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Friday, 21 September 2012

Genie Timeline 2012

I have been using Genie Timeline for a couple of years now. It is an impressive little package, set which files / folders you want to backup to an external drive and forget about it, each time a file changes a new backup is created so you can return to old versions.

It works well enough that I have 3 legitimate copies, 2 professional and 1 home, home is a little more simplistic in features but still does the job nicely whereas profession allows me to tinker with more features.

It is not a perfect product - biggest flaws for me are the lack of ability to remove something from the backup - the Geniesoft (or Genie 9 as they now calls themselves, not sure, perhaps too much Star Trek) helpdesk recommend just deleting things direct from the backup files (instantly trashing all their indexing information) and the limitation that backups are fixed to the size of a disk - once the disk is full you have to start a new backup on a new disk but it backs up all the same data again. I now have 1.2tb of backups so disks are still growing ahead of my backup size but for how much longer I cannot tell. There are features to limit the backups size but they do nothing on version 2.

Which brings me to version 3, or Genie Timeline 2012 as it is now called. A new look, mirroring the Windows 8 tiles approach but unlike Microsoft's offering with Genie it is well thought out and presents well. It is possible the features I am about to mention existed in the previous version but I had it configured as I wanted and didn't fiddle which as it turns out is a good thing.

First off I've rediscovered the feature to limit backup set size - this was supposed to delete oldest files to keep the backup set under a target size but as Genie (sorry Seven, Genie9) stated to me, it doesn't work on version 2, so I thought I would try it on version 3, not sure if it works or not yet as I haven't reached the set size and....

There is also a feature to delete backups older than 60 days. Interestingly arbitrary number there. For my accounts files 60 days if fine but for my photos where I might want to re-edit an old version of file (bad management on my part but it happens) or when a file corrupts and I want to retrieve an old version 60 days is just so wrong. It needs to be configurable - I reckon I could live with 180 days, around 6 months but 60 is of no use.

All good so far but then I found the disaster recovery option. Sounds like a good button to press, yes it will backup some more tens of gigabytes but those disks keep getting bigger. Box duly ticked. Lots and lots of thinking. I'm not twenty something % protected and , and...it stops.

Machine left overnight and still no change. So I've unticked the disaster recovery and...still no movement.

So having tried everything I can think of (even a reboot :-) I raise a ticket on the Genie9 (yes that joke got old) site - they have a good ticket system and actively respond which is a major plus (so all those sites doing a performance comparison of backups products take note - backups which go wrong are useless without some support, big plus here). I've now started 2 services (Microsoft Software Shadow Copy Provider and volume Shadow copy) that had not been used on version 2 and although set to manual (ie on demand) had not started with Genie 2012 (is that a bug in their software or are they actually unnecessary, who knows, least of my worries at this point). Still no change.

My worst fears are looming - that I'm going to have to start a new backup & hence purchase a new (one of those aforementioned big ones) drive to handle the failure of my backup software.

Lots of screenshots and logs later I get an offer to remote onto my machine and assist - now this is a surprise. I work in IT and most of the time getting support from vendors is the blood from stone scenario, A large verndor who shall remain nameless but has a naming starting with M and ending in icrosoft will come on site for some hideous price and give bad advice (it is remarkably difficult to explain to one's employers that the consultant from the vendor who you just paid tens of thousands of pounds  gave answers I had already procured from google or were just plain wrong) but beyond that it's google all the way.

So a few days later I have a Genie 9 employee rummaging around my machine - he's polite, helpful and doesn't keep saying "what's this drive for" as he looks at my complicated config. He is logged in via a product called Teamviewer which is a free (for personal use) web based support tool - works over port 80 so no firewall messing around, good tool. He tries for an hour or more and gets to the point where Timeline looks like it is doing something but clearly isn't progressing.

How does this story end. Well more screenshots and logs and instructions to leave the machine to let it work (10 hours, no movement at all), we will see next week what happens, do I have a pretty good piece of software backed up with active support to make a truly remarkable package for the domestic market or .........