Paragon Software’s disk management tools routinely outclass the competition and run away with our Editor’s Choice—for example Paragon Hard Disk Manager Suite 2011. I expected Paragon Backup & Recovery 12 to perform equally well, but I wasn’t nearly as impressed by it as I am by Paragon’s disk tools. Paragon Backup & Recovery 12 Home ($39.95, direct) gets basic backup jobs done, and offers a far cleaner interface than its more-powerful rival Acronis Backup & Recovery, but its interface prevents non-experts from using some essential features. Worse, in my tests under Windows 7 64-bit, Paragon’s app was the only backup program that crashed in the middle of routine operations. It didn’t crash predictably, but it crashed more than once—and even one crash is one too many for a backup program.
When Paragon Backup & Recovery starts up, it offers a simple menu with “Smart Backup” and “Restore” as the most prominent options. Smaller icons lead to other tools, including Paragon’s reliable tools for copying drives and partitions and extracting multiple files from disks or backups for storage elsewhere. An unobtrusive link at the foot of the screen opens Paragon’s advanced interface, which lets expert users access the enormous range of features that Paragon builds into its products. I’ll get back to the advanced interface later, after surveying the app’s consumer-level features.
The Smart Backup option on the main menu leads to a wizard that lets you choose among a full range of backup types, from backups of full disks and partitions through backups of Outlook or Windows Mail messages, media files, documents, or any arbitrary set of files and folders. Clear menus let you specify whether to perform the backup once or on a recurring schedule, whether to password-protect a backup, and an option to create a script file in Paragon’s proprietary scripting language that can be saved and reused—but only from the Windows command line or via the optional advanced interface.
The consumer-level interface lets you create backup jobs that can run on a schedule, but it gives the non-expert user no way to save a backup job that can be run once but also reused later. This is an essential consumer-level feature that backup apps from Acronis, NTI, and Genius all provide, but which Paragon makes available only to experts.
When I tested the app’s ability to save an 800 MB folder to a USB3 drive, it took a whopping five minutes to do the job, compared to Acronis’s 84 seconds. Worse, it twice crashed with an error message without completing the operation, though in each case it performed successfully when I ran the backup a second time. This simply shouldn’t happen with software that’s designed to safeguard your data.
Other tools available on the consumer-level interface include a feature that builds bootable recovery media on either optical or USB flash disks. The disk-building interface is blissfully simple, and the resulting recovery media is the essentially the same easy-to-use, powerful recovery disk created by Paragon’s hard disk management apps. It’s the one recovery disk that I’ve always got available, and it’s never failed me yet.
Another tool on the consumer-level interface creates and manages “Backup Capsules,” which are optionally-bootable secure partitions like the “Acronis Secure Zone” that is one of rival Acronis’s features. I didn’t test this feature for two reasons. First, I think it’s a mistake to save your data on the same physical hard disk with the data itself, because any damage to the hard disk is likely to wipe out the backup. Second, I know from hard experience that it’s potentially dangerous to alter your disk structure with a proprietary bootloading code that only one vendor’s applications can manage or understand. Fortunately, as with Acronis’s Secure Zone, you don’t need to use Paragon’s Backup Capsules.
To return to the app itself, the optional advanced interface offers a genuinely dazzling range of features, entirely unlike the deliberately-hobbled consumer-level interface of the main menu. You get Paragon’s spacious, detail-rich display of disk information and lucid wizards for building backup jobs and disk management tasks. The advanced features include the ability to combine two or more existing backup archives, each from a different partition or folder, into a single archive. You can also create and reuse the full range of simple, differential, or incremental backups that are standard in all advanced backup programs. Unfortunately, I experienced the same program crash when I ran a folder backup from the advanced interface that I did when I ran it from the consumer-level interface.
Paragon Backup & Recovery 12 Home, like Acronis Backup and Recovery, is an enormously powerful program with a less-than-ideal interface. Paragon’s consumer-level interface is too limited. Acronis’ interface is more complex than I’d like it to be but at least it makes all major features relatively easy to find and manage. Acronis also has a major advantage in its greater reliability—at least in my testing—and also in its optional online storage feature. Acronis edges out Paragon for Editors’ Choice in local backup software.
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|OS Compatibility||Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7|
|Type||Business, Personal, Professional|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc