial and then you must pay $4.95 /month or $49.95 /year. By the way, it doesn't take much math to figure out that Acronis takes in more revenue from your cloud subscription than it does for a True Image license (considering discounts). Also, Acronis has started to strictly enforce licensing policy. You can no longer install and activate a copy of TI on both your desktop and laptop. You have to purchase a separate license. Fortunately the cloud subscription covers 5 PCs.
4) TI 2013 is claimed to be compatible with Windows 8.
For the first three feature enhancements I personally will take a wait-and-see attitude. I've noticed in the past that when Acronis veers into providing facilities outside of its core backup/restore feature set they they tend to get into trouble... i.e. the features don't work very well. So, we will see.
The biggest "new" news for this reviewer is actually the support for Windows 8. What's interesting about Windows 8 is that apparently Microsoft has finally, at long last, separated the operating system from the user's data (files, bookmarks, browser history, memorized passwords, personal settings, etc.). If this is true it is a great day for users, and may well be the best reason to upgrade to Windows 8. For those who have ever had all or part of their personal data wiped out upon doing a restore with True Image (or any other backup program), no explanation is required. For others, the confounding thing about Windows is that Microsoft has traditionally, to one degree or another, co-mingled the operating system files with the user files. Since viruses, glitches, slowdowns, freeze-ups, and other such nonsense typically affect the OPERATING SYSTEM files and not the user data, we usually want to restore just the operating system files when we do a disk/partition recovery. However, due to the way that Microsoft architected Windows it's nearly impossible to not "throw out the baby with the bath water". :<
If it turns out that Windows 8 has made substantial progress in separating the OS from the user, and if indeed TI 2013 follows suit with its backup/restore engine, then that would be a happy day indeed in userland! :>
So.... I think we may be dealing with a case of "Meet the new program ... same as the old program" with True Image 2013. If however Acronis has addressed some of TI 2012's bugs, and if the sync feature actually works, and if you upgrade to Windows 8 then it may be worth the upgrade. I will post further updates to this review as I learn more.
UPDATE: September 16th, 2012
OK. Do you want the good news first or the bad news? Let's start with the good news because there's less of it. There is a fairly capable backup program built into Windows called "Windows Backup" (let's call it WB). Some users, like me, who believe you can never be too young, too rich, or have enough backups like to run both TI and WB. Just too be sure. This was difficult with TI 2012 because upon installing TI it disabled WB. You could re-enable it, but due to a bug in TI you had to know the workaround. TI 2013 leaves WB alone by default! I am happily using both TI and WB. Why would I use both programs? Remember, you can never be too...
Now for some bad news. I was trying out "The Cloud", because I have only a month before having to pay for it. OK. If you are wondering why True Image has so many 1 star ratings and why uses are unusually vocal in their criticisms, here it is. Here is a classic True Image scenario whereby an attractive feature that could be incredibly awesome to have, disappoints due to bugs and a poor implementation:
I set up two things to go to the cloud; a simple backup of a single folder on my hard drive, and I chose a different folder to be included in a sync. Both items were scheduled to run once a day. After a few days I checked on how things were going. I checked first on the online back up in the "Backup and Recovery" tab where all backup jobs are listed. Normally there are two buttons on the right side for each job labeled "Back up Now" and "Recover". These critical buttons were missing, but for just the online job. What? Are you kidding? Where are the buttons? I didn't panic though, because this was only a test. I clicked on the little gear that lives near the missing buttons and what was displayed in a pop-up windows was a beautifully laid out screen showing you everything you could possibly want to know about the backup jobs. A daily log listing where any job could be double-clicked to show the details, a calendar displaying an at-a-glance summary of how the job went for any particular day, a number of helpful filters to aid in locating just what you may be trying to locate, and even a means to save the logs to a disk file. And on top of that, what can be one of the most frustrating things one can run into with these little pop-up windows if it's missing, wasn't missing. The window was fully resizable, so you could actually SEE what was being displayed.
Nirvana! Kudos to whomever designed that interface. The only thing missing from the window was a way to restore my files from the cloud. I closed the window. The Recover button was still missing. I right-clicked on the job. No recovery menu.
I clicked here
I clicked there
No recovery button anywhere
I exited and restarted the program. The entire online backup job was now gone. And the Online backup program button at the top of the screen was now grayed out. What? Have I slipped into some kind of time warp? It's only been 5 days since I installed. My trial cannot have run out. I clicked on the synchronization tab and was taken to the sync window. There was more bad news there but we'll get back to that in a minute. I clicked back to the previous window, and my job was now listed. The Online button was lit up as well. But, the all important "Back up Now" and "Recover" buttons were still missing in action. Wait. I don't know how I missed it before, but there is general "Recover" button up at the top. I clicked it and was shown a choice of backups to recover from. My online backup was listed. Oh goodie. In contrast with the earlier window, this one was poorly designed, as you could barely discriminate which back up was highlighted. But I managed to select it and clicked the Recover button. It was then that I was informed that "The Cloud" was unavailable, and to please try again later (told you so!).
OK. Glad that restore job wasn't important. So now I went back to have a look at the bad news error on the synchronization tab. The error that said "Synchronization has failed". I got that same elegantly designed type of window, and it told me that the sync job had not run successfully over the 5 days it had been scheduled, except for the very first time. Lots of various complaints in the logs including one about how the file attributes were set to "hidden". Wrong.
In case you were wondering I checked my online subscription and it is still valid. :<
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