GCN Lab Review: BounceBack Ultimate 9.0 provides excellent backup in a friendly interface

Pros: Flawless backup, can boot system from backup drive, works with any external hard drive
Cons: Nothing significant
Performance: A
Ease of use: A+
Features: A+
Value: A
Government price: $253 as tested with software and drive;$99 for just the software

GCN Lab Reviewers Choice small logoBackup software is nothing new, but just because something can back up files doesn’t mean it’s simple to use. However, ease of use is BounceBack Ultimate's best feature.

The program has easy-to-understand windows that let users determine what they want to back up and when they want those backups to occur. It’s easy to have, say, just your Word files moved onto a backup drive or just the contents of certain folders or only specific drives. You can even keep older versions of files handy, in case you need to see look back at the original wording sometime down the road.

And with a click, you can set your backup data to be encrypted at Advanced Encryption Standard 128 or AES-256, something feds might appreciate because protecting backup data is just as important as protecting the original files on a main drive — and just as embarrassing or dangerous if stolen.

However, what caught our eye about BounceBack was its ability to format the backup drive with the same file structure and partitions as your laptop or desktop PC’s hard drive. BounceBack goes a step beyond that, making the backup drive pretty much a copy of your main drive to the point that you can even boot up from it without your computer knowing the difference.

The advantage to that approach became obvious recently when a system in the GCN Lab caught a nasty virus. The system happened to be running BounceBack at the time. (OK, we inserted the virus on purpose for our testing, but you get the idea.) The virus did so much damage to the desktop PC’s hard drive that it had to be removed and restored.

Typically, that situation would require that we take the system off-line because computers don’t generally work well without a hard drive. But because the BounceBack software had been making incremental backups, the external drive still had all the vital information. Sounds pretty standard so far, but with BounceBack, we were able to boot the dead system using the external drive attached to the USB port.

Once the system was up and running, there was almost no difference in performance. A few programs took a little longer to open because they had to stream through the USB 2.0 interface, but that was a small price to pay for having a system that worked without any downtime in a crisis.

There are three ways the formerly dead system could have been healed. First, if the hard drive had no physical errors, you could simply restore the drive from the backup. Second, you could remove the external hard drive from its casing and install it as the primary — and identical — hard drive for the system to use. And finally, you could boot the system from the backup drive via the USB connection, as we did in our testing.

The advantage of the third option is that it works even if there are errors on the main drive — or even if the main drive is removed — and it takes no time at all to set up. Just change your BIOS settings so the computer can boot from the USB port if that is not already an option, and you are good to go.

After booting the system from the USB drive, we restored all the data onto the newly wiped main hard drive and continued using everything as usual, confident that an ironclad backup was in place and protecting us.

The system we tested has a government price of $253 for the software and CMS Products' Velocity2 ABSplus drive. Having tested the company’s drives in the past, we knew they are fast and reliable, so $253 is a good price for a 1.5T unit that spins at 7,200 rpm. However, if you already have a backup drive and want to use that instead, you can do so because the BounceBack software will work with any drive. We tested it with several types, both cheap and expensive, and the software worked fine, though backups generally took less time on the high-performing Velocity2.

If you buy the software by itself, it’s $99, which is inexpensive for an easy-to-use backup system. We would recommend getting the Velocity2 as part of the system, but it’s refreshing to find that anyone who wants to use their existing external drives are not shut out of the protection this excellent software offers.

The BounceBack software earns our Reviewer’s Choice designation because it is innovative and easy to use and fills an important need in the federal market at a good price.

CMS Products, 800-327-5773, www.cmsproducts.com

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