How does one TEST backup software?

Discussion in 'backup, imaging & disk mgmt' started by optigrab, Apr 3, 2007.

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  1. optigrab

    optigrab Registered Member

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    Let's say you have a fairly standard setup with a hidden, service (recovery) partition and a primary partition. You wish to try out a new backup program (Acronis, Paragon, StorageCraft, etc.). In order to completely test it out, does one have to create and restore an image, thereby risking your current working image? What is the best way to mitigate the danger that the restore wasn't good - what if, say, it won't boot into the recovery partition or at all?

    Seems crazy to me- - but not as crazy as using a backup solution for months only to discover it does not work when you need it. Does that happen to any significant degree?

    P.S. I am looking into Acronis, Paragon, StorageCraft.
     
  2. ErikAlbert

    ErikAlbert Registered Member

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    You first have to take care of your PERSONAL DATA FILES, because you can't afford to lose those. That is usually a disaster.
    Copy/paste them on an external harddisk, if you have one OR burn them temporarily on DVD/CD's, but make sure that the DVD/CD's work properly.
    Losing Windows and Applications is annoying but not a disaster. Make sure you have all installation files of your applications on your external harddisk or DVD/CD's.

    I would start with StorageCraft first, the most userfriendly, professional and reliable one at this moment.
    The latest version of Acronis TI is becoming bloatware.
    In the beginning restorations are always a thriller, but after awhile you get used to it. :D
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2007
  3. Peter2150

    Peter2150 Global Moderator

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    Hi Optigrap

    Darn good question. For me what I did is use FDISR(First Defense) as a fall back. With an FDISR image off disk, I knew if worse came to worse I could restore with my Recovery CD or even reinstall windows, then install FDISR, and use it to recover back to my current system. With that backing me up I dove in and imaged and restored. Just your recovery CD is also a backup, but would take a bit more work. I am using Storagecrafts Shadowprotect, and now I give restoring an image about as much thought as opening a word document.

    In fact when ever I image, I don't bother with the verify, I just make sure I can browse the image, pull a file from it, and then I restore it. I literally test restore every image I make. Since I've been doing this and the testing I do, I've probably restored several hundred images.

    Pete

    PS Erik is right, though, that first time is a real thriller.
     
  4. grnxnm

    grnxnm Registered Member

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    The most dangerous part of the story is the restore. And the most likely cause for problems on restore is that you won't be able to access or perform I/O on your disks within the recovery environment.

    If you can backup successfully within the recovery environment then you're probably in good shape as far as device access and I/O go, so a restore from the recovery environment is likely to succeed. Conversely, if you can't successfully backup from within the recovery environment, then you have little to no hope of a successful restore within the recovery environment.

    So, at a minimum, you need to ensure that you have proper device (hard disk) access in the recovery environment before you start experimenting with other features. Also, keep in mind that some storage adapter drivers have bugs where they will appear to work for a minute or two and then crash. Amazingly this includes some WHQL-certified storage controller drivers. If you can perform a full backup, however, you've generally exercised the driver enough to determine if it's stable within the recovery environment.
     
  5. herbalist

    herbalist Guest

    Another way would be to use a 2nd hard drive. It doesn't have to be anything expensive, just big enough to hold the contents of the drive you're restoring. If you have your data and operating system separated, system backups are fairly small. I picked up a used 10gb for $10 at a local computer store.

    Ideally, you should consider keeping your backup images on another drive or external media anyway. If they're on the same drive as your OS and data, and it fails, you lose all of it anyway.

    The first time I tried using Acronis, I put the backup image on a couple of CDRWs, then restored it to a slightly larger hard drive than it was made from. The original drive was never put at risk that way.
    Rick
     
  6. wilbertnl

    wilbertnl Registered Member

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    A virtual test environment would be perfect for evaluations like this.
    There are free solutions available, like virtualbox and Virtual PC.
    You would be able to create several virtual disks, reboot as much as you like, boot from ISO (no CD needed, just an ISO). And you would be able to verify that any restore to the virtual disk is reliable.
     
  7. pvsurfer

    pvsurfer Registered Member

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    optigrab, I'll offer some ideas re testing a disk-image, but first let me just point something out. If your hidden system restore partition is the one that came with your PC (as from Dell, HP, etc) it's probably worthless (unless you would be content restoring your drive to it's initial configuration). So I suggest deleting that hidden patition and puting that disk-space to better use.

    That said, the most important purpose of a disk-image is to ensure your ability to fully recover your system in the event of a disk-crash or some other disaster. The only way to truly test the imaging product's ability to do that is to perform an actual restore, but I wouldn't suggest doing that with your primary partition.

    The best way would be to restore the image to a spare hard drive and then, making that your boot drive, boot it up and put it through its paces. If you don't have a spare drive, you can try restoring the image to a virtual machine (as wilbertni suggests). If this sounds like something you would be interested in pursuing, here are some links that may be useful...

    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/virtualpc/default.mspx

    http://www.kbalertz.com/Feedback_912826.aspx

    Hth, pv
     
  8. kennyboy

    kennyboy Registered Member

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    The most important thing I learnt is that it gives much more peace of mind to image outside of Windows whatever program you are using, and restoring the image to test, (with FDR as backup) as Peter says. Can be quite exciting really..........:eek:
     
  9. Peter2150

    Peter2150 Global Moderator

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    One other comment I'll add here. In my case I felt the risk of messing with hardware was worse the the risk of data loss. Brand new machines with 3 identical drives, 2 the drive c: and the other drive d: Messing with them to hook another drive, just didn't seem smart.

