Shadow's interface is attractive and friendly, though I'd rather be able to specify multiple destinations for a backup job instead of defining multiple jobs to accomplish the same thing. Multiple jobs give the program greater flexibility, however. Shadow lacks a true fully integrated restore function, but it does add an Explorer right-click menu option that allows you to restore Shadow backup files to their original location or a new one.
Price: $30; 30-day trial
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IBM Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files
Most users aren't accustomed to configuring programs through their Web browser, as IBM's Tivoli CDP for Files requires. But applications targeting the enterprise market, including Tivoli, often operate through an HTML interface so that users can easily access them across a WAN. I found the latest version of CDP for Files, 188.8.131.52, a pleasant surprise -- a swan has replaced the ugly-duckling interface of last year's version 2.2. Among the CDP programs in this roundup, its interface is the slickest and the easiest to use.
Playing on the big corporate stage, where literally billions of dollars' worth of data is at stake, also tends to weed out weaklings -- CDP for Files has been around for a while. It does exactly what you need done, does it reliably, and stops there. It watches folders and files you specify and copies them to both a local storage destination and an external destination such as a network drive, keeping as many revisions as you want. You can use encryption and compression or stick with plain file copying.
Once configured, CDP for Files sits in the system tray and accomplishes its duties with minimal fuss. I noticed no system slowdown, but the program does offer a right-click option to disable it temporarily if you're doing something disk-intensive. Though IBM's CDP for Files is a bit pricey, it works well, and there's just something about having software with an enterprise bloodline protecting your data that gives you peace of mind.
At first glance Keepsafe may appear to be a CDP program, but it's actually a revision-tracking utility. Unlike true CDP utilities, this application doesn't make an initial baseline backup of the files or folders it's watching, and it doesn't back up files copied to a watched directory. It backs up files only after an application has saved them to the folder. This odd design choice limits Keepsafe's appeal, but it's still a suitable adjunct for more traditional backup methods, and it's perfect for tracking projects.
In keeping with its narrow focus, configuring Keepsafe is document-centric, not folder-centric. When you finish installing the program, the setup wizard presents you with a list of document types to include or exclude. For most users the extensive default list will work fine, but double-check it to make sure -- the .bmp (bitmap) extension that I use for my screen captures wasn't included. Fortunately, you can add many more predefined types with a single click; and when you select additional locations to watch in the subsequent wizard step, you can turn the exclude function off if you simply want to watch everything.