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Acronis True Image - Review 2021

Acronis True Image is an easy-to-use and robust online backup solution for protecting files and disk images in the cloud. The service offers a ton of useful functionality, including full-disk backups, versioning, file sharing, and folder syncing, but it’s not the best value for storage on a per-gigabyte basis and was slower than average to upload our test files. An annual subscription price does include a ton of security features, however. It’s not the best online backup service or the best security suite we’ve tested, but the combination of those two feature sets means it is an Editors’ Choice winner this year, alongside IDrive.

How Much Does Acronis True Image Cost?

Acronis offers both subscription-based and perpetual licenses of True Image. You can try Acronis True Image for 30 days without the need to provide payment information, which is a nice touch. Mobile devices also do not count against device limits for any of the plans that support them.

Acronis’s Essential tier is $49.99 per year for one device. That level gets you all of Acronis’ local backup features and ransomware protection. To protect three or five devices, you need to pay $79.99 or $99.99 per year, respectively.

The Advanced subscription option starts at $89.99 per year. It includes the same feature as the Essential plan, as well as 500GB of online cloud storage for backing up one computer. You can upgrade the number of licenses you get for this plan (three for $129.99 and five for $189.99), but not the amount of storage. This tier also includes Acronis’ suite of security software.

The Premium tier begins at $124.99 per year for 1TB of online storage for one computer. You can also upgrade this plan with more computers or more storage. For example, a 5TB plan that supports five computers costs $369.99 per year. Additional features at this tier include blockchain-based certification of files and the ability to sign documents.

Acronis True Image’s starting price is in the middle of the pack. Carbonite and Backblaze offer unlimited backup storage for $60 and $71.99 per year, though both services limit licenses to a single computer at that price. IDrive is cheaper; its $69.50-per-year plan includes 2TB of storage for an unlimited number of devices.

Acronis True Image is available on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, but not Linux-based devices. You can cancel your account from the web portal by opting out of the auto-renewal payments or by submitting a support ticket.

If you need disaster recovery services, you’ll have to take a look at Acronis’ business-focused offering, Acronis Cyber Protect. Both IDrive and Backblaze offer disaster recovery options for consumers.

How Acronis Protects Your Data

Acronis says it uses end-to-end encryption (AES-256) to protect your files and that it is designed so that the company has zero knowledge about the content of your backups. Users can set up a local encryption key (non-recoverable if you forget it) that is never sent to Acronis for each backup set, as well. Acronis’ data centers are protected from a physical security standpoint (fences, biometric access checks, and video surveillance) and can continue operating in the event of a power loss for 48 hours.

Acronis’ privacy policy states that it collects personal information you provide (contact and payment information) and your usage data (server logs and device information). This data is used to maintain your account, contact you, and improve and tailor its services. Acronis says it shares this data with vendors and resellers and will give this information to law enforcement officials provided there is a legal basis. For reference, Acronis is based in Burlington, Massachusetts, in the US.

Interface and Backups

Acronis’ installer is large, at over 800MB, and it takes several minutes to run through its process; the installed program takes up almost a full gigabyte of space. After the install, you need to sign in to your Acronis account or create a new one.

True Image’s interface is straightforward, with seven flat tabs along the left rail, and large, clearly labeled buttons throughout for various tasks. It’s one of the most visually compelling of the services we’ve tested, despite all its extra features. The program did noticeably stutter in places during testing, however.

To set up a backup, you first need to decide whether you want to protect your entire hard drive—the default—or only specific folders and files. Acronis True Image mirrors your complete hard drive in its interface. To select a drive, file, or folder for backup, just check the box next to it. Acronis True Image integrates with the Windows’ File Explorer (but not fully with macOS’s Finder), so you can right-click to add files to your backup or generate sharing links. Carbonite includes a similar feature.

Acronis Desktop App

Next comes the choice of destination. The most obvious option is Acronis Cloud, but you can also select an external drive or a local folder. A few other online backup services, such as IDrive, throw in local backup software as a bonus, but with Acronis, it’s a core feature. In fact, the Acronis True Image software for online backup is identical to the True Image local backup software, except for the online option. Acronis True Image does not allow you to specify local and online targets simultaneously, which is something competitor Zoolz BigMind allows.

