Snapshot vs fast imaging

Discussion in 'backup, imaging & disk mgmt' started by Isso, Jul 7, 2012.

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  1. Isso

    Isso Developer

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    Hi guys,

    Reading the recent threads related to problems with snapshot programs (particularly Rollback RX) I thought that perhaps the main issue is their design - i.e. the fact that they store the snapshots on the same partition that they are monitoring. Hence the incompatibility with imaging or defragmentation software, not enough protection from malware, running out of space on the monitored drive etc.

    Is there any snapshot/imaging hybrid program that tracks the changed sectors and saves them to an external drive, and most importantly has a feature to restore only that changes (rather than the entire image)? That way both capturing the incremental image and restoring it would be a very fast operation - only a little bit longer than for a snapshot program, but free of all above mentioned troubles.

    If there is such software available (I'm pretty sure it should be) - why it's not used to replace Rollback RX et al?

    I'm asking this question because we have recently developed a "fast imaging" technology that works as described above (albeit is used for slightly other purposes), and I was wondering if there is any interest out there to use it as a replacement for snapshot programs. Any thoughts/suggestions/ideas are very welcome. Thank you
     
  2. MarcP

    MarcP Registered Member

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    To be honest, I don't care much about a 100% perfection snapshot software. I just want something to quickly undo "oops" moments in rapid time. I already image my system daily using Macrium Reflect and differential images. However, restoring takes an extended amount of time so it's great to have method of fast recovery when possible.

    "Snapshot" softwares (for lack of a better word) should never be the only line of defense. Never ever rely on them alone.
     
  3. pegr

    pegr Registered Member

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    I'm sure there is interest in an incremental imaging technology of the type you describe. It seems to me the only advantage of rollback type programs is speed; but creating what amounts to a hidden file system outside of Windows and modifying the MBR has the potential to cause serious problems if things go wrong.

    Some questions regarding your technology: -

    1. Does it modify the MBR?
    2. Is there an option to create a recovery boot disk?
    3. Does it support SSDs?
    4. What operating systems does it support (e.g. XP, Vista, Windows 7 32/64 bit)?
    5. What file systems does it support (e.g. NTFS, FAT)?
    6. Is a trial evaluation copy available?

    Thanks in advance.

    Kind regards
     
  4. PoetWarrior

    PoetWarrior Registered Member

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    If the program is faster than restoring a whole image, stable, and allows me to defrag my OS drive, then I'm interested. :thumb:
     
  5. sukarof

    sukarof Registered Member

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    Never heard of such program, unless the good old FirstedefenseISR qualifies (I mean the original FDISR of course, gosh I miss that masterpiece :( ) but surely are interested to try! Sounds really interesting! Give me a call if you need beta testers :)
     
  6. aladdin

    aladdin Registered Member

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    All excellent questions?

    I am also interested in the answers!

    Best regards,
     
  7. pandlouk

    pandlouk Registered Member

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    Hi Isso,
    yes the main issue is the design of Eaz-Fix and clones. If they could block the direct disk writes from within the OS they would solve 99% of their problems.

    RestoreIT does something like this (sector level monitoring). But has 3 issues.
    1st. Since it relies in monitoring (in one incremental branch) when it restores to a snapshot it has to delete all the older snapshots. Otherwise won't be able to continue monitoring afterwards.
    2nd. Does not save the baseline in an image. this means that if something goes wrong the user cannot restore.
    3rd. when it restores it has to restore all the modified sectors from the current state (the time that a restore command is initiated) up to the snapshot that the user selected. This is needed because of the second reason I posted above; since it does not have a baseline saved it has to revert all the modified sectors to ensure a working state.

    Because of the 1st and 3rd issue.
    When the users revert to a snapshot they lose all the snapshots that where created later in time.
    And if they restore to a snapshot that is very different from the current state of the disk (lots of files added,deleted and modified or the disk was defragged) usually results in restoring much much more sectors compared to restoring an image, and the restore can will take a very long time to complete (closer to a all sector imaging/restoring).
    I'm sure that a lot will be interested.
    How exactly it works?
    One thought; an hybrid/snapshot program does not need to constantly monitor the changes. It could use a sector based image to build it's baseline (so it would be relatively fast when creating it) and then could use a file/folder sync (based on modification time and maybe size of the files) when creating the snapshots, and this would save space/time when creating the incremental snapshots. During the restore it would simple have to synchronize back the modified files (and their attributes) and deleting the newly created ones. Currently no imaging program or snapshot program acts like this; only FirstDefense-ISR used to synchronized the files in its snapshots and its external archive but since it did not use incremental or differential technology all its snapshots where huge in size (when I suggested them to use add differential features they already had sold the technology of having more than 1 snapshot so they could not implement it.)

