Acronis True Image has long been known as the go-to app for system imaging and drive cloning, but the company also includes cloud backup in its True Image 2020 suite. That means you can combine local backups with a copy in the cloud, which is crucial when it comes to protecting your data from fire, theft, and other types of catastrophic loss.
Cloud backup options vary wildly in price and functionality, and are increasingly necessary for peace of mind and data security. I thoroughly evaluated Acronis True Image along with several other leading packages based on three main criteria: pricing, features, and performance.
Acronis True Image – Design, Features, and Pricing
Despite being an advanced backup tool, Acronis’ interface is very user-friendly. Buttons are big and clear, your storage is color coded so you can see what’s taking up space, and Acronis’ many, many tools are organized neatly into sections away from the main backup window. It explains every feature as you set it up, so you don’t have to click on “help” Icons to find out how anything works.
The backup process itself is dead simple, taking only a few clicks: you can back up certain folders and files, or back up an image of your entire machine. Acronis lets you back up to an external drive, a NAS, or to Acronis’ cloud servers (if you pay a monthly subscription fee).
The structure of that subscription fee is a bit confusing at first, but the comparison wizard helps you choose what’s right for you. The Standard version is a one-time purchase of $60, which just gets you a license to the software that performs local backups. If you’re backing up to the cloud, you’ll need a subscription to the Advanced version instead: for 250GB of space, you can pay $50 per year for one computer, $80 per year for three computers, or $100 per year for five computers. If you need more space, add $20 per year for 500GB.
Any more than 500GB, and you’ll need a subscription to Premium, which adds a couple small features and allows for more space: 1TB for one computer at $100 per year, all the way up to 5TB for five computers at $320 per year, with many options in between. It’s not the most expensive service I tested, but it is on the pricier side. Some throw in just 50GB of storage, and some like Backblaze are unlimited, and then others like IDrive start out at 2TB, so as you can see the options are kind of all over the map.
The value comparison depends highly on the number of machines you’re backing up, especially since they share the same pool of storage. For multiple machines, Acronis can get quite expensive, but it packs its program with extra features to make it more enticing.
Some of those features are tangentially related to backups, like the “Archive” feature, which scans your hard drive for large files, and allows you to back up ones you rarely use to the cloud to free up space on your hard drive. Acronis also has a syncing tool, à la Dropbox/Google, for syncing files between machines. Acronis can also clone one disk to another (which is useful if you’re upgrading to a new SSD or hard drive), build rescue disks (so you can fix your PC if it won’t boot), and convert your backups to a virtual hard drive for use in a virtual machine. It even has a module that can back up your mobile devices and social media accounts.
Those are all relatively useful, but it also has a lot of features that feel more like unnecessary padding. For example, it comes with a system cleaner (which works fine, but doesn’t seem much better than Windows’ built-in tools), a ransomware monitor, and a “Try & Decide” feature that lets you make changes to your computer, then roll them back if you don’t like them. Most of these tools feel “tacked on,” and I feel that most people would rather pay less to eschew some of these less important add-ons. (I’ll be focusing mostly on the backup and cloud features for this review.)
Acronis True Image – Backup and Recovery
Despite being overloaded with features (denoted by tabs along the left side of the window), Acronis puts the important stuff front and center. The “Backup” tab along the top is where the magic happens: you’re given two big boxes in the center of the screen, one for the backup source, and one for the backup destination. By default, Acronis is set to back up your entire computer, but you can click on a box to change your backup to only certain drives, files, folders, or to back up a mobile device.
I recommend backing up the entire machine, since this is one of Acronis’ biggest strengths: allowing you to create a full image of your computer so it can be restored, exactly as it is now, if something goes awry. Next, you’ll select where you want to back it up. You can choose an external drive, the Acronis cloud, or a custom location (like a NAS). You’ll also have an option to encrypt your backup, which I recommend. Acronis supports deduplication, so if you move a file to a different folder, it won’t back it up all over again.
