Test Center Review: Acronis A Useful Backup Utility For Windows Servers

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Backing up Microsoft Windows-based servers and workstations has always been a challenge, often requiring that the systems not be used for hours during the backup process. San Francisco-based Acronis aims to ease those backup woes with True Image Server V7, a $499 drive imaging tool designed for active servers and workstations.

True Image Server uses imaging technology to capture all information on an active server's hard drive. The software allows the creation of fast, reliable and complete backups. Those backups take the form of an image file and can be stored on most any media. True Image Server can save image files to network shares, alternate hard drives, USB and FireWire attached storage devices, tape drives and optical media.

Although using imaging for backup is not a new concept, Acronis raises the bar by allowing the imaging process to be accomplished on active, in-use systems as a background task. In the past, users would have to reboot a system to DOS mode and perform the imaging process manually.

Solution providers will find both installing and using True Image Server a snap. The program's installation wizard automates most of the installation process, while a well-defined, Windows XP-like administration screen makes the product intuitive.

Users will find a host of choices available, ranging from creating an image to creating an emergency boot disk. Images can be created using various levels of compression and also split between several storage devices, a handy feature for spanning images over multiple CDs. The emergency boot disk process comes in handy for those building disaster-recovery solutions, and the product even creates bootable CDs that contain all of the elements needed to locate and restore an image to a failed system.

The product also supports drive cloning, which in many cases can ease upgrading a server's hard drive. Users simply clone an existing drive to a larger capacity replacement drive and then remove the old drive from the system. Solution providers will find the product's scheduling capabilities a welcome addition, and backups can be auto-scheduled to occur when most feasible. A backup log provides all the detail needed to verify backup activities. For those performing daily backups, an option exists to create incremental images. In other words, only files that have been changed since the last complete backup will be added to the image. That can save both space and time in the long run.

Solution providers will find working with image files just as easy; the product allows images to be mounted as drives so that individual files can be restored. Tools are included to verify images, and images can be split across several pieces of media.

All things considered, True Image Server V7.0 might very well be one of the most useful backup utilities for solution providers and their customers. The product combines ease of use with automation and extensive backup options to create the perfect balance of utility and usability not often found in backup applications.

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