    Windows SystemRestore use sync to restore the files but since it selectively restore files types does not always restore correctly.
    Roxio's InstantRestore (part of the BackOnTrack suite) restores all the modified files but sometimes takes a lot of time to restore since it copies the files that will be deleted/modified in a temporary snapshot and then proceeds to restore those from the snapshot.

    Panagiotis
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2012
  8. pandlouk

    pandlouk Registered Member

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    For me the ideal imaging/snapshot program would like the following.

    When creating snapshots/images:
    sector level imaging when creating the baseline and the differential or incremental snapshots.
    When restoring snapshots:
    File sync between the images/snapshots and the real disk.
    when restoring the images:
    sector level restoring.

    example. If I'm hit by a virus that first modifies a driver without changing its modification time, its size and its attributes (and then auto destroys the dropper/modifier); I would simple restore the image of the baseline (sector level restore; the driver will be clean) and then proceed to restore the snapshot (file level restore through sync).
    So even though in the snapshot container the driver would be infected since it would be backed up at sector level; when restored in the above two steps I will have a clean result, since the infected file will not be restored because it will have the exact same size,date and attributes with the original one.;)

    Panagiotis
     
  9. Isso

    Isso Developer

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    Thanks for your interest guys. pegr - excelent questions!

    1. Does it modify the MBR? - no, it doesn't
    2. Is there an option to create a recovery boot disk? - yes, based on Windows PE (we have some unique features here, I'll elaborate in a separate post)
    3. Does it support SSDs? - yes, and also heavily optimized for SSD speeds
    4. What operating systems does it support (e.g. XP, Vista, Windows 7 32/64 bit)? XP SP2 and onwards
    5. What file systems does it support (e.g. NTFS, FAT)? only NTFS for now
    6. Is a trial evaluation copy available? sorry, the product isn't released yet, but in 2 months we potentially can present a beta version for testing
     
  10. Isso

    Isso Developer

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    MarcP, PoetWarrior, sukarof

    Thank you. The restore speed is magnitude of orders faster compared to normal imaging restore, thus I guess it can be considered as a replacement for snapshot programs.
    No problems with defragmentation as the data is saved externally into an ordinary file.
    I'll really appreciate anyone's help as a beta tester.
     
  11. moontan

    moontan Registered Member

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    it takes me 3 minutes to restore an image, on a 5 years old machine.

    with this kind of speed, i feel restore apps are not needed in my case.
     
  12. ruinebabine

    ruinebabine Registered Member

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    Hi Panagiotis

    we finally got to know what were those mysterious new features you discussed with the developers by then :D Yes it would have been almost revolutionary and really welcome for all customers. And could I also venture to that length of asking you to tell us who bought FirstDefense technology ?
     
  13. Scott W

    Scott W Registered Member

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    Isso,

    This is certainly provacative. You have told us (in gerneral terms) what it can do and what it does not do, but you really haven't given us a description of how it works. I understand that that you don't want to reveal any trade secrets, but I'd like to learn more about its functionality. :doubt:

    Scott
     
  14. sukarof

    sukarof Registered Member

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    Great! looking forward for the beta release :thumb:
     
  15. PoetWarrior

    PoetWarrior Registered Member

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    Me too. Count me in on that also.
     
  16. Isso

    Isso Developer

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    Panagiotis,

    Thank you for detailed answer. The idea of combined sector/file based backup looks very interesting, I need to think about it.

    From your description looks like RestoreIT is close to what our program is doing (I was really looking for someone to point to a competing program - thank you), however there are differences as per your points:

    1st. We are not limited to a single incremental branch (chain). Thus it's quite possible to restore an old snapshot while keeping the newer ones.

    2nd. We do save the base (full) image at the beginning of the backup operation, thus it's possible to restore the entire drive if it fails.

    3rd. Same limitation applies to our solution, i.e. if the user goes to a very old snapshot and too many changes have been made since then, the restore operation may take more time, however in vast majority of cases it will still be faster than restoring the entire image. And for a typical scenario, when a user mistakenly launches a malware executable, or installs an unwanted program - the restore will be very fast.

    Let me describe how our program works in a separate post
     
  17. Isso

    Isso Developer

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    For how the program works - it's nothing revolutionary.

    It's an imaging software that monitors the disk changes in realtime and allows to take full (baseline) and incremental images - just like Macrium Reflect or Acronis TrueImage. It also has a functionality to restore only the changed sectors between two incremental images, i.e. rather than restoring the entire partition, we restore only the sectors that have changed within certain period of time. This makes the restore much faster.

    I.e. if you have installed a 100 MB program onto a partition with 100 GB used space, and want to revert that operation, the program will write only 100MB (plus some overhead) data when restoring, rather than 100GB for ordinary imaging restore. Writing 100MB of data takes only seconds.

    Again, I think there is nothing revolutionary in this approach, I was just wondering if there is any snapshot software that uses this approach.
     
  18. Isso

    Isso Developer

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    Some distinct features of our solution are following:

    1. Zero impact on file system performance (we spent really lot of time to achieve this)

    2. High backup/restore speed (again we optimized it to the maximum). It's limited only by the speed of source/target drives (and CPU for image compression). On two SSDs for example it gets about 350 MB/sec speed which is very close to that SSD write speed limit. The competing solutions are 1.5-2 times slower.

    3. Ability to create a Win PE based recovery environment with absolutely no need for WAIK, Windows installation CDs, or pre-built PE downloads. It simply creates the recovery environment based on the files of already installed OS. Recovery environment can be placed both locally on the system partition and on a removable disk or CD. Creating of XP PE from locally installed OS files was especially challenging task, and I think there is no other program that does it (correct me if I'm wrong).
     
  19. aladdin

    aladdin Registered Member

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    Dear Isso,

    Another competing program is EaseUS® Todo Backup Workstation, which is both an imaging program and a snapshot program too.

    Here: http://www.todo-backup.com/business/workstation-backup.htm

    Here: http://www.todo-backup.com/products/features/backup-system-state.htm

    The FarStone RestoreIt mentioned by dear Panagiotis, was a combined product too, meaning it contained imaging and snapshots together until v6. In v7 the snapshot component was separated from the imaging and sold as standalone.

    BTW, I would like to be a beta tester too, as I have 4 computers, all of them with SSDs.

    Best regards,
     
  20. MarcP

    MarcP Registered Member

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    Isso, what you're describing sounds a lot like ATI's Non-Stop Backup feature. Is it something similar?
     
  21. Function

    Function Registered Member

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    I like and use Rollback RX because its a quick "oh crap I messed up a setting need to restore" feature.

    You said that your software does not modifiy the MBR. If it does not, is there a way to restore a "snapshot" without booting into windows 1st? I take it this is done via the recovery disk.

    If so I would interested in such a product. Would be nice to see the comparison between your product and Rollback RX.
     
  22. Isso

    Isso Developer

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    aladdin,

    Thanks for pointing EasUS products, will check it out.
    And thank you for offering your help as a beta tester - I'll create a new thread as soon as we have the beta ready.

    MarcP,

    Regarding backup part - yes, it's almost the same as Acronis. But for restore - I wasn't able to find any "restore only changes" (partial restore) feature in Acronis, i.e. it seems to restore only the entire image. Let me know if I'm missing something.

    Function,

    You can use one of 2 options for restore without booting into main OS:
    1. Recovery environment located on the system drive
    2. Recovery environment located on removable media, such as USB stick or a CD
    All of them are created automatically
     
  23. MarcP

    MarcP Registered Member

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    Isso, you're right. Acronis doesn't have that "intelligence" when restoring. I thought their "non stop backup" (which doesn't work well most of the time anyway) sounded similar to your idea. Their solution isn't a very trustworthy one, though.
     
  24. bgoodman4

    bgoodman4 Registered Member

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    I have been a happy Rx user for years but I am not married to it. Your program sounds very interesting and I look forward to learning more about it as time passes. If its as good as it sounds I will have no problem moving from Rx to a superior product. I would however not be an early adaptor but I am def interested.
     
  25. pegr

    pegr Registered Member

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    Hi Isso,

    Thanks for answering the questions. The reason I asked about supported file systems is because, in addition to my system and data partitions which are NTFS, I also have a FAT32 recovery partition.

    I'm looking forwards to testing the beta when it is available. :thumb:

    Kind regards
     
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