Acronis’ default settings work well, but you can click the Options button here to further customize how the backup works. You can change the schedule, prevent the computer from going to sleep while backing up, get email notifications about the backup state, exclude certain files or file types, choose how many versions of a file Acronis keeps, adjust how much bandwidth Acronis uses, and a whole lot more. There is a page where you’ll find a lot of advanced settings too, and while some of them seem more advanced than they need to be (why do I need to set up an SMTP server for email notifications?), tech-savvy users will love the number of options Acronis provides.
The other tabs in the sidebar correspond to Acronis’ other features. The Archive tab analyzes your hard drive so you can offload large files to an external drive or the cloud. The Sync tab lets you set up Dropbox-like syncing, and the Tools tab contains…well, pretty much everything else. The “Clone Disk,” “Rescue Media Builder,” and “Acronis Universal Restore” are the more useful features here, allowing you to migrate your data to a new PC or rescue it when you run into problems.
The other features on this page are interesting, but generally not anything I’d use, since they’re either well covered by Windows’ built-in tools or just not necessary for most users’ day-to-day computing. Though they’re there if you want to explore them.
Speaking of security, Acronis offers end-to-end AES-256 encryption for your backups, meaning you can protect them with a private encryption key. Even the Acronis service itself won’t be able to see your data, which means it’s as private as can be in the cloud. I didn’t notice any slowdowns or other downsides to using this feature, so turn it on – and remember your password, because if you forget it, that data will be locked up forever.
Acronis is, however, still missing a very important security feature: two-factor authentication. Every cloud-oriented service should have this option to protect you from password thieves, especially backup programs that can hold literally all your personal data. It’s truly bonkers that Acronis– which has packed its program with so many features – continues to neglect something so important.
Acronis True Image – Recovery Options
The Backup section offers two useful tabs: Activity and Recovery. Activity shows when you backed up last, and Recovery allows you to select files for…well, recovery. Again, Acronis is remarkably intuitive to use, and the recovery process is no different. Just select the files you want to recover from the folder tree, then Acronis will ask where you want to restore them.
You can also click “Recovery Options” to get an email notification when the process is complete, run a command before or after the restore, choose which files to overwrite, and more. When you’re ready, click “Recover Now,” and Acronis will restore your files. Acronis doesn’t offer a courier service, unfortunately, so downloading your files is the only way to restore them. This can take a while if you’re recovering from the cloud, but with Acronis’ robust local backup features, I highly recommend backing up locally too, using the cloud backup only as a just-in-case-of-disaster option.
Acronis True Image – Testing
Acronis has a lot going on, but the basics are pretty easy to use, and users shouldn’t find it too intrusive. It’ll only nag you when you tell it to, using the notification settings mentioned earlier, and customer support is very good. Acronis used a maximum of 163MB of RAM on my test system, while CPU usage hovered around 7 percent of my 2.7GHz i7-7500U during the backup process (with encryption enabled and the main window open).
For such a feature-packed program, that’s not bad, and does a good job of using bandwidth effectively. My initial backup uploaded at around 163Mbps, even with encryption enabled. Restoration speeds were even better, easily maxing out my 200Mbps connection and restoring my 2GB test folder in 1 minute and 26 seconds. Overall, Acronis was easily the fastest program I tested, which is great provided you also have a fast connection. (Still, I recommend using the cloud as your second line of defense—local backups from an external drive or NAS will be much faster.)
Finally, I contacted support for most of the backup programs I tested, usually just with questions or clarifications. Acronis was responsive and helpful, though it did take a couple of back-and-forth emails to answer my question.
The pricing for Acronis True Image depends on whether you want cloud storage (and how much of it you need), and how many computers you want to protect. As of press time in May 2020, the Standard version was $50 with no cloud storage. Advanced offers 250GB of cloud storage for $50 per year, or 500GB for $70 per year – with higher yearly prices as you add more computers to your plan. If you want more than 500GB, you’ll have to spring for Premium, which starts at $100 per year for 1TB on one computer, with upgrade options for more machines and cloud storage.
This article was originally published by IGN.COM