Reading about data backup might be as interesting as watching paint dry, but actually doing backup is as much fun as listening to that paint as it dries. People also put off backup tasks because they take time and need the occasional poking with a software stick. The Dantz answer is to make preparing backups as quick and painless as possible, and to streamline the actual backup process so it runs without intervention – even unattended.
Retrospect Backup 5.1 is a minor upgrade to the Mac platform’s best-selling backup utility software. It lets users indicate multiple sources and multiple locations per source per backup, and arrange as many different concurrent backup sets as you wish. Backups can be complete – even a direct volume-to-volume copy – or progressive with date synching. Best of all, the utility supports network and even Internet-based client computers, so you can conduct Retrospect routines on a Mac that backup data from a variety of connected devices, including Windows and Red Hat Linux machines.
The product is sold in three packages: Desktop (for backing up your Mac and two other connected client computers), Workgroup (20 clients) and Server (100 clients). However, the core Retrospect Backup program itself is the same, letting you add extra clients as they’re needed.
New in version 5.1 is extended support for more CD and recordable-DVD drives. Also new is the installation CD which doubles as a Mac OS X boot and restore disc, saving you the not inconsiderable trouble of writing your own. Unfortunately for Mac OS 9 users, there’s no Classic boot mode on the CD, but virtually all G3 Macs should be able to start up in Mac OS X from that CD in order to run the restore sequence. Our tests confirm that Retrospect restores are reliable and thankfully uncomplicated to conduct. The program does what it you expect of it, and does it extremely well.
The only problem is that the old Retrospect interface needs a makeover if it wants to look friendly on-screen to beginners and backup-phobes. Setting up new backup routines or configuring existing ones tends to spill out into lots of small windows, and it’s easy to forget where you are or how you got there. It isn’t possible to browse a Mac and network clients using the standard Mac OS X File Open dialogs – users are forced to dance back and forth between multiple windows by clicking on mysterious ‘Subvolume’ and ‘Define’ buttons.
Retrospect Backup deserves its high reputation for effectiveness and reliability. While this upgrade is only a minor improvement on version 5.0, it’s valuable just the same and a no-brainer purchase for anyone serious about not losing their data. Beginners will need to struggle past Retrospect’s strange interface, but once you’re there, Retrospect is easy enough to use.