“I believe the problem was that the program is too advanced for you; this kind of review is something I expect from someone of your caliber. We received an outstanding review from PC World; they are the type of people that actually know how to use a computer.”
I don’t really blame him for being snippy. No one likes reading a negative review. I don’t particularly like writing them. It’s not as if I go out of my way to have bad experiences with products, services, or books.
This had the Ur-Guru rolling in the aisles; he’d tried FAM some years back and experienced problems with it himself, and he’s the kind of person who considers PC World a publication for amateurs. To be fair to VW Solutions, however, the Ur-Guru had the same kinds of problems with all products of that nature. Open file support is tricky.
Anyway, I pointed out to the affronted tech support employee that most magazines run their tests on clean systems, whereas mine was not, so the potential for driver conflicts was high, and that was probably the cause of my troubles. When I got a much more polite letter from VisionWorks co-founder and CTO Brian Bondy, he suggested much the same thing:
“It sounds like you have several backup software products installed, and I think this may be where the problem lies. FAM is a low level driver; the only other time that I’ve seen such a disastrous install, was when the user had another open file manager installed on their computer. If you are using FAM as your open file solution, you must make sure that all other open file software are uninstalled.”
I think Mozy may actually be the culprit; when I looked over the settings the other day prior to recording a One-Minute How To (I’m on episode 142) on how to use the program, I noticed that it has support for open file backup. I’d forgotten all about that, assuming I ever noticed it in the first place. I don’t back tricky (and private) things like Outlook and Quicken up on Mozy anyway, and copying open Word docs is rarely much of an issue.
In any case, what I decided to do was reinstall Vision Backup and see how it worked without FAM.
The answer is: pretty well. I tried making a backup to my Maxtor Shared Storage II, a backup to my second internal drive, a backup to FTP, and a backup to CD. You can set all of these up through a straightforward wizard.
The only serious problem was with the Maxtor Shared Storage II. For some reason, Vision Backup just does not like this drive. Even when I’ve signed in and am connected to the drive, I get error messages reading “Warning, could not connect to mapped drive (Z): The network name cannot be found.” I’m not sure what the issue is there. Given that the Z drive is where I have the most storage, it’s an obvious destination for backup copies, particularly now that the X drive is starting to show signs of wonkiness.
Vision Backup has no problem connecting to the public section of the Shared Storage II drive, however: it just completed a swift and tidy backup of a 223 MB client folder. So it must be something about the machine-specific partitions which is the problem, but I don’t have the technical knowledge to know what.
I wouldn’t think the problem was password-protected access, however, because the backup to my FTP server, which requires a login ID and password, worked just fine. I won’t describe it as “swift,” but that’s not really a function of Vision Backup as much as it is of the upstream speed of my so-called broadband connection. The speed of the upload varied wildly between about 25 kbps and about 400 kbps, for no reason I could see.
Backup to my second internal drive also worked just fine. Curiously, even when backing up to other locations, I continue to get the error message about Drive Z. Restoring the backup on the D drive also went without trouble. (You can choose whether to restore files to their original location or to another one.) The only thing which seemed odd to me was having Outlook backed up as a DAT rather than a PST file.
The first two attempts at backing up onto a CD resulted in the program crashing. When I switched my selection from “straight file copy” to “full backup,” the backup ran smoothly. I’m not sure why, or whether, the choice of backup type should have caused such a problem. Unless I’m actually making a drive image, I prefer straight file copies to special formats like .pfa. However, only the .pfa files can be restored through Vision Backup, rather than simply copied back onto the source drive.
A full backup, on the other hand, backs up all the files and sets the archive bit to “off.” Archive bits are used to tell incremental and differential backups whether or not to copy a given file. It seems to me that I read something about archive bits recently, but I can’t find the article now and can’t remember anything except that the author was arguing that they should really be called “backup bits.” In any case, I somehow doubt that they’re a matter of burning interest to most of my readers.
My conclusion is that Vision Backup is a decent product of its kind, though I’m not likely to use it to replace my existing system. I’m not in a position to test its enterprise features, because I’m not an enterprise. But it’s generally easy to use, the scheduling feature works, it includes a wide range of options, and it seems to work with all media except mapped network drives.
I stand by my recommendation to use open file support (of any kind) with caution. But then, I’m someone who insists on using the DOS version of Norton Ghost.