Probably the best known of all the system and file backup software tools, Acronis True Image 2014 Premium is now also called Acronis PC Backup & Recovery. For consistency, though, we'll use the more recognisable name. It seems odd to sideline a brand name you've worked hard to establish, but look at Snickers. See also best backup software.
This is a comprehensive package for backup and recovery, with all the bells and whistles you could want, including the key addition for this year's product, online storage. Backing up essential data to a second hard drive is good, backing up to a local network server is better, but sending it offsite to a file server on the Internet is best, if you want to safeguard against catastrophes like flood and fire.
You get 5GB of storage with Acronis True Image 2014 Premium, which is enough to save documents and some photos as files, but not for a system backup. More is available on monthly or yearly rental, up to 500GB, which is £80/year (£8/month).
The speed of an online backup will vary with the speed of your broadband link, of course, but our test backup of 1GB of data, over a 10Mbps link, took 2 minutes 37 seconds to complete.
On more conventional, local backups, the program did well, completing a 50GB uncompressed backup to an eSATA hard drive in 20 minutes, with an archive size of 48.2GB. Using the built-in compression at its default setting, the lowest of three, it took 29 minutes, but the file size was only reduced by 1.1GB, to 47.1GB. It seems that the default compression on backup utilities is not that effective (O&O DiskImage Professional 8 was much the same).
The interface is clean and easy to understand, with few changes from the 2013 version. At the top of the screen are four tabs and, where needed, there are ribbon-style icon bars below these. The four tabs are labelled Get started, Backup and recovery, Synchronisation, and Tools and utilities.
Get started offers three step-by-step help threads, for backing up, recovering and using Acronis Cloud storage. These are helpful, but it's a shame their not true wizards, setting up jobs as you follow them.
Backup and recovery is where most of the work is done, and each new job appears in a panel giving all its essentials, once you've used the disk and partition or file backup buttons to create one.
Once defined, you can run a job again by selecting it, or apply a schedule to have it done automatically. The program can produce full, incremental and differential backups and includes good control of total backup files, based on number of archive copies or total storage space used.
Other features within Acronis True Image 2014 Premium include the ability to create bootable media – to recover from a system crash – backup your email and run a non-stop backup, so all changes are reflected in an archive as they're made. You can restore a backup to a different machine and synchronise specified data between two devices. Syncing works via the Acronis Cloud, so you can sync between PCs and iOS and Android devices, using free TrueImage apps.