All of the tools in the Parallels Toolbox are well designed and work well despite it being very clear there are hardly any configuration options available throughout the entire suite.
Backup & Recovery (Community Edition)
Backup & Recovery (Community Edition) is the latest free backup application from Paragon, a company with a solid reputation for producing PC utility software including the excellent Hard Disk Manager suite (Which I can, by the way, definitely recommend).
Focused on providing a basic yet functional backup solution, Backup & Recovery allows both file and system image backups to be taken whilst providing more advanced features including scheduling, encryption and compression to boot.
- A solid and reliable free backup solution
- Supports file and full system image backups
- Support for backing up to VHDs (virtual hard drive files)
- Network drive support
- Impressive encryption and compression support
- Backup scheduling and event based backups supported
- Supports multiple backup sets
- Full, incremental and differential modes supported
- Potentially unlimited backup versioning
- Notifications are disabled in this free version
- Limited cloud support
Getting Backup and Recover installed for the first time was quick and easy, simply download from the Paragon website and after a few clicks everything will be ready to go!
Once installed we are greeted by a nice looking home screen from which all of the main functionality of the program can be accessed. One of the first things I notice is on the left side is the option to create multiple backup sets, something often missing from free backup solutions and a very welcome addition in my book!
Creating our first backup set is easy to do with all settings easily available from the right side of the screen, an initial backup set is automatically created on the left for us but we can create more as and when needed!
First we must select what we wish to backup, this can be an image of the entire system, a selected disk or selected files and folders.
After selecting files for backup the next task is selecting the storage location for our backup, this can be on a local disk, an external disk or a network / shared drive.
It is important at this point to note that Paragon does have some limited could support, this involves mounting cloud storage to the operating system as a network drive via WebDAV (Paragon have support articles on their website detailing this procedure). Whilst this does (technically) mean the software supports cloud storage I feel this is an area it could do better in by making the process of linking storage such as Dropbox and Google Drive much easier!
Once the backup storage has ben configured we can then configure the backup options, this can conveniently be done on the home screen again with the necessary controls appearing under the current backup:
Firstly a schedule can be set for our backup, this is fairly simple to do using the scheduling tool and even includes advanced options such as setting backups to run at start-up should a scheduled backup ever be missed or on specific events such as the user logging in. The scheduling system itself, however, is fairly limited and by offering only daily, weekly and monthly options is fairly limited to those seeking frequent or continuous backups.
After setting a schedule we can then specify the backup strategy, this involves selecting the method used to backup our data e.g. using full backups or incremental backups.
A lot of free backup software is fairly limited in this regard so it is great to see we not only have the option to perform full backups but also extent them by additionally taking incremental or differential backups along the way. When using, for example incremental backups we can also specify how long the backup chain is to be (the number pf incremental backups between full backups) and also the retention period meaning potentially unlimited file versions should we need this!
Finally, and somewhat disappointingly we come to the notification settings for our new backup and see they are, in fact, disabled! Paragon have chosen to make any kind of notification only available in the full version of the software or when using this as part of the Hard Disk Manager suite.
As stated this is a little disappointing to see as I feel this could potentially leave users unaware of the fact they might have issues with their backup, hopefully Paragon will see this review at some point and offer at least some notification options on the free version!
As with backing up performing a restore with Paragon Backup & Recovery is a fairly straight forward process, again we can initiate this process from the main home screen of the software.
Once we click the “Restore” button we will go straight to a screen where we select the version to recover from (the date we want our data from) as well as the password prompt assuming we have set a password.
Once past this initial screen we will be asked how we want to recover the files. We have the option to basically overwrite all files in the original location of the files with the recovered files or alternatively only restore any missing files.
Personally, whilst this might work for many, I feel it would be nice to have a third option whereby files can be restored to a location of the users choice. But this is free software at the end of the day and it does what is asked of it just fine!
Once of the things Paragon have done really well for years is their disk / partition management and cloning tools. The full suite of which has been around for many years under the “Hard Disk Manager” branding and is something I have used myself for many years when needing to clone a hard drive or migrate to an SSD and so on.
As suc some of these tool seem to have made their way into the free Backup and Recovery edition namely the disk and volume viewing tool and the recovery media creating tool.
It is always nice to see these tools available for free and means once a full system image has been taken the recovery tool could be used to restore a PC to a working state using the recovery media if needed and all for free, excellent!
It is nice to see Paragon taking security seriously and offering a good set of file encryption options on the free version of Backup & Recovery. In addition to setting a password for our backups we can (optionally) select the method of encryption used making our data more secure or alternatively quicker to process and backup.
Paragon offer ticketing support via their website as well as an excellent knowledge base detailing how all features of the software work. There is also a support forum meaning you should always have plenty of help available whilst using this software.
Paragon Backup & Recovery Community Edition is 100% free for non-commercial use.
There is a lot to like with the free version of Backup & Recovery, as I have previously mentioned I have been a customer of Paragon for many years and they do offer a solid choice for those wanting a no-frills way of getting a backup safely done.
This latest version of their free Backup & Recovery tool really does perform well offering a good selection options including incremental backups and unlimited file versioning in addition to various advanced options such as good encryption support. Whilst there is a lot to like here I still think there should be at least basic notification settings enabled as well as some more scheduling options (such as the option to do at least hourly backups). This is by no means a deal breaker but something which I hope Paragon take note of and use to make this (already great) program even better!
Of course, I understand this is just the free version of a premium product and with these small issues aside it really is a solid backup application in its own right! All-in-all one of the best free backup solutions available today, well done Paragon!