If you have been in the IT industry for a while, you have heard about Cobian Backup. It's one of the most popular file backup tools for Windows systems. It has rich backup features and is completely free for private and commercial purposes. This makes Cobian more than suitable for home users and small to medium companies that don't want to (or need to) pay for enterprise-grade backup tools.
The last version of Cobian Backup 11 has been out since 2012, so it desperately needed an update. Six months ago, Cobian Reflector was released. It is a completely new .NET-based program with the following features:
- Includes all features from the original Cobian Backup 11
- Runs on all supported versions of Windows
- Supports backups from or to an FTP or SFTP server
- Redesigned interface with DPI support
- Volume Shadow Copy (VSS) support
- Compression and encryption support
- Detailed logs that can be automatically mailed
- Runs as a service or as an application
- Multilanguage support
- Long path support (more than 260 characters)
The installation process is a straightforward task. There are a few options that can be changed. If you plan to back up on a schedule, choose installation as a service. In this case, the important option is the account the service will use. If you choose the Local System account, then you can only back up to a local drive or FTP/SFPT, as Cobian will not have access to network resources. If you plan to back up to a network share or NAS storage, it's preferable to use a regular account.
You can also tell the installer to generate an installation script, which is a simple text file that can be used for automatic deployment via PowerShell, etc.
The program has dozens of settings available, but the initial configuration is good to go right after the installation. Let's take a look at some settings you might want to change before you start your first backup. Access the settings by pressing CTRL+O or clicking the gear icon.
General tab—By default, Cobian uses the system %TEMP% directory as storage for compressed archives before they are transferred to the target location. You might want to change this option to another folder to avoid issues with disk space on the system drive. Uncheck the Use system's temporary directory checkbox and specify a folder.
Log tab—Use mailing options if you want the logs to be sent by email. You can opt to receive emails only if an error occurs, whether to delete the log from the local computer afterwards, or whether to mail the logs as an attachment or as text only. You can also choose to get the mail right after a task is completed or specify a daily time to mail the logs.
Mail tab—Define your SMTP and other mail settings here if you opt to get logs by mail.
Functionality tab—The main thing to highlight here is a new feature, which I personally wanted for a long time, called Run missed backups. As the name suggests, if the computer is not running at a given backup time, the task is executed once the machine starts. This is especially useful for home users who do not always have the PC running at a specified time.
Engine tab—The only thing I usually change here is Cancel if Volume Shadow Copy fails, which terminates the backup job if the initial VSS creation fails for some reason. In most cases, I use VSS in my tasks, as I don't want errors on locked files, etc.
Security tab—By default, any user (even a non-admin) who has access to the machine can access Cobian's user interface. I recommend using password protection so that only privileged users can access it.
Advanced tab—Here, I just uncheck the Use a safe mirror directory, as I never use mirror tasks, and the directory defined by default does not exist (I have no idea why Luis picked this path). The UI will warn you anytime you want to save settings that lead to a nonexistent path.
That's it for the installation and configuration. Now, let's create our first backup task.
Differential backup to an SFTP target
In this example, I will show you how to create a basic differential backup task to an SFTP target. SFTP support is the main new feature added in Reflector. The task will have the following parameters:
- Run Monday–Friday at 22:00
- Retention of 2 full backups and all differential backups between them
- Fixed backup on Friday
- Individual file compression with encryption
- Filter out all MP3 and AVI files
To create a new task, click the plus icon or press CTRL+N and go through all the tabs the wizard offers:
On the General tab, enter the task name and choose Differential backup type.
On the Files tab, select the source and the destination. In my case, I will back up the DOWNLOAD folder on the D drive to an SFTP target. The wizard will show an extra window for SFPT server configuration options, such as host name, port, authentication method, and initial directory. I will use password authentication for my server at 10.0.10.100 with initial directory /backup. Note that you have to create the directory on an SFTP server with the proper permissions first.
Use the Test settings button to verify whether the connection works properly. Cobian will try to create a text file at the target. You can also configure advanced parameters, such as TTL settings and transfer compression.
On the Schedule tab, select the Weekly Schedule type. In Days of the week, select Monday through Friday, and in Date/Time, add a new time of 22:00.
On the Dynamics tab, set Full copies to keep to 2, Differential copies to keep to 0 (0 means leave all between each full backup), and check Use a fixed day and select Friday.
Note: The dynamics (retention) configuration might be a bit tricky when you want to specify a random number of copies to keep. The basic logic is explained in this forum post. Test this setting properly, so you are not badly surprised later.
On the Archive tab, select Compress files individually, check Encrypt the files, and enter the archive password. As the name suggests, this will compress every single file to a separate archive. This comes with performance overhead and might take a very long time for large backups.
Note: Unfortunately, unlike previous versions of Cobian, it is no longer possible to use the "split archive" option. You can only compress the files individually, or create single archives for either a complete backup or for each source defined in the backup. This may result in very large ZIP files. Luis already announced that he would change the compression options in Reflector 2.0.
On the Filter tab, add .mp3 and .avi to the Exclude these files list. To exclude them, use the Mask option and a comma-separated list.
On the Advanced tab, select the Include backup type in the name option, which adds a (Full) or (Differential) suffix to the backup folder or archive name for better visibility.
Click OK, and it's done! You can now run the task manually for the first time or wait for a scheduled time.
In this post, you learned how to utilize Cobian Reflector for your backups. As you can see, it is a powerful file backup tool and is completely free, even for commercial purposes.
Of course, there are several drawbacks. Cobian is only a file and folder backup tool. It can't be centrally managed, does not support cloud targets, can't backup databases, or create disk images, and the restore process is a manual task. However, when it comes to backing up your files, Cobian will do just fine. You can download it here.
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There are several things that need to be adjusted in the UI and functionality. Luis already announced that he is working on Reflector 2.0, which should add features such as remote management, splitting archives, better mailing and logging, and perhaps support for 7zip and cloud source destinations. Can't wait for it!