As some readers of this blog might have known about 2 weeks ago, I suffered from a critical hardware component failure on my primary development machine. Initially unsure of the exact issue I was seeing the hard drive as a potential failure point. It was at that point that I realized exactly how horrible it would be if the drive failed. Don't get me wrong, I have backups both locally, in my source control system remotely, as well as in the cloud using Jungle Disk. But the total time to recovery would be massive. I have a list of around 100 or so applications that would need to be installed to get me back to "full" working state. Not an easy task! Luckily for me, it was some bad RAM and the system was restored after my new RAM came in.
However, this was a very enlightening experience for me and prompted me to re-visit the concept of disk imaging. This is what prompted the review of Acronis Backup and Recovery, as it is my selected and implemented solution for the long term.
Overview of Needs
Before I get into the specifics on my thoughts about Acronis I wanted to share the specific requirements that I was looking for when selecting a product. First and foremost I needed a solution that would be automatic, something that can be scheduled and takes little maintenance to handle. Then I needed something that could quickly restore, this was the tricky part as I really want to be able to restore not only to my same hardware, in the case of a need to roll back, but also to different hardware or a Virtual Machine in the case of a complete disaster. The final requirement is that the whole process must be fast and easy to use.
Experience with Acronis
After spending a lot of time reviewing products and soliciting input from individuals on twitter and other sources. Acronis was the only real recommendation that met all of my needs. Norton Ghost was the next closest, but didn't quite seem to be what I needed.
The installation process was seamless. My desktop running Vista 64 bit was up and running in less than 3 minutes. The only hiccup that I experienced with regards to installation was that for one reason or another, the full product does NOT install on Windows Vista Home Premium, which is what was installed on my other machine at the time.
Configuration of Backup Job
Once the application was installed I was presented with a very user friendly system for management of backup tasks. They use a very effective UI that expands and collapses sections to keep your focus on the task at hand with helpful information every step of the way. To start I did a proof of concept full backup, this was completed in a little over a hour, for a total of 164gb of data. The backup was of both volumes on my hard drive and full windows installation.
Once this was completed I setup a regular backup schedule with full and differential backups to keep everything up-to-date. The differential backups are very quick!
For me the critical component was the successful restore. Therefore, when I had a full backup I really wanted to test out the system, by restoring to a Virtual Machine. For this test I first created the bootable media iso, then mounted the ISO to my new VM. For the VM I used a setup with 1 2.3 Ghz processor, 3gb of ram, and 250Gb for the virtual hard drive.
I stumbled a little bit with the volume mapping and configuration of the restore, but after following the prompts and reading the help display I managed to get the restore to start in under 5 minutes. The process then started, and the full restore was complete in 2 hours and 15 minutes. The computer re-booted and it fully booted, all systems working and even working device drivers for my VM. A very successful test!
Overall I have to say I am very impressed with this product. I have just started to scratch the surface with the functionality including centralized management and more but I can already say that this product is great for what I am looking for and I think it is a great item for anyone looking for a true, full image backup.
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