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TECHNOLOGY

PRODUCT WATCH

Simple, Affordable Backup for PCs

We all know we should back up our computers regularly. Unfortunately, it seems that many backup products are either too simplistic or overly complicated for the average user to configure. Seeking to make a niche for itself in this market is Rebit’s line of SaveMe products.

The idea behind the SaveMe line of backup software and external hard drives is that you should be able to plug Rebit into your computer and have it transparently provide automatic backup of all files—including your operating system, programs and data—without any user intervention after installation. Overall, I believe that Rebit generally achieves these goals, although there is room for improvement in some various aspects of how the software works. Here’s what I found in my test-drive.

Interesting Features in Three Options

First, SaveMe software comes in three versions. There’s SaveMe Express ($29.95 for a single standalone computer); the standard version of SaveMe ($49.99 for up to six standalone PCs connected to one external hard drive); and SaveMe NetSmart ($39.95, $99.95 or $189.95 for one, three or six networked computers connected to one Network Attached Storage, or NAS, device). You can buy the SaveMe software by itself or preinstalled on various-size external hard drives available from Rebit. Depending on which way you want to go, installation is as simple as either inserting the CD-ROM, plugging in your own external hard drive and running the installation file or plugging in the SaveMe external drive with the installation done automatically.

SaveMe has a number of interesting features that make it easy to restore individual files or folders and previous versions of files backed up by the software, as well as the contents of an entire hard drive. Once you install SaveMe Express software and plug in your external hard drive, it deletes everything on that drive and that drive then becomes a dedicated backup drive to be used for the sole purpose of backups. With the multi-PC-capable SaveMe version, you can also use the drive to store other files using the SmartSave feature, which automatically adjusts the amount of spaced used for your backup files in tandem with other, non-SaveMe files that you add or delete.

After installation, SaveMe makes an initial total backup of everything on your PC hard drive, which can take several hours. (But remember, you’ll need to use SaveMe NetSmart to back up data on network drives.) This initial backup allows you to perform a “bare-metal restore”—including your operating system and all programs and data—to a new hard drive in the event of a total hard drive failure. This is much easier and a lot less time-consuming than reinstalling your operating system and all your programs and updates, not to mention finding all of your license keys.

After the initial backup, SaveMe runs continuously in the background, saving only the changes you make to your files. But SaveMe also keeps the prior version of the file, so if you save changes to a word processing file without renaming it, for example, you can revert to the earlier file even if you delete that version from your computer. SaveMe integrates with Windows Explorer to provide drag-and-drop restoration of changed or deleted files as well as browsing for files. And for bare-metal restore purposes, it creates restore points of your drive at specific dates and times so you can restore your system back to any one of them. SaveMe also incorporates a self-management feature that continues to save files until it starts running out of room, at which point it will automatically begin deleting the oldest versions of the files without user intervention. Plus, unique among the products that I’ve tested,

SaveMe NetSmart allows you to back up using a wireless network (although bare-metal restores still require a physical connection). All in all, there’s a lot to like about the Rebit SaveMe line of backup software. However, it’s not perfect and there are some issues that could affect whether this product meets your needs.

Some Drawbacks

SaveMe works on Windows computers only and requires Windows XP or newer. So if you’re still using Windows 95, 2000 or ME, you need to look elsewhere. Also, your hard drive needs to use the NTFS file format for full SaveMe functionality, which means if you don’t have NTFS, you’ll need to convert to it (Microsoft has a free utility to do this) or, again, find a different backup solution. Your computer must also have the Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy service installed because SaveMe relies on this for its backup. If for some reason the service isn’t installed on your computer, you may need to do a full reinstallation of your operating system. While you can get external drives that have backup capabilities that will run directly from the hard drive without installing anything on your computer, SaveMe isn’t one of them.

Finally, of most concern to me is that, unlike other backup software that allows you to rotate backup drives so you can keep one off-site at all times or at least have a duplicate, with both the SaveMe Express and standard SaveMe versions you’re limited to a single external drive. This has the potential for exposing you to hardware failure of that one external drive. While the chances of your PC hard drive and the SaveMe external drive failing simultaneously are small, it’s not impossible. A smart user, therefore, would want to use SaveMe in conjunction with online backup.

Overall, though, there’s much more to like about Rebit’s SaveMe software than to dislike, and I believe Rebit should be a serious contender if you’re considering ways of backing up individual computers at home or in small offices. For offices that don’t have a server or centralized storage systems (or even in those that do), the multi-computer version of SaveMe is an incredibly affordable solution to perform bare-metal restores of computers.

Scorecard With a maximum possible score of 20, here is how I rate it:

Ease of Use: 4
Quality of Materials: 5
Feature Set: 3
Value for Cost : 4
Total Score: 16

About the Author

Nerino J. Petro, Jr. , is a legal technologist and the Practice Management Advisor for the State Bar of Wisconsin. He blogs on technology and practice management at www.compujurist.com.

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