Some time ago, I devised a scheme for backing up my critical data that was both simplistic and inefficient. Every other morning at 4:00am I would create an image of my hard drive using DriveImageXML and then copy it to my NAS using the Windows Task Scheduler. This worked great for a while. However, as my hard drive contents grew it began to take too long to do these backups. Moving into an apartment that required me to use a wireless network was the final nail in the coffin and I finally discontinued this practice.
Since then, I have tried several different free backup solutions. None of them worked quite how I liked, for various reasons. Additionally, many of the ones that promised “set it and forget it” features rarely worked as advertised. In fact, after a month of using AceBackup I discovered my automated backups weren’t working for some reason. When a backup application has failed once, it’s hard to trust it again with such a critical task. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Jungle Disk but was reluctant to start paying monthly fees for a backup service that I ought to be able to handle myself.
Then, I stumbled upon the open source utility Areca Backup while looking for an acceptable backup solution for my work machine. Had I noticed at first that it was written in Java, I probably wouldn’t have tried it. However, I went ahead and installed it and I must say that this is the best backup utility that I have come across, at least for my needs.
Getting e-mails after backups is also a nice feature. Custom e-mail notifications can be set up for each backup. I setup mine to tell me in the subject of the e-mail if the backup was successful (1) or not (0). That way, I can filter successful backups that I don’t need to see to a reports folder while still getting the message when a backup fails.
The user interface of Areca Backup is surprisingly intuitive. I was able to create a compressed, encrypted, network-based backup with little trouble at all. There are several storage modes and backup types and backups are very fast. The coolest part about this software is the logical view screen. It allows the user to peek into their backups at files and restore any version of a file that they please. To recover, simply right click and select Recover… and then point to the folder where you want the recovered file(s) placed. Another incredibly useful feature is the ability to search within your archives for files.
The only part of this backup utility that seems half-baked to me is the scheduled backups feature. Areca does not run as a service (which can be good and bad) so it is up to the user to create a Windows Scheduled Task to automate archiving. Fortunately, the Areca has a feature that will automatically create the batch file with backup commands so that the user is only required to point their scheduled task to execute a file instead of manually entering the command line parameters. I can live with that.
Overall, this seems like a great open source project and I am impressed with how the software has worked so far. My plan is to start using this at home for backups both to my NAS and an offsite FTP/SSH server. Check it out.