Novosoft's Handy Backup 3.9 accomplishes two of the three primary goals of backup software. It allows for a variety of backup scenarios--including backups to FTP sites and local networks--and lets you schedule automatic backups. Unfortunately, this app lacks an intuitive interface. If you're willing to put a little more time into planning your backups, Handy Backup definitely delivers. Unlike rollback utilities such as Roxio GoBack 3.0 Deluxe, which save only system snapshots should you need to restore your machine, Handy Backup backs up or restores specific files or entire drive volumes. And at just $30, Handy Backup costs half the price of competitor Backup Now Deluxe and pays for itself each time you restore important lost data.
In general, Handy Backup's installation gave us no problems. However, one major glitch might occur if you don't have the right ASPI drivers--the drivers that talk to your CD drives--installed; this happened on both of our test machines. You'll encounter this issue if you select your CD-RW drive as the backup location and Handy Backup tells you that the device doesn't exist. When this happens, a hyperlink to the drivers appears within the Setup wizard. However, on both of our test installations, the link didn't do anything. A quick visit to the FAQ on the company's site resolved the issue. After downloading and installing the correct ASPI drivers, all was well. Novosoft doesn't include the drivers to ensure that you install the latest ones, but the company might consider revisiting that policy, if only to ease user confusion and frustration.
If you've chosen to span your backup over multiple CDs, Handy Backup prompts you to insert new discs when required.
Getting to the task of backing up, however, requires a bit more work. To create a backup once you've installed the program, select New Item from the File menu, then work through the resulting wizard. You first choose to back up, restore, or synchronize, then whether to back up individual files or entire folders. You'll have to go though the confusing process of choosing either files or folders for each individual item that you add to a backup. You then specify the destination: a CD-RW drive, a local disk (including removable media such as Zip disks), another machine on your LAN, or a remote computer that you can reach via FTP.
The Scheduler allows you to precisely control when each backup item will run. You can tell it to run missed schedules if your PC was off at the scheduled backup time.
For the most part, stepping through both the Backup and Restore wizards worked well in our tests. Some steps, however, aren't very intuitive. For example, synchronizing a folder includes all of its subfolders--whether you want them or not. Another slightly obscure fact: After creating a backup procedure, you then have to manually execute it or schedule it to run. To manually execute a backup, simply choose a backup procedure that you've created.
Handy Backup contains many useful features. The Schedule feature allows you to plan your backups to coincide with logging on or off of your machine, ensuring that you won't forget to archive after a long day's work. Whether you perform manual backups or schedule them to execute automatically, you'll first need to go through the process of creating a backup--a minor hassle.
The synchronization feature allows you to copy from origin to destination or vice versa. Or, you can mirror both folders so that they have identical contents.
Handy Backup's FTP feature allows you to first browse the remote machine and select or create a backup directory. This is a valuable tool because it simultaneously lets you define the precise directory path on the destination machine, something that is not always obvious because of the use of virtual directories on FTP servers.
The Operation tab provides the options to create ZIP files for your backups and to use 128-bit encryption for stronger security.
The Synchronize Item option allows you to compare and, if necessary, update files on two different drives. Handy Backup's ability to connect to FTP sites also makes this utility a quick and easy means of keeping a Web site up-to-date--bravo! Another nice touch is the program's ability to save large backups to multiple CDs, prompting you to insert each disc in turn.
Time-stamp each backup using the format that you prefer. That way, you can choose to overwrite older backups or keep them all to build a library over time.
Additional choices within Handy Backup allow you to store your backups in the ZIP file format or with secure, 128-bit Blowfish encryption. Finally, you can buy separate plug-ins to specifically back up only your Outlook data file ($10), your registry ($15), or your ICQ data ($10). Since these files are difficult for most users to locate on their machines, the plug-ins are perfect for beginners.
Watch the progress of your backup in the Log window at the bottom of the screen and create your own log files as well.
Restoration of archived files is, of course, the reverse of backing up. Use the Browse button to find the backup index file (created when you archived), then just step through the Restore wizard to select a restore directory--it's that easy.
Except for its online FAQ and help documents, Handy Backup's technical support is primarily available by e-mail. Novosoft guarantees a two-day response time for registered users and suggests--but doesn't guarantee--a five-day response time for unregistered users. Obviously, two days isn't good enough for a desperate restore situation, so you can try to reach the company via ICQ as well (addresses are listed on Novosoft's site). You can also attempt to phone for support, but the company is in Russia.