It’s been less than a year since I reviewed Universe Point’s ION backup—and more than a month, I confess, since CEO Jeff Snader asked me to check out the latest version.
ION’s big selling point is monitored backups: if something goes wrong with your backup job, ION will tell you about it. This is a good feature to have; it keeps you from learning the hard way that your backups are no good. Finding out about the error right away lets you fix the problem and re-run the job. And no, ION never sees your data.
Okay: monitoring is a great feature. Most SOHO backup programs don’t provide it. But that’s not what I want to write about here.
What strikes me most about ION—even more in version 2.5 than in the pre-release version I evaluated in 2007—is the user interface. Every screen contains prominent links to additional help, as well as clear instructions for every step in the process of creating and running backup jobs.
And not only was the documentation written in simple English, but the author clearly has a sense of humor. Error messages say “Uh-oh” and “You’re not listening!” Tabs have titles like “Name Time” and “The What.”
Of course, this did rather tempt me to name my test backup “Fred,” but I settled for “test.”
Under “The What” (that is, what to back up), the three options are “Common choices,” “Choose Files,” and “Outlook.” I opted for “Outlook” and found two very important options there: “Close Outlook before backup” and “Restart Outlook after backup.” This is because Outlook “locks” the PST files and it’s not possible to copy them when Outlook is running. (And Outlook has this pesky tendency to keep running even when you think you’ve shut it down, too.)
Checking these boxes not only saves you the trouble of closing Outlook down manually (something you’ll likely forget to do if you have automatic backups scheduled for times when you aren’t using the machine), it makes successful backups a lot more likely.
The first time I tried to run this job, I got the “license expired” warning above, but when I tried it again this morning, it worked with impressive speed. I’d selected my network drive as the destination for the backup, and ION copied 899.58 MB in two minutes and 37 seconds—which seems a lot faster than when I copy the same amount to a USB drive using Replicator. (I’ve never actually clocked that, though, so it might just be my perception.)
The shut-down and restart worked fine, too. I was in the middle of answering a message from Jeff Snader when I decided to test the backup, and Outlook saved my draft just as it would have if I’d shut the program down myself. It was simple and painless.
ION duplicated my file and folder structure when making the backups, which can be annoying to me as a human, given the places Outlook buries its information, but does make it clear where all those files should go when restored. (There’s also an option to store your backups as .zip files, but I presume the file structure is still preserved within that .zip file.)
ION seems like a great tool for the technophobe, while retaining enough features and options to be attractive to the geek. The available online support is tremendous, and the humor demonstrated throughout the website is a nice change from the humdrum tedium of most Windows programs.
I’ll be playing with ION a bit more over the next weeks, and I’ll report later on features like backing up your work data on your home computer (note: do not do this without your employer’s permission).
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