    Also. Once I started with this restore stuff, I discovered that several scenario's that I had set up with a couple of different imaging programs actually failed to restore under the conditions I expected. If you can actually physically replace the imaged drive with another one, then that's a pretty good test, but any of the other simulations, like a different drive, set up to be the boot, or virtual PC stuff, would give me the same level of confidence.

    I want to be totally confident that my system will restore. How can I have that unless I am willing to restore my system. The level of confidence I now have with ShadowProtect, lets me take the computers that run my business by day, and do stuff in the evening that in essence destroy's the drives, feeling totally comfortable that when done I can restore the image I took at the start and be ready for tomorrow's business. Personally I don't think you get there until you actually do some system restores.

    Pete
     
  10. Peter2150

    Peter2150 Global Moderator

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    Actually after a while it's just plain ole plain ole. Wanted to test something at lunch yesterday, so I imaged and then tested the image by restoring it. Ran what I wanted to test, and it messed up a few things. Just cause, I decided rather than use FDISR, I just did another restore, and then went back to work.:D
     
  11. EASTER.2010

    EASTER.2010 Guest

    Unfortunately for us but not imaging vendors :cool: , Microsoft O/S's are woefully vulnerable to not only discovered/developed exploits but more pronouncely and IMO more common, those out-of-the-blue sudden failures that defy explaination or immediate origin, some of which leave the user staring at nothing but an error has occured crap on the screen. How rude :mad:
    For most if not everyone this designed (not overlooked :doubt: ) limitation stretches back to Windows 98/Me/Nt first release and likely before even then.
    I admit i'm one of those who used to exhibit a footloose and fancy free attitude that i could depend on the O/S to self-correct by typing a few commands and everything would continue as-was. Pretty soon, and in my case on about the third failure i took a more serious interest in imaging or even Copy/Paste my important files/docs to a more secure location but then you still have all that lost downtime in reinstalling apps regardless that you have an install Windows CD. I learned the hard way but it gave me a whole new prospective while at the same time opened up a new confidence which replaced just taking things for granted and on face value from $M, which is not very wise by any stretch as we all have experienced at one time or another.

    Testing to an alternate drive should prove safe but also
    Virtual Machines is another alternative as already pointed out by wilbertnl.

    Personally, Norton Ghost and Acronis failed me continually no matter what i tried but then i was also very novice at the time so i can't completely place fault to those programs but i did finally latch onto a user-friendly and error-free alternative in PARAGON and have never looked back. PARAGON is served me very well and done everything expected of it without issue or other serious problem. Still continues to this very day.

    I can't help but feel envious though of all those glowing results pouring in from the ShadowProtect camp though. :D
     
  12. lodore

    lodore Registered Member

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    but i did finally latch onto a user-friendly and error-free alternative in PARAGON and have never looked back. PARAGON is served me very well and done everything expected of it without issue or other serious problem. Still continues to this very day.

    I can't help but feel envious though of all those glowing results pouring in from the ShadowProtect camp though. :D[/QUOTE]
    what recovery environment is paragon based on?
    winpe or bartpe? or something else?
    lodore
     
  13. zapjb

    zapjb Registered Member

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    what recovery environment is paragon based on?
    winpe or bartpe? or something else?
    lodore[/QUOTE]
    The Paragon Recovery CD boots into a RAM based linux enviroment. And their Hard Disk Manager Pro is my trouble-free tested imaging solution.
    While I stick to Acronis MigrateEasy for cloning. AME also has never failed me also & I test every clone. See my sig. Course it's easy with 2 HDD removal drawers in the 5 1/4" slots of my computer case.
    2 primary solutions. :)
     
  14. HAN

    HAN Registered Member

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    My first imaging experiences were to DVD using Image for DOS. And my first restore was a "white knuckler" :eek: (I did as Erik suggested and backed up my data first.) But after a while, I realized how solid IFD was to DVD. In fact, my confidence is high enough with IFD that I no longer verify every image I make.

    When I moved to ShadowProtect, I already had good images from IFD, so the first restore from SP was more of a matter of curiosity than concern. And now, after running SP for a few weeks, I don't think about it anymore either.
     
  15. lodore

    lodore Registered Member

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    The Paragon Recovery CD boots into a RAM based linux enviroment. And their Hard Disk Manager Pro is my trouble-free tested imaging solution.
    While I stick to Acronis MigrateEasy for cloning. AME also has never failed me also & I test every clone. See my sig. Course it's easy with 2 HDD removal drawers in the 5 1/4" slots of my computer case.
    2 primary solutions. :)[/QUOTE]
    thanks Zapjb
    i was thinking of having a second internet drive in my new pc and placing it in a caddy. so e.g. stick the caddy drive in once a week do the backup turn off the pc and take out the drive.
    so the drive is only there while im doing backups.
    lodore
     
  16. zapjb

    zapjb Registered Member

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    Test it b4 putting it away.
     
  17. Peter2150

    Peter2150 Global Moderator

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    thanks Zapjb
    i was thinking of having a second internet drive in my new pc and placing it in a caddy. so e.g. stick the caddy drive in once a week do the backup turn off the pc and take out the drive.
    so the drive is only there while im doing backups.
    lodore[/QUOTE]

    Second drive is fine for a place for the images. But I still feel the only true test is to restore back to your system drive. I understand fully the fear of doing this, but not doing it is saying, I don't really trust this program.
     
  18. zapjb

    zapjb Registered Member

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    Bare metal test answers every doubt. Either your solution works or doesn't.

    Both of mine work. Proven, real world.

    Each user & setup differs.
     
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