Handy Backup – Complete, EXTENSIBLE Backup Solution

handy backup

As part of my Data Backup Day efforts here at GeneaBloggers, I am often looking for new methods of backing up my genealogy research data.  I’m always willing to try new programs – both installed software as well as web applications – and when Novosoft LLC approached me to take their product Handy Backup for a test drive, how could I say no?  I’m a techie who likes playing with new toys, right?

Download and Installation

The download of the Handy Backup Standard 6.4 software was quick with no glitches.  Installation was a breeze – I am using Windows Vista Ultimate Edition but Handy Backup (and other Novosoft LLC backup products) are already certified to work with Windows 7.

I also appreciate the fact that the Handy Backup install didn’t try to insult my intelligence by sneaking in other items or toolbars for my browser which some programs try to do.

Out of the box, Handy Backup is ready to go to work safeguarding your data, documents, photos, browser bookmarks, and email messages – either in a run-once situation or as scheduled events. Your options include the ability to backup to local media, such as a CD, or to offsite storage like a secure FTP site.

Why Backing Up More Than Data Is Important

While most people may only backup their genealogy databases, and perhaps their scanned photos and documents, there are so many other pieces of data that assist you in finding your ancestors.  And many people don’t back these up:

  • data folder settings
  • bookmarks and favorites
  • specific program settings

As the Handy Backup site states (and I agree): “Your computer setup is a reflection of you. Sure, everyone has their documents folder, their pictures folder, their office applications – but that’s where most similarities end. Think about it, your Photoshop settings, IM tweaks, browser preferences… everything is set up just the way you like it.”

Many backup programs only focus on the data.  Handy Backup is a different kind of backup application. It’s fully extensible, featuring free plug-ins that are designed to completely backup not only data, but also the settings, playlists, skins, and other specifics of the individual applications that you’ve tweaked to perfection.

Backup Options Covered

Handy Backup lets you:

  • Perform run-once and scheduled backups of your entire hard drive or selected directories.
  • Use free plug-ins that backup and restore the unique profile settings of the most popular applications.
  • Backup to local media, local servers, offsite servers, or the Novosoft Remote Backup Service.


Handy Backup includes plug-ins for all of the popular programs (such as Outlook and Windows Mail), and if you don’t see what you need, you can actually create your own plug-in (as an XML specification) for that special app.

Remote Backup Availability

As if backing up to local media, local servers, and offsite locations weren’t enough, all users of Handy Backup can also take advantage of the Novosoft Remote Backup Service (you get 5GB of storage for free!). Think of it as super-duper-remote-always-on backup, with unlimited storage in a highly secure web server that’s fortified against technological and natural disasters, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.


I found Handy Backup very easy to use (and as my readers know, I am always looking at apps from a newcomer’s perspective rather than my 25 years of information technology experience).  I like the flexibility in terms of types of data that I can backup including settings.  I also love the ability to schedule backups and to only backup the files that have changed recently.

Who needs Handy Backup? You do if you’ve ever:

  • Had to recover data from backup, but then had to manually reset all of the settings for your applications.
  • Wanted to take advantage of the larger storage capabilities of DVD, Blu-Ray, and HD-DVD media.

You can download a full-featured 30-days trial by clicking the following link:

Download Handy Backup.

[Disclosure: I was contacted by Novosoft LLC in October 2009 and was asked to review one of their data backup products.  I have been given a free copy of Handy Backup Standard 6.4 for my personal use. In addition I have been given three additional licenses for Handy Backup Standard 6.4 to distribute to GeneaBloggers members as part of a Data Backup Day contest on November 1, 2009.  I have not been compensated monetarily in any way for this review or for my work with Novosoft LLC.

My intention is to give a good review, which does not necessarily mean a favorable review. In my mind a good review is one in which the subject of the review is fully researched and tested and my opinions are given while at the same time remaining fully transparent as to my involvement with the vendor of the product.]

© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Review: dynastree


[Disclosure: I was contacted by dynastree in September 2009 and was asked to review their product.  I was given a free 14-day premium subscription during which time I was able to try out all aspects of their site.  I have not been compensated monetarily in any way for this review or my work on the dynastree site.   My intention is to give a good review, which does not necessarily mean a favorable review.  In my mind a good review is one in which the subject of the review is fully researched and tested and my opinions are given while at the same time remaining fully transparent as to my involvement with the vendor of the product.]

Being a genealogist, I like trying out new online family tree websites where I can either create a tree from scratch or upload my own GEDCOM file.  I was excited when I was given a chance to try out dynastree for a two-week period being able to use all the bells and whistles involved.


For the sake of background as to my experience with both online and computer-based genealogy applications, for year’s I’ve been a Family Tree Maker user along with the Ancestry family tree function on the Ancestry website.  Recently I’ve been a big fan of RootsMagic 4 due to its simplicity and what I feel is a better job of handling source citation templates than FTM.  I’ve also used many of the major online genealogy sites including MyHeritage, Genoom and Geni.


Overall, I found the dynastree site to be very accessible and user-friendly.  Although my tech knowledge is a bit advanced, I’ve taught computer classes for over 20 years and I can usually tell when a site is designed poorly so as to confuse rather than educate.  Right away it was clear how to set up an account, how to upload my GEDCOM and how to share it with family.


dynastree does a good job in trying to be a social networking site and not just a place to store your genealogy data.  Users can customize their profiles with a photo, an “about section, contact information and more.  One feature I liked which I haven’t seen in other programs is the ability to export your profile information into a vcard which can be used with email and contact management programs such as Outlook.


