At some point in time, everybody who has ever used a computer has needed to back something up. It's just one of those facts of life. Windows will crash, a hard drive will die at the most inopportune time possible, or a helpful Outlook security hole will cause every document on your drive to vanish. The term "backup" refers to one of two things. It can mean storing an image of the physical layout of a drive, or it can mean storing a single file for safekeeping. WinBackup from LIUtilities is a tool for the latter form of backup; it backs up files as opposed to backing up the actual physical layout of the drive.
Most versions of Windows include a backup utility that is very similar to WinBackup. In fact, the two are almost identical in terms of features and interface. WinBackup does offer a few distinct advantages, though. The feature that seems to be most appealing is the ability to burn backups directly to CD. However, it's not the most important feature; that honor goes to the abilities to compress and encrypt any backup job on the fly, which is not present in Microsoft's backup utility.
WinBackup works exactly like any other backup utility-you create a job, select files, and enter scheduling options if needed. No surprises here. So, I decided to test how well the compression worked in comparison to good old fashioned ZIP compression with WinZip using the default settings.
The benchmarks were conducted using the following configuration:
1.4GHz Athlon Thunderbird
MSI 6380LE Motherboard (KT266 chipset)
512MB PC2100 DDR Memory
80GB Western Digital HDD
Windows XP Professional
Lite-On LTR16102B CD/RW (16x10x40)
The first test was a backup of 672 files, totaling 172MB when uncompressed. These were mainly Word documents, but they also included videos, applications, and even other compressed archives.
WinBackup Test 1
Time To Compress
Time To Restore
As you can see, WinZip won handily in both the archive size and compression time but lost by a hair in the restoration time.
For the second test, I created a directory filled with ultra-compressible Word documents. To accomplish this, I created a single document, filled it with 524,288 As, and then made 511 copies of it. The entire directory was 525MB before compression, but this should compress to less than one percent of that. Let's find out.
WinBackup Test 2
Time To Compress
Time To Restore
Again, the restoration time was amazingly close. However, WinZip had half the compression time of WinBackup and was 0.5 MB larger.
For the final test, I performed the opposite of the second test. I archived five CDs worth of Ogg Vorbis files, which totaled 407 MB. Because Oggs, or MP3s or compressed formats of any type, are already compressed, it's meaningless to compress them further in any significant way. I ran this test to determine if WinBackup would choke and try to compress the files to no avail.
WinBackup Test 3
Time To Compress
Time To Restore
WinBackup takes the lead in the compression time category by over 25 percent in the third test. It loses by 2 MB in the archive size category, but given the size of the archive, the difference is negligible (0.5%). This seems to be WinBackup's true calling; it is far more successful at simply creating an archive than it is at compressing the archive.
WinBackup really only offers one other main advantage over Microsoft's Backup, and that is the ability to burn backups automatically to CD-R/RW or DVD-R/RW.
Let's cover the process of creating a backup using WinBackup. You might notice that the backup settings are sparse and no options for burn speed or CD format exist. With a limited number of backup settings, I had a feeling that WinBackup wasn't going to work at all.
I found an ancient CompUSA CD-RW, which supports a maximum write speed of 4X, and loaded it in the drive. Since my drive can burn at 10X, I thought WinBackup wouldn't burn anything or maybe even cause Windows to crash. So I repeated the backup process from my first test and quickly left the room, afraid to see what would happen. I returned five minutes later, and...
One problem I uncovered was that WinBackup appeared to burn somewhere between 2X and 4X. To be sure, I ran test three again and verified that it was definitely somewhere between those two speeds. I don't know if it was due to the media, but I doubt it. I think it's more along the lines of a quick fix to get CD burning supported as simply as possible (setting a speed that cannot be changed). This bothers me and I hope it will be changed in a future version. However, the software does have a very nice feature (and also one that doesn't seem to be mentioned anywhere in the documentation); it creates an extremely limited version of WinBackup on any optical media that you create with it which allows you to restore the backup on any computer. It's a very nice touch, but I would have preferred the ability to set the burn speed manually.
I had difficulty deciding what to think about WinBackup. At first, it bothered me that I couldn't back up my entire drive and restore it from a boot disk. The more I used it, however, the more I got used to the thought of backing up individual files. I eventually realized that WinBackup is a program designed for a specific purpose, and while I didn't necessarily have a use for it, I could see situations where others would.
So do you really need WinBackup? Good question. For the average user who backs files up only when he reformats his drive - probably not. For your everyday business user who backs files up nightly, that's a better question. This seems to be WinBackup's target audience, and it would definitely work well in this environment. However, this is only really money well spent if hundreds of megabytes worth of files are backed up regularly or files are backed up to CD-RW; Microsoft's backup has identical scheduling features to WinBackup.
However, there's one setting we haven't mentioned that I believe would be ideal for WinBackup, and that is for smaller servers - especially web servers. Given how inexpensive CD-RW drives have become, it's trivial to put two CD-RW drives in a server. Even three or more wouldn't be that difficult, although a larger case with an IDE controller card would be required. Still, even if only two drives are used, 1.4 gigabytes of data can be backed up every night onto relatively secure optical media (as opposed to RAID or simply a second hard drive). If you run a smallish server at your company or out of your house and use Windows, this program is for you. It's only $40, so for $120 (two CD-RWs and a copy of WinBackup), you can essentially have the equivalent of a tape drive for much less. In this environment, it shines; however, for the average home and office users, WinBackup fills a void that isn't necessarily there.