Once you select a source and target, simply click the green Back Up Now button or delay it until a specified time. Before you run the process, you can also choose a backup schedule, such as Daily, Weekly, Monthly, or Nonstop backup options. With the Nonstop option (also referred to as Continuous), the software detects updates to files and uploads them automatically. You can create as many Nonstop backup tasks as you like, except for those that use the Entire PC option as the source.

In the Advanced options section, you can change the number of file versions stored (the maximum is 999 for all noncontinuous backup schedules), create a local encryption key, and set upload speed and system priority levels for the operation. You can even direct Acronis to store your backup at a particular data center among its worldwide locations and delete versions of files that are older than a certain number of months (the maximum is 99 months). Acronis True Image can be configured to shut down your computer when the backup completes, too.

SpiderOak One retains an unlimited number of versions for each file forever. IDrive keeps the last 30 versions of files, but it does so forever, too.

Archive and Sync

Acronis’ Archive tab analyzes your folders for unused or particularly large files and offloads them to an external drive or cloud storage destination. This deletes the file from local storage. You can set it to run through your files automatically or select files individually. Additionally, like the Backup tab, it lets you encrypt said data or choose which data center to use. These archives are accessible via the File Explorer or Acronis’s web interface.

Acronis Folder Sync

There’s also Sync, which keeps a folder accessible and up-to-date across devices. From the desktop application, the Sync tab lets you create a default folder to use with cloud storage or just between a few chosen computers, with the option to add cloud syncing later. The files and folders are also accessible from the web interface as well as from Acronis’s mobile apps. Sync worked as advertised in our testing, but it doesn’t save multiple file versions. These folders work similarly to a OneDrive or Dropbox folder on your computer. Livedrive‘s Briefcase feature offers similar functionality.

(Editors’ Note: Livedrive is owned by j2 Global, the parent company of PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Davis.)

Recovering Your Files

Acronis True Image provides simple restore options for each one of the backup tasks you set up. You just select a backup task, navigate to the Restore tab, pick some or all of those files (with point-in-time recovery options available via a drop-down menu), and then hit Continue. From the Advanced Settings tab, you can instruct Acronis to restart your computer after the restore completes, overwrite existing files on your local drive, and control the task’s priority for computer resources.

Restoring a full hard drive with Acronis is just as simple, though the process obviously takes longer. It’s sort of like Windows’s System Restore feature, except your recovery data is in the cloud.

You can recover files via the web client, too. Unfortunately, the software doesn’t show an expanded file tree view of your folders. Instead, you have to navigate down through each level of your hard drive folder structure to get to the desired file. This can be a slow process. After you select a folder to restore, Acronis sends you a ZIP archive, as is standard.

Web and Sharing

Acronis’ web presence looks great and is mostly easy to use. However, it is a bit cumbersome to navigate and capabilities are spread out across several different interfaces. When you sign in to your account online, the first page you see is your Acronis Account Page, where you can manage your product subscriptions, edit your personal info, control email subscription settings, and access support options. Acronis True Image does not support two-factor authentication for account sign-ins—something we prefer to see for any product that deals with potentially sensitive data.

To dive into the web features, you need to hit the Dashboard button in the Product section and then choose either the Acronis True Image or File Sync & Share portal. Select the first option to see your backup data. The Resources tab on the left allows you to set up and run any of your existing backup tasks remotely. This feature worked fine in testing this time around (it didn’t last time we tested it), though the process seemed to be slower than just running the backup task from the desktop software. IDrive and BigMind offer similar remote backup functionality.

Acronis Web Interface

If you click on any of the sidebar items (Backups, Archives, or Syncs), Acronis opens yet another new tab, with access to those collections. Aside from browsing these repositories, you can also share files from this section by hitting the gear icon, and then the Copy URL option. You can manage your shared files via the Sharing menu item in the left-hand menu. Acronis finally added the option to password-protect sharing URLs, as well as set an expiration date and a download limit. SpiderOak One offers similar functionality. Alternatively, Acronis enables you to share a file from the desktop via the right-click context menu from the Windows File Explorer.

Built-In Security

Some high-end security suite products such as Norton 360 Deluxe include online backup as one of their components. Acronis True Image comes from the other direction, adding full-scale malware protection to its spectrum of backup and sync capabilities. While malware protection isn’t this product’s primary focus, it does promise real-time protection against malware, including “never-seen-before threats.” We put it through our hands-on tests just as we would a dedicated security product.

Acronis True Image Protection Page

You access all the security features through the Protection section from the left-rail menu. This page offers some quick stats on recent antivirus activity and lets you verify that all active protection components are active. You can launch a full antivirus scan or just a quick scan with the click of a button. The vulnerability assessment helps you avoid exposure due to missing security patches.

Mixed Malware Protection

Our basic malware protection test starts when we open a folder containing a collection of malware samples that we’ve carefully curated and analyzed. For many products, the minimal file access that occurs when Windows Explorer lists a file is sufficient to trigger a real-time scan. Others wait for more serious access such as copying the file. Still others simply check each program before it executes. Acronis is among the “shoot on sight” crowd—it started wiping out samples the moment we opened that folder.

The cleanup process was a bit slow, because Acronis displayed each found threat in a transient popup window. Of course, in the real world, you’re not at all likely to expose your PC to multiple malicious programs at once. We did observe that quarantined filed didn’t vanish from the folder, but their size went to zero, rendering them harmless.

Acronis wiped out 85% of the samples on sight, the same as F-Secure and TotalAV. That’s better than most, though Sophos caught 93% at this stage and G Data Antivirus managed 98%.

To finish the test, we launched each sample that survived the initial bloodbath. Acronis missed almost all of these, which, admittedly, were low-risk threats such as adware. One way or another, Acronis detected 87% of the samples and scored 8.7 of 10 possible points. On one hand, that’s not a great score. On the other, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus scored just slightly lower, also based on ignoring lower-risk samples. A set of extremely high scores from independent testing labs redeemed Bitdefender, however.

Acronis doesn’t appear in the public lab test reports from the independent labs that we follow. However, the company did commission a private test from AV-Test Institute. This test showed that Acronis would have earned top scores for Protection and Usability (meaning minimal false positives). The private test didn’t include the usual third component, Performance.

The basic hands-on test described above gives us a good look at how any security product handles known malicious programs. However, curating and analyzing a set of samples takes a long time, so we don’t change that collection often. For a look at how a product deals with the latest real-world attacks, we start with a sample of malware-hosting URLs supplied by London-based test lab MRG-Effitas. These samples are typically no more than a few days old. We try to launch each URL and note whether the security product diverts the browser away from the dangerous page, eliminates the malware payload during or just after download, or sits idly by without doing anything.

According to our Acronis contact, if the product blocked access to a dangerous website, we would see a popup in the notification area and, for non-HTTPS websites, a warning in the browser. We tested hundreds of URLs and did not see either type of notification at all, though both notifications were clearly evident in the subsequent phishing protection test.

Acronis True Image Malware Downloads in Activity List

Most antivirus products toot their own horn when they protect you against a malware download. Acronis didn’t do that. Malware downloads simply failed, sometimes resulting in no file and sometimes in a zero-byte file. We had to repeatedly check the Activity log to make sure we were seeing antivirus activity and not actual download errors.

The lack of browser-level URL blocking didn’t really matter because Acronis detected and blocked 94% of the malware downloads. That’s a fine score. McAfee AntiVirus Plus earned 100% in its latest test, but only a half-dozen other products have scored higher than Acronis.

Poor Phishing Protection

Phishing websites don’t use fancy malware programs to trick the operating system. Instead, they aim to trick you, the user. A phishing site looks almost exactly like a bank site, or a gaming site, or any site that needs a login. If you don’t notice the fakery and log in, you’ve given up your account to the creators of the phishing page. Yes, if you’re well-trained and attentive, you can probably spot phishing scams, but everybody has a blurry day from time to time. Like most antivirus tools, Acronis does its best to identify phishing frauds, so you won’t have to.

To test this kind of protection we gather real-world phishing frauds. We include some that have been identified and blacklisted, along with others that are too new to have gone through analysis. The best phishing defenders handle both the known nasties and the new frauds.

For testing purposes, we launch each collected URL in four browsers at once. One browser relies on the product under test for protection, while the other three get only the protection built into Chrome, Edge, and Firefox. We discard any test item that doesn’t load properly in all four browsers. We also discard any that don’t clearly attempt to steal login credentials. When the dust has settled, we check the results.

