Retrospect Blog

When can a Copy also be a Backup?

I recently overheard our customer service folk pondering whether copies alone (also called Duplicates in Retrospect) qualify as a form of backup. Like concerned parents they pointed out; “simple copies don’t provide versioning, redundancy or encryption protection.” Now I agree these traditional backup features are good things, but I also wondered whether we were short changing the importance of Retrospect’s copy feature as part of our total protection solution. I mean there are times when copies can be better, right?

So the following advice assumes that you are also doing regular backups with Retrospect. And that you either rotate your backups or stage from one set to another with Retrospect’s Transfer scripts. In this article, we are going to cover when copying should be considered as part of a real backup.

When are copies better?

Failover is the ability to quickly switch over to a standby when the original goes down. While it is nice to know you can always do a restore, if the files are already sitting on a drive, you just saved a lot of time.

Another nice thing about a copy is that you do not need any other application to get your data back. While Retrospect has restored data that was nineteen years old, why worry about what version you have? Or if that tape drive still works? It is one more thing you do not need to worry about. This is especially true if the data is going on a thumb drive that you are giving to someone else or storing away.

Versioning does not matter if the files do not change

If you are a home user, it is unlikely your photos, your music or movies change from day to day. In any case, there isn’t a large push to go back to last month’s audio book of Pride and Prejudice. I used to use Retrospect’s selectors to exclude music and movies from my backups, but I found that getting an audio book back is quite painful. I’d rather have a copy in any case. Photos in particular are good files to have copied over to a central location.

Businesses have a lot of files that do not change: X-rays if you are a dentist or doctor, PDFs of current contracts, the blueprints of all the buildings you have built. Having a current, local copy of these files is a nice feeling.

Sometimes versions do matter, but the versions are in the files already. If you are a software developer using git, a copy of your local repo has all its versions baked in. I know. I should be committing and pushing to GitHub more often, but a scheduled copy every hour makes me warm all over.

Redundancy, redundancy, redundancy

Yes, having multiple copies are good. If you get hit by ransomware, if someone pockets your backup drive, or it falls off the table, you are covered. Fortunately, Retrospect does both copies as well as traditional backups. You can have your cake and eat it too.


Okay, this is a big one. We do not require you to encrypt your backup sets, but it is free with every edition of Retrospect, so you really should. And if you are just making a copy, it is as unprotected as the original data. Of course, it is no less protected than the original data. So be smart, make sure it is physically secure, or that you aren’t worried if it falls into the wrong hands. Fortunately for me, there are no wrong hands for Pride and Prejudice.

Why use Retrospect for copying?

Anyone can drag a folder to a drive, but Retrospect can automate this for you. You can set up a schedule to do a copy every hour - Retrospect will only copy the files that changed, saving both time and wear and tear on your drive.

Retrospect also verifies your copy, bit for bit against the original. You do not get that security using drag-and-drop style copies with either the Explorer or Finder.

Lastly, remember my statement that this should be in addition to your normal backup? It is nice to be able to manage that all in one application. Monitoring and reporting come for free this way as well.


If you started this article thinking that copies weren’t real backup, I hope I’ve changed your mind. They can serve an important role in your total data protection strategy.

So tell us. Do you use copies? Do you have an interesting use case or a story where they saved your business or made your life easier? Let us know!


JG Heithcock

JG Heithcock is GM at Retrospect and has eighteen years experience in the storage and backup industry.