How can any software costing twenty quid be of any interest to enterprises? Read on and see.

Techworld has reviewed several products that protect desktop or notebook data. There is a simple USB external disk with Windows drag-and-drop copy or restore - Amacom. There is the CMS Automatic Backup System. There is Western Digital's Media Centerwith Dantz (now EMC) Retrospect backup software included. There is Fujitsu's DynaMO magneto-optical drive. There is Siwara's Pocket external drive. And there is Iron Mountain's Electronic Vaulting providing networked, off-site backup which we recommended.

Now here is UtiliSync which is by far the most basic product in this area, and none the worse for that.

It is a Ronseal product: just software - what you see is what you get. You 'tag' files and folders by telling UtiliSync that you want particular ones copied to a mass storage device: another internal disk; an external disk; a networked drive; even a USB flash memory device. Then you tell UtiliSync to copy any changed files to the target volume - 'synchronise' - at intervals of N minutes or hours. This is the 'scan interval'. Then you set UtiliSync running and it operates in the background.

At the completion of every scan interval the nominated files and folders are checked. If there have been any changes then the files are re-copied to the target device and loaded into a specific folder. The first copy is, naturally, a full one, and takes longer than the subsequent ones.

Installation is trivial and based on a downloaded Zip archive file. The PDF administrator's guide is all of fourteen pages long. The UI consists of a small on-screen window with the few commands and status window.

I tried it with an old-fashioned 100MB Zip drive as the target. It worked. Restoring files was simple: access the Windows file system on the target volume; locate the file or folder needed; drag and drop it to the place needed.

I tried it with a 40GB external USB drive and 7.5GB of folders. It worked. Of course it took a while, but it worked. Unlike dragging and dropping files manually, which you have to remember to do, this happens automatically. If you have a file that's very precious and much changed then have it copied every thirty minutes. Less precious stuff can be copied every day.

There are no complicated backup commands to look up and work out. Unlike Retrospect on the Media Center you can have individual files safeguarded. Unlike Electronic Vaulting you have the convenience of copying files to an external hard drive, slipping it into your pocket and connecting it to your notebook on a train.

You can't boot from the target volume, but then it's not for a system-level backup. It doesn't come with a hard drive so you can use whatever you have to hand; even re-purposing old Zip disks if that is what you have. As long as a Windows file system can be created on the device it can be used.

For twenty quid per user you can equip a bunch of desktops with this software, attach an external hard drive and have your business' desktop data protected simply and automatically with users recovering their own files.

Every so often the software springs into life, scans their tagged files, copies changed ones to the target volume, and hibernates until the next scan time. If a user makes a mistaken file deletion or has a crash then the files are safe and ready to recover from the target disk drive.

It is a cheap, simple, basic and reliable method of protecting data in remote offices and small departments. Users can set it up and forget it's there. That's what you can do too. Install it - and forget it - and also look forward to a lower number of help desk calls from users who have lost their files.

OUR VERDICT

If you want to have desktop files and folders automatically and regularly copied to a storage device then UtiliSync does it simply and easily.