If Dantz Retrospect 6.0 for Windows had a motto, it would be: Accuracy over speed. This feature-rich program isn't the fastest backup app on the market--particularly when compared with home-oriented competitors such as Handy Backup and WinBackup--but its thorough archival routines ensure your data is stored correctly. Like Roxio GoBack and similar rollback utilities, Retrospect also allows you to restore system settings to a previous state, but like NTI Backup Now Deluxe, it goes one step further by restoring every file and folder on your PC. Street-priced at about $80, Retrospect 6.0 is best for small businesses that can't afford to lose a single bit of data when their hard disks spin to a halt.
Retrospect 6.0 setup was pleasantly uneventful: the program installed from CD-ROM in about a minute, then rebooted our test PC without incident. Our reaction to Retrospect's interface was mixed. While we liked the treelike navigation bar that provides fast access to most features, we found the EasyScript backup wizard hard to locate. We had to go to the navigation bar, click Automate, then EasyScript--not exactly intuitive for first-time users.
Once located, however, the EasyScript wizard lives up to its name and speeds you through backup configurations. It's easy to use even when tackling more complex tasks, such as backing up PCs across a LAN. It also addresses complex issues that users might forget, such as whether to create multiple backup sets (for redundancy), and its handy built-in scheduler offers daily, weekly, and "when I choose" options.
The EasyScript wizard leads you through the tricky task of configuring a backup, but beginners may have trouble finding it.
Restoring data is just as easy. Retrospect leads you step by step through the process of restoring an entire volume from a particular point in time, such as before your computer crashed, say, three days ago. Or you can simply restore specific files and folders using an Explorer-like interface that Windows users will find familiar.
If you'd rather use icons than menus, Retrospect provides an icon bar for its most-popular features, such as backup, restore, duplicate, and so on.
Unlike some backup apps that only copy files, Retrospect also takes a "snapshot" of your entire system every time it runs a backup. Like Roxio's GoBack, Retrospect archives e-mail, shortcuts, cookies, and various other personalized items. This allows you to roll back your system to its original working state rather than simply reload data and programs should the installation of new software prove to be buggy.
However, Retrospect is no speed demon, a fact Dantz freely admits. Using default settings, for example, Retrospect took an hour to run a 563MB backup job, while WinBackup did the same task in about 15 minutes. Why so slow? One reason is Retrospect's verification routine, which does a byte-for-byte comparison of the archive and the hard disk. This prevents corrupted data from being transferred but doubles the time of the backup, according to Dantz. You can, however, disable verification to save time. Some backup utilities, including WinBackup, offer verification but turn it off by default. We'd prefer it to default to On.
Retrospect ships with verification on and compression off. You can, however, configure your backups for speed or accuracy, whichever matters most.
Like WinBackup, Retrospect also offers optional compression, which saves disc space by cutting the archive file size by 25 to 40 percent. Unlike verification, however, compression isn't activated by default and does slow your backups somewhat.
Retrospect supports a wide variety of DVD and CD writers, as well as Zip, floppy, and tape drives, the latter of which are still popular in small businesses. The program comes ready for small LANs and can archive data from two additional Windows or Macintosh clients. Another plus is its boot-by-CD feature, which lets you create a CD restore disc that guides you through a system restore.
Retrospect's help file is packed with useful information about features, supported backup devices, and other essentials. It allows for keyword searches, too--an important attribute that some backup programs such as WinBackup don't provide. The help menu also contains direct links to the company's site and online knowledge base, where you'll find a sufficient quantity of FAQs and tips on the program.
Retrospect's help file is well organized and allows searches of relevant keywords, such as compression above.
There's also an e-mail form for direct queries. Reply times are acceptable; our questions were answered within 24 hours. Phone support is free for 30 days, after which you'll have to pay a steep $69.95 per incident.