Backing up to a virtual drive using SyncBack Containers

Author: Conrad Chung, 2BrightSparks Pte. Ltd.

There are many ways to back up your data, from using an external drive, or an FTP server, or even backing up your precious files to an online cloud server. You can also backup your data to (or from) a virtual drive. In this article, we will introduce a proprietary virtual drive feature in SyncBackSE and SyncBackPro V8 (and newer), called the SyncBack Container, and look at the advantages of using a virtual drive to store your data.

What is a SyncBack Container?

A SyncBack Container is essentially a large container file that behaves like a virtual hard disk, or more commonly known as a VHD (or VHDX). A VHD simulates a hard drive’s file structure, so you can copy files to and from it. Both SyncBack Container and VHD files are created and stored as a standard file, but may contain many files and folders stored within it which are accessible using the right programs. SyncBack Containers have similarities to a Zip file, where you can view, add (backup) or extract (restore) file contents from it using the right tools (SyncBack V8 and newer).

The difference between a VHD and a SyncBack Container file is that VHD files are a disk image format used by Microsoft’s virtual PC program, called Hyper-V. VHD files are more open format and are widely used by IT professionals around the world. A SyncBack Container format is proprietary and is only compatible with SyncBack V8 (and newer). While some may view this as a limitation, it does come with its advantages, namely, security and privacy (more on that later).

A SyncBack Container can also be mounted to a drive letter (optional), which allows other programs to access the files and folders stored within the container as if they were on a normal drive.

From SyncBackSE/Pro V8, you can setup a profile to either use a SyncBack Container or VHD/VHDX files. Note that SyncBackFree/Lite can’t backup to SyncBack Containers. However, an external utility is included in all variants of SyncBack V8 (and newer) to mount a SyncBack Container for read-only access.

Two types of virtual drive classifications can be created – fixed and dynamic. A fixed container file is a file that sets the maximum possible amount of physical disk space at the time of creation. For example, a 10GB fixed size container file would have a fixed physical storage space of 10GB on initial creation. A dynamic virtual container will expand in size as required, when more data are added to it.

The SyncBack Container section in the SyncBack program Help file contains detailed instructions to setup your container (Press F1 in SyncBack program to open Help > Using SyncBack > Expert Mode > SyncBack Container).

What are the advantages of using a SyncBack Container as part of a backup?

A SyncBack Container is created as a single file, with all data stored within it. This allows for easy handling and replication. Container files can be easily created or deleted as required. They are also portable and can be moved to some other media for storage.

An advantage of SyncBack Containers is the added layer of privacy it adds to your backup. Since the SyncBack Container format is proprietary, only SyncBack V8 (and newer) programs can access them. Also, 256-bit AES encryption can optionally be used so that access is only available to users (or programs) with the correct password. VHD files can be encrypted (via BitLocker). However, encrypted VHD containers require the user to manually enter the password to decrypt them.

When you need read-access to your SyncBack container, the external utility in SyncBack V8 (and newer) can be used to mount the container as a drive. This prevents accidental overwrites to your data.

SyncBackSE/Pro V8 (and newer) also treats the container file exactly like any other drive. Thus, certain advanced features like versioning, can be used with containers.

SyncBack can verify SyncBack Container contents and check for corruption. By using the Check option found in SyncBack Container settings tab, you can check, fix, compact and/or re-size your container. This option is not available when VHD files are used.

SyncBack container compression is better than VHD compression.

Using an alternative container – VHD/X files

If you need a more compatible virtual drive format, SyncBack also supports the use of VHD/VHDX files. A VHD/VHDX file can be easily accessed by Windows utilities. Note that you must create the VHD file yourself before first use, which is possible within Windows. Note that VHD files are only supported on Windows 7 and newer (SyncBack Containers are supported by Windows Vista and newer). Additional instructions are available in the SyncBack Container section of the SyncBack program Help file (Press F1 in SyncBack program to open Help > Using SyncBack > Expert Mode > SyncBack Container).

Summary

If you are looking for a storage medium that is secure and portable, the SyncBack Container feature may be a great solution that is both easy to use and nearly effortless to maintain, while ensuring your backup is not accessible to unauthorized users.


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