Acronis True Image Phishing Protection

The popup and in-browser notifications that never made an appearance in our malicious URL blocking test did turn up in the phishing protection test. A popup notification identified dangerous pages, though it flagged more as generic malicious websites than as phishing pages. For non-secure HTTP pages, Acronis diverted the browser to a warning page; blocked HTTPS pages simply triggered a browser error.

Acronis detected a disappointing 52% of the verified phishing frauds, a significantly lower detection rate than any of the three browsers alone. That score puts it in the lower third of tested products. At the top of the pack, F-Secure and McAfee both scored 100%, while Bitdefender and Norton AntiVirus Plus managed 99%. The lesson is clear—if you use Acronis for security, don’t turn off phishing protection in your browser.

See How We Test Security SoftwareSee How We Test Security Software

Layers of Protection Against Ransomware

In a very real way, backup is the ultimate protection against ransomware. Suppose a ransomware attack gets past your antivirus long enough to encrypt some files. Once you’ve dealt with the malware, you just recover those files from your backups.

Acronis True Image Ransomware Protection Settings

Even so, Acronis includes an active protection component that works to protect against any ransomware attack that might get past the basic real-time protection. By default, the ransomware protection system extends protection to backups and network drives but doesn’t automatically recover files damaged by ransomware. That last setting simply means it asks your permission before performing file recovery.

The real-time protection layer eliminated all our ransomware samples, so we had to turn off that component for testing. With real-time protection off, we launched a collection of real-world ransomware samples. Ransomware protection works by detecting ransomware behavior, which means some files may get encrypted before Acronis halts the attack. After blocking ransomware, Acronis lists any affected files and offers to recover them.

We tested with a dozen ransomware samples, 10 of which were standard file-encrypting ransomware. Two of those didn’t do anything, perhaps scared off by the presence of Acronis. The ransomware protection system caught the other eight. In every case, some files needed recovery, from as few as six to as many as 98. And in every case, Acronis successfully recovered the files. It also caught a nasty disk-encrypting sample when it tried to modify the Master Boot Record. The only sample it missed was a less harmful screenlocker sample.

Acronis True Image Possible Ransomware Detected

We’ve encountered ransomware protection systems that take a little time to warm up after a reboot, meaning that a ransomware attack at startup could slip past them. Acronis doesn’t have this problem. When we configured a couple of samples to launch at startup, it had no trouble detecting them and recovering files.

In addition to testing with real-world ransomware, we employ the free RanSim ransomware simulator published by security training firm KnowBe4. This tool simulates 10 common encrypting ransomware techniques, along with a couple of benign encryption systems; to achieve perfect, a product should block all of the ransomware simulations but leave the benign programs alone. That’s exactly what Acronis did.

This is an impressive ransomware protection system. Without any aid from the real-time protection component, it detected all our encrypting ransomware samples and, as needed, recovered affected files. In a real-world installation, real-time protection would eliminate all but the newest ransomware attacks. And even if one of those got past all the defensive layers, you still have your backups. No worries about ransomware when Acronis is on your side.

Vulnerability Scan

You know the drill. Just when you need to use an app right away, an update request gets in your face. You ignore it, figuring you can take care of things later. But do you? The thing is, those updates aren’t just vanity. Chances are good that some clever crook discovered a flaw in the app’s code, something that could open your computer to hacking. Installing that security patch update fixes the flaw; skipping it leaves you vulnerable.

Without any effort on your part, Acronis checks your system for unpatched security holes. It doesn’t make a lot of noise about its findings. There’s a panel in the main Protection page dedicated to Vulnerability assessment, with a link to a list of detected vulnerabilities.

Acronis True Image Vulnerability Report

On our test system, Acronis found dozens of Firefox vulnerabilities, which it ordered by severity: Critical, High, or Low. Unlike the vulnerability scan in Avast Free Antivirus and some others, it makes no attempt to install missing updates. The scanner simply advises that you install the latest updates for all affected programs and then scan again. When we followed that advice, the new scan came up clean. By default, Acronis scans for vulnerabilities daily.

A Decent Antivirus

If this collection of security components existed as a standalone antivirus, it would be a decent choice. It scored high in our malicious URL blocking test and its ransomware protection layer is outstanding. However, it tanked our phishing test, didn’t do so well at simple malware blocking, and doesn’t have any official comparative test results. It would probably rate three stars. That’s good, but not great. You’ll get better protection from one of our Editors’ Choice-winning antivirus utilities.