A major area of concern, especially for new users of online genealogy programs, is how their information will be protected and what will and will not be shared with others.  If you are a Facebook user, you understand how confusing it get once you have different sharing options for friends, etc.

I think dynastree could do a better job of making these privacy settings more obvious.  I had to click on Settings in the upper left corner to find them while intuitively I would have gone to the Profile tab to look for them.

The settings are very flexible and allow you to just let direct blood relatives see your data or variations such as blood relatives at the first cousin level, etc.  My uploaded tree had close to 8,000 people so the first cousin put me at 109 people.  In addition, you can designate  specific family members and whether they can or cannot have access to your data.

Family Tree

I really appreciated the navigation features especially when taxed with a large tree like mine.  Males are shown in blue, females in red.  Another neat feature is deceased members (those for whom you’ve entered a death date) have a black ribbon in the corner of the profile photo.

Clicking on an individual will pull up their individual profile page which the user can complete with additional information including photos and stories.

The Share Family Tree tab allows you to send a link to family and friends inviting them to take a look at your tree.

And Matches, a concept used in various similar sites, looks at your family tree entries and compares them with other dynastree users to see if you share the same ancestors.  Matches are automatic for those who purchase the premium version of dynastree.

Other Features

  • Calendar – I love, love, love the Calendar on the homepage.  I’ve always envied bloggers who had a post each day or week highlighting ancestor birthdays or wedding anniversaries.  It has not been easy for me to gather this info using FTM or other programs.  When I sign in to dynastree, it is right there for me to see!
  • Statistics – this is a new feature (and a premium feature – see below) and I can see stats such as gender distribution, anticipated life average, frequent places of birth.  As I’ve said before, I appreciate looking at my family’s history from different perspectives and dynastree‘s Statistics helps me do that.
  • Source Citations – the biggest complaint I have about dynastree is the inability to cite your sources.  Some data points don’t even have a general “description” field where you could enter the source citation if you had your copy of Evidence Explained and new the proper format.
  • Name Day – a feature not often found but if you are familiar with the concept of a saint’s day or a name’s day, you’ll appreciate it.  dynastree allows you to enter both birth date information and Name Day information.  In Europe it is still common in some countries not to celebrate the date of your birth, but the saint’s feast day of the saint for whom you were named.  Different countries have different customs but I know in Greece, if it is your Name Day, you have to treat everyone who comes to visit, not the other way around!
  • Home Edition – there is a dynastree Home Edition which can be downloaded and installed on your computer.  This will allow you to make changes when not connected to the Internet and then synch them with the online version.  This concept of synching has been a big issue for me and I wish all genealogy programs had an easy way to do this.
  • Premium Servicesdynastree offers a variety of services, some described above, that are only available with the premium subscription.  One such service involves printing reports of your family tree and data to PDF.  I wish there were more flexibility for the basic subscriber in the area of printing.  When you purchase a premium subscription you are given a number of “vouchers” that can be used to print more customized trees.


Overall I had a great experience with dynastree.  I think it is simple and easy to use and this welcoming to the genealogy newcomer yet robust enough to keep the user engaged and excited about tracing their family history.

Serious genealogists would and should have some reservations, but keep in mind that the inability to cite sources is the norm for online programs.  Most don’t offer a way to cite sources and in my opinion, these programs will never attract the more serious genealogist until that happens.

I understand that most vendors fear it would confuse the casual family history enthusiast but perhaps the ability to cite sources – with full format lookup based on Evidence Explained – could be bundled in with a premium subscription.  This would make it worthwhile for those of us who do cite our sources only to see them stripped from the data when importing our GEDCOM files.  And it would not be used by the basic subscriber and thus not cause confusion.  At the very least, data points need to be expanded by having a description field added so source citations can be added if the user so desires.

If you want an easy-to-use genealogy program that is very customizable, has built-in social networking features, allows you to share and exchange data with family, and can help keep you engaged and excited about your family history, check out dynastree.

Serious genealogists should also check out the program and then leave feedback here in the comments or send it on to dynastree.  I think dynastree has the potential to serve all levels of the genealogy community – they seem to have some innovative features not found with other online programs.  Perhaps they can tackle the issue of source citations which would definitely propel the program to the next level.

© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee

dynastree – Free Premium Membership Trial Offer


dynastree has generously offered GeneaBloggers 100 vouchers for a free 1-month trial of their premium membership.  Here are the details so you can get started with dynastree:

  • Go to http://www.dynastree.com
  • Create an account by entering your first name, last name, email address and other details
  • You will receive a confirmation email to complete your dynastree account setup
  • When asked if you want a Premium Membership, click Yes.  Select the 1 month package
  • In the vendor code field enter: rnT-31B7Bw-ID
  • Click Buy (the price will appear as $0.00)

That’s it! You’ll be able to use all the features at dynastree including importing your GEDCOM file.

This offer is only good for the first 100 uses – after that the code will no longer function.  So act quickly if you want to take a closer look at dynastree.

© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee