Automatically backup and retrieve earlier incarnations of your files with DocShield

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DocShield is a program that runs in the background and monitors files and folders that you specify for changes.

It will create compressed snapshots of your files whenever it detects any changes, enabling you to retrieve your files in case of data loss, and providing a retrievable version history of your files and/or data.

You may or may not be regularly backing up your most important files and/or archiving the most important version changes, and saving your backups into compressed archives to keep your files from growing too large.

But chances are that you do this in fits and starts and/or are not as consistent as you like to be, or even have simply given up on this.

Wouldn’t it be just great if there were a program you could run in the background that would automate do this for you and manage the process automatically? DocShield is exactly this program.

Although there are a number of freeware programs that do this (e.g. File Hamster, previously featured on Freewaregenius), DocShield features mature functions such as archive management, on-the-fly compression, and FTP backup. Here are more notes on this program:

  • The user interface: is very well designed. The main configuration screen is split into 4 tabs and is very easy and intuitive to work with.
  • Files monitored: can monitor local files or files on the network. You can point the program explicitly to the files you want it to monitor (drag and drop is supported), or you can define a folder/folders and tell it to scan for certain file-types (you can include or exclude subfolders and use wildcards to exclude certain files). I would strongly encourage the former approach as I have found that pointing the program to a folder that contains a large number of big files can sometimes be problematic.
  • Monitoring activity: the program will check for changes in your files and folders at 5 minutes periods by default, but you can set this to anything you like (seconds/minutes/hours). If it finds that a file has changed from the latest version of it in the archive it will add that latest version to the archive. Any changes or versions that may have been created between the monitoring intervals will not be recorded. (You can also trigger the monitoring action manually by pressing the “Shiled Now” button)
  • Browsing the archive: simply click on any file in the list to see the stored iterations/versions of the file, any of which can be extracted at any point.
  • DocShield DecisionsArchive management: to avoid backup archives growing too large and out of control, DocShield uses a highly compressed archives and implements a system of managing archive sizes. It will (a) require the user to decide where the archive file(s) is located and how many megs to allocate to it, (b) optionally allow the user to define the maximum number of recent snapshots of each file to be kept, and (c) will either prompt the user for action when the archive size is exceeded or act on its own, based on the settings, to increase archive size or remove snapshots older than a certain number of days. See more on archive management in the wish list below.
  • FTP archiving: one of the coolest features is the option to archive documents remotely on an FTP server. If you do not have an FTP server you can sign up for one with the developers of DocShield. Note that I did not test this myself.
  • Portability: if you want to carry your archive of documents on a USB drive, you can do so using the “DocShield USB utility”. DocShield will copy both your archive and the utility that can read it into a USB drive.
  • Resrouce consumption: the more files/folders it has to monitor, the more resources it will require from your system. For the handful of files I was monitoring it generally consumed something like 25-35 megs and did NOT seem to lay any noticeable claim on CPU processing activity. Not lightweight, but not much of a resource hog. For the service that it offers the cost/benefit is definitely worth it.
  • Is DocShield Free?: this program is free for personal use and the download contains the full version. To use this in a commercial setting you need to purchase a license.

Wish list

  • Responsiveness: the program runs in the background and, once you point it to a folder, will slowly (very slowly) add all of the relevant files to the backup archive. I made the mistake of processing a very large folder containing a large number of big files, and while it set itself to adding them to the archive, with repeated warnings that the archive max size had been exceeded and prompting me for action, it was irresponsive to my repeated attempts to abort the process of adding the files, or my telling it to remove the ones that were already added. Eventually I had to shut down the process and manually delete the archive to start over. This issue, however, is probably very easily tweaked/improved in future versions.

The verdict: a really nice, mature program that works really well, and has some excellent options. What I like about it is that you can install it, configure it, and then completely forget about it and it can backup and archive your selected files at a high compression ration without the backups growing too large and taking too much space. Highly recommended.

Version Tested: 2.0.2

Compatibility: Windows 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP, Vista. Requires .NET Framework 2.0.

Go to program page to download the latest version (approx 700K). Note that you do NOT need to provide your email address when prompted to download this; just click the ’download’ button.