Jack Wallen tests the Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office app, a disaster recovery tool anyone can use to create a full disk clone of crucial systems with ease.

harddrive connected to computer
Image: andreysafonov/Adobe Stock

Regardless of whether you’re a parent, small business owner or IT manager for a mid-sized company, when it comes to your data you need to take measures to ensure there’s always a backup.

Within the realm of backups, you can take two similar yet distinctive paths: Folder-level backup or machine-level backup. Folder-level backups are exactly what they sound like — backing up only the folders that contain the important data your organization needs. The machine-level backup takes this one step further and creates an image of your entire drive. Machine-level backups are a good option for many because they back up everything (including the operating system), so should something go wrong, you could easily return that machine to a working state.

SEE: Power checklist: Troubleshooting hard drive failures (TechRepublic Premium)

Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office offers a robust imaging tool that walks you through the process of creating a full image of your running machine and gives you a choice of destinations to house the image. With this same tool, you can also create an emergency boot disk on the off-chance you need to restore a system that refuses to boot.

How Acronis works

Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Fear not: Even if you’re not the most adept at using technology, you can successfully create an image of your system with Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office. The process goes a little something like this:

  1. Open Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office.
  2. Use the imaging tool to create a full disk image of your machine.
  3. Create a boot drive for your machine.
  4. When something goes wrong with the machine in question, boot it with the emergency drive.
  5. Restore the image using the boot drive.

Acronis has removed a lot of the complications from the process such that anyone can create a full image backup or create an active disk clone to help you migrate all of your data to a larger or faster disk — all while enjoying their anti-malware protection.

I tested the cloning process on a MacBook Pro running macOS Monterey and a simple USB external drive. Once the drive was detected by the macOS, Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office was ready to clone (Figure A).

Figure A

Preparing to clone my MacBook Pro with Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office.

Easy disk cloning

The process of cloning the drive will format and erase the destination drive. Do not attempt to use an external drive with the hopes of retaining any data; either use a brand new external drive or one that houses nothing important.

There are two caveats to this. First, I discovered that creating a disk image doesn’t seem to work with any destination drive that is not directly attached to the host. No SMB share or NAS location the MacBook could access were valid destinations for the image. With that in mind, you’ll definitely need an external USB drive for the task. Second, the restore process built into Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office only works when copying the image back to the original machine. Yes, that machine could have a new drive installed, but everything else will need to remain the same.

Should you need to restore the image to a completely different machine, you’ll need to download and install another utility called Acronis Universal Restore, which creates a specific rescue disk that will allow you to copy the cloned image from one machine to another so long as the internal drive is either equal in size or larger than the original.

The process of creating the cloned image does take some time. This is a job you’ll want to let run overnight when you don’t need to use the machine.

In this vein, another tiny gripe I have is that Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office failed to actually calculate the time remaining. Instead of even giving me an estimate, the text “Calculating time remaining” never changed (even as the cloning process was a quarter of the way complete — Figure B). I don’t hold this against Acronis because the inability to calculate the time for such actions is pretty universal.

Figure B

The final time of my disk clone took less than 20 minutes, even though the app had no idea.

In the end, the single most important aspect of Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office is that of disk imaging, and I cannot remember the last time I used a tool that made this task so easy. This came as a surprise to me, given I used to have to deal with the older Acronis tools that required the skills of an IT admin to use. For those without those skills, who really want to ensure they have the ability to clone their hard drives in case of an emergency, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better solution.

For those who are less experienced in the field of IT, but still want to enjoy the security that comes with having a full machine backup, Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office is the tool to use. And given that piece of mind can be had for only $89.99/year (on sale now for $53.99/year), this might be just the tool you need for your home office disaster recovery plan.

Subscribe to TechRepublic’s How To Make Tech Work on YouTube for all the latest tech advice for business pros from Jack Wallen.