It is axiomatic that backup software is usually so slow and cumbersome that people end up not using it. Occasionally, you come across a small, blossoming software flower, and it restores some of your interest. Without wanting to get too carried away, SyncBackSE could be one such program.
If this were a flower, though, it would be an orchid, which is to say it is tuned for the fussier ‘expert’ user. It could be used by lesser mortals but its appeal lies with the user looking after multiple workstations, and several backup destinations, including external, USB, LAN and remote FTP drives.
The program opens on to a rather bare, functional window. As it happens, there is a reason for this. Since the people using this program will most likely be power users with multiple backup operations, the window will gradually fill up with each backup or synch profile they create. Managing these from a single window is by far the easiest approach.
Creating a backup profile prompts the user to define the nature of backup operation being carried out. Is it being made to an FTP server, and will be in the form of a zip or multiple zip file? Since this is a “profile” and not just a simple backup job, there is also an option to describe the source and destination of the backup, useful when trying to separate one backup regime from another (say, another workstation). Finally, “fast backups” can be selected if the files being sent to the destination (i.e backup) path are not being changed by another application or person.
The software throws up a summary window making clear all the profile settings, schedule, and what the regime will and won’t be doing and - in the case of certain system and temp files – files it will and won’t be backing up. If necessary a filter can be added to the latter element of the profile to force the software to copy specific types of files it might otherwise ignore.
One thing that scores highly about this program’s design is the way it allows a high level of control over the way files are backed up and, if necessary, restored. For example, if the program encounters the same file on both backup source and destination, it can be told to overwrite on the basis of certain parameters – the file size or age for instance. If it encounters a file on the backup destination but not the source, it can be made to copy that back to the source PC so that the file in turn becomes part of subsequent backups in a regularised manner. With feature such as differential backup, and backup of open XP Office files, compressed/AES encryption, there is something here for every eventuality.
What happens if a backup can’t run because the destination is not available? Some programs will silently default to a local destination; SyncBackSE goes into a error mode and creates a log of the failure. This is preferable to having a backup that completes to a local drive without that being apparent, but it would still have been useful to have been able to specify a fall back drive, even a local one.
Another strength is that the program includes synchronisation, a type of backup scheme many programs don’t bother with despite its immense usefulness. It works in much the same way as the backup, but careful attention has to be paid to which rules to set in the event of two files being present on both source and external drive.
The safest route is to specify that only new files copy back or forth, and tell the software to ignore files with the same filename. This negates part of the point of full synchronisation, but bear in mind that the files will be copied when the backup profile runs after all so in the longer run the files will still percolate from one place to another.
If the effects of applying a new rule are not easy to see, the program has a simulation mode that presents a report of what will happen for a chosen backup or sync profile had it been run on the actual files.
This program still has a few rough edges that betray its humble roots as a Windows utility. Setting up a schedule for a backup involves digging into the program’s hooks into the Windows Task Scheduler for instance, a minor hardship that means having to specify a login password if there is one. It doesn’t always look as slick as some of its better-known big-name rivals. Still, we prefer it, command line and all. It isn’t always pretty, but it is grown-up enough to do satisfy most demanding users.
Backup should be one of the simplest tasks to complete in the computing calendar. Programs like SyncbackSE keep appearing because branded software rarely turns out to be as simple as that.
2BrightSparks website http://www.2brightsparks.com/syncback/sbse.html.