Whether great or merely good, the available security protection significantly enhances Acronis True Image. We haven’t seen another backup tool that comes close to this level of security protection.

Notary, ASign, and Other Extras

For extra reassurance that your files remain exactly as they were when you backed them up, Acronis offers its Notary feature. To create a notarized backup, you start a new backup job from the Source page and choose Files to notarize. Then, select individual files or folders for the treatment and back them up either to local storage or cloud storage. A “Notarizing…” animation appears with a check mark. After backup, you can verify the file and even see an official-looking certificate with Acronis Notary listed as a signee. Acronis claims this is “indisputable proof” that no process or person changed the file. We expect the courts will have to decide whether it’s admissible evidence, should you use it for legal purposes.

Similar to Notary is ASign, which lets multiple parties digitally sign documents in your cloud storage. To use this feature, just choose Send for Signature in the gear settings icon next to a file entry in the web interface. You add email addresses of people you want to sign the document; they receive an email with a link to a secure page where they confirm their name and write (the best they can with a mouse) in the signature box. When everyone has signed, you receive an email verifying the document. This feature also uses blockchain technology to ensure that the recipient has not altered your document.

Acronis includes other tools such as Clone, which creates a copy of your disk to migrate to another PC; Rescue Media Builder; Try & Decide, which allows you to safely install software you’re unsure about; and more tools for system cleanup and recovery. Parallels Access, an extra-cost option, lets you access your PC from a remote mobile device using the Parallels software. There’s also a system cleanup tool, though we recommend checking out our roundup of the best tune-up utilities for more comprehensive software.

How Quickly Does Acronis Back Up Data?

This year, we tested Acronis True Image’s performance with a batch of three separate 1GB file sets over a home Ethernet connection (16Mbps upload), since we do not have access to PCMag’s fast corporate testing network due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our test device was a Dell Inspiron tower running Windows 10 with a 256GB SSD and 32GB RAM. We timed how long it took Acronis to upload each file set and then took the median of the results.

Online Backup Upload Speed Results

Acronis True Image did not perform well. It completed the task in a median time of 18:21 (minutes:seconds), which was close to last. IDrive took the top spot in our results with a time of 12:29 with ElephantDrive not far behind (12:44). Acronis True Image was only quicker than NovaBackup (22:14). The upload speed of an online backup service is not the most crucial thing to consider, but fast upload times can certainly make the initial and subsequent runs much more palatable.

Mobile Apps

We tested Acronis’ mobile app on an Android 11 device and had no issues signing in to our account. The app is available for both Android and iOS. There are currently four different Acronis apps listed on the Google Play store, but the correct one for personal accounts is called Acronis True Image: Mobile. The app’s clean design is reminiscent of the desktop app and we like the consistent color scheme. The app is divided into three sections: Backups, Browse, and Settings. We encountered some performance issues with the app; the Browse section, in particular, took a long time to load files.

The Backups section is easy to use but takes an all-or-nothing approach. For example, you can not specify which photos or videos you want to upload, just all photos or all videos. Other types of data you can back up include contacts, calendars, and messages. Unlike, IDrive, Acronis doesn’t let you back up music. We like that Acronis includes a continuous backup option and that it lets you protect backups with a local encryption key. This functionality worked fine in testing, though oddly, the backups of our contacts did not include any actual data apart from the contact name.

Acronis True Image Android App

You can view any backups from desktop devices in the Browse section and download any items on your device. There’s no way to sort files within this view, however, and you need to click through each level of the backup file hierarchy to get to the files you want. This process is painfully slow.

Online Backup and More

There are definite advantages to backing up an entire disk image, which is the default way Acronis True Image operates. The service impresses with an intuitive interface, flexible backup preferences, and extra security options like ransomware protection and secure signing. That said, its web and mobile apps have usability issues and Acronis True Image was slow to upload files in our backup tests. It retains its Editors’ Choice award for this year, however, for its unique combination of backup and security capabilities. IDrive is another top pick for the online backup category, because of its excellent value and ease-of-use.

If you are more interested in only backing up your files to local storage, visit our roundups of local backup services and external hard drives to see your best options.

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