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CMS BounceBack Ultimate Seascale

If you're not ready for cloud based backup, this solution from CMS will have great appeal for those wanting to get users up and running quickly after a disaster. Read on the following article to learn more about the software available in Seascale.

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CMS BounceBack Ultimate

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For all the undeniable appeal of cloud storage and, lately, cloud backup, it's hard to argue with those who contend that local, hard disk-based backup is the most reliable and secure. And, even if it weren't these two things, it would still be the fastest.

BounceBack Ultimate is utterly simple. Install the software and you're instantly prompted to create a full system backup. You don't need to decide which files you'd keep in the event of a catastrophe, and you're not cautioned to leave your PC alone while the image is created, although you’ll be prompted to duck out of Microsoft Outlook if it’s running.

Once BounceBack has made its first backup — creating a 24GB backup took slightly over 47 minutes — the true strength of the program becomes clear. Applications such as Norton Ghost or Acronis True Image might enable you to create rescue media, with which you can re-format your hard disk and restore it to its time of last backup, but BounceBack works differently. It doesn't create a disk image when it's backing up, instead simply plonking them onto your chosen backup hard disk. This sounds simple, but it has its strengths.

Firstly, you can browse your backed up files on any PC, whether or not it has BounceBack installed. Secondly, when you create a full system backup on an external disk, such as a USB drive, you can boot straight into your system from the disk, which gives you access to all your files and applications while you wait to either replace your failed hard disk, or to restore the data to it.

It also makes whichever external backup device you use bootable. If you create a full system backup, you'll be prompted to re-partition and format a USB hard disk, which you're then supposed to keep handy at all times. If your PC goes down, the theory is that you can boot from your USB device straight into your operating system as it was when you last backed up. The ability to load an operating system on a PC without a functioning internal hard disk is troubleshooting nirvana. Alternatively, you can opt to only backup certain files and folders.

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This approach has its drawbacks, though. The first is that the backups created by BounceBack are unwieldy and consist of thousands of files. This means moving them from disk to disk is very painful. It also means that if you move your backed-up files from one disk to another disk that isn't bootable, you lose BounceBack's chief benefit. Nor is there any compression — if the total sum of your files is 300GB, your backup will be as well.

But it’s not a straightforward copy job, either – the Ultimate version of BounceBack, reviewed here, includes 256-bit AES encryption, and to restore these encrypted files the user must have Bounceback Ultimate running on the PC.

For fully encrypted backups for sensitive data, users have to purchase CMS’s fully encrypted hard disks – its ABSplus drives, which come complete with BounceBack Professional. CMS company says that it will work directly with companies that choose to go down this route, and that it’s not available through the channel.

The management software is simple. Once it’s installed and you’ve made your first backup, you can set a schedule for incremental backups, from as regularly as once per day to as infrequently as once per month. Alternatively, there’s the CDP mode. This stands for Continuous Data Protection, and it works as a kind of on-the-fly backup. This can be run as infrequently as once every hour or, for the truly worried, once per minute.

In use this has the potential to create a performance bottleneck on a user’s PC, but BounceBack’s incremental backups use hardware throttling to keep a system usable while data is added to your backup. There’s no user control for this throttling as there is in Acronis True Image, though. We rarely noticed a slowdown while BounceBack was working on our test machine, though. The only time we reached for the pause button was when it started backing up the Windows registry – an intensive process that made other applications run very slowly indeed.

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It’s all straightforward: we were up and running with a fully-working, bootable backup in under two hours, including the time taken to create the first backup. But there are a few drawbacks. The first is the design of the software, which looks like an edutainment application with its massive buttons and clumsy graphics.

We reviewed the end-user application, and for a per seat licence cost of £50 excluding VAT you don’t get anything in the way of corporate controls. If you want to monitor your user’s backups you need to buy CMS’ advanced IT Console program, which creates an SQL database to keep track of users’ database statistics. For those with less advanced needs, you can at least set BounceBack to backup over a network.

The second problem is the cost per seat. BounceBack Ultimate is more expensive than its competitors – Norton Ghost costs £45 and the excellent Acronis True Image 2009 costs £34. BounceBack Ultimate is potentially more useful if you want minimum downtime: a constantly-updated, reliable USB drive that will load straight into Windows could be invaluable.

There’s still plenty to be said for image-based backups, though. They’re easier to move around (moving one large file is faster than moving many small ones) and can be compressed to take up less space. And, applications such as Acronis allow you to create recovery CDs that will reload a disc image, although unlike BounceBack Ultimate, you can’t run them live. It all comes down to the ability to boot straight into your backup – if this sounds like heaven, BounceBack is a great choice.

Author: Dave Stevenson

CMS BounceBack Ultimate review