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Backing up mobile users' computers is sometimes perceived as more trouble than it's worth; however, the cost that lost data incurs presents a strong case for regular backups, at least on some of the systems you manage. The software in this Buyer's Guide manages backup and recovery for desktop and remote computers. Although keeping users' data safe from viruses, corruption, hardware failures, natural disaster, and theft is common among all the programs, the methods vendors use to achieve this protection vary.

The products submitted by VERITAS Software, UltraBac Software, BridgeHead Software, and Dantz Development provide a typical centralized backup implementation that usually backs up servers and workstations to one or more centralized backup servers. An administrator usually drives backup and restore events centrally, but some products include a client component that lets users initiate their own backup and restore operations. If you're considering such a product, look at those that support a wide variety of clients and storage devices. Because numerous clients share centralized media, an intuitive, effective media-management function in the software is mandatory. You also want to verify that the solution is scalable to support a growing client base.

The Altiris Client Recovery Solution and Symantec Ghost Corporate Edition use snapshot (aka imaging) technology. Ensure that such solutions conform to your backup methodology by automating unattended full, incremental, and differential backups. Also investigate whether the imaging operations require a reboot, which might interrupt users' systems.

Back Again II Workstation from Computer Data Strategies and NovaBACKUP Workstation from NovaStor back up from a user's system to a locally attached storage device or network drive. Backup device support and enhanced automation functionality distinguish such products from one another and from native Windows backup tools . With proper hardware, some of these products can back up with spanning to CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, and other removable storage devices.

Another backup method gaining popularity with remote and mobile users is online backup. NovaStor's NovaNet-WEB and Connected's Connected TLM are online backup solutions that provide 24-hour offsite encrypted storage for backup data. In addition to verifying security and reliability, evaluate these services' UIs to make sure that your users can back up data on the road, and, when necessary, can restore data without your help.

Regardless of the product you choose, scalability, performance, security, and compatibility are key factors you need to analyze. As part of your scalability evaluation, consider the value of integrated deployment functionality within the backup application. Evaluate specific functionality such as open file handling, disaster recovery, data compression, include/exclude filters, job logging, scheduling, and virus scanning against your current and anticipated requirements. If you use a Help desk, look for products that feature Help desk operator—assisted restores and let Help desk operators authorize users to perform their own operations. Most organizations will benefit from selecting a product that provides both a balance of rich automation and remote administration capabilities for administrator-driven tasks and an easy-to-use interface for end users.