In my view Acronis True image has been for years the gold standard for PC image backups. For me it all started with Norton Ghost (itself a piece of software originally developed in New Zealand), but since Symantec retired the product Acronis True Image software took that space, improving on the feature set and going beyond a simple disk image solution.
Perhaps it was the all around single software solution for a simple problem: "how to create copies of my system that I can use to quickly restore it in case of hardware or software failure?"
Over the years I experience such failures. Every time I go on a long trip I create an image of my laptop and carry it with me, just in case. "Just in case" happened a few years ago, when attending a conference in the USA and against my better judgement I decided to install a new driver via Windows Update. My (then) Lenovo laptop did not like the driver and wouldn't boot.
Acronis True Image came to the rescue. Booting from a USB allowed me to restore the image during a lunch time break, with the only thing gone missing being emails in my local inbox, which was a fully synchronised back with the Office 365 service a few minutes later.
Acronis True Image 2015 though brings some visible changes. First the main True Image program has a new, modern user interface. It looks good and it's easy to navigate around.
It also improves in the cloud backup department, with options to create copies of your files to Acronis servers. This is good but I doubt it can beat the gigabit or USB 3 speeds you can get from local storage. In any case it's a good alternative option seeing that we shouldn't rely on a single backup solution - what happens if your USB HDD goes missing, or your house burns down?
You can purchase Acronis True Image by itself (AU$ 49.99), adding cloud storage (250 GB, 500GB or 1TB) or get the Acronis True Image Unlimited, which offers one year of unlimited storage for AU69.99, which is not a bad price. Most likely you will renew the online subscription later or just buy an upgrade for its next version. Note that there's a Fair Usage Policy and Acronis expects each PC would use a maximum of 3TB of cloud storage.
Your data can be protected in different ways and your backup strategy will depend on how much data you have to store, how long you want to go back if something goes wrong, how much available storage space you have and how much time you want your PC to spend creating copies.
Acronis True Image allows you to create different backup sets, each with its own set of parameters, including strategy, storage location, encryption, etc. These can be full backups or incremental and differential backups. A full backup is self explanatory and will create new copies of everything in the backup set every time it's run. Obviously it uses a lot of space for this (although the program offers options to compress the data while creating the backup). Incremental and differential backups on the other hand use less storage because they will create a full backup first but each subsequent backup will only copy the changes since the last backup until a full cycle (as defined by your strategy) is completed and a new full backup is done.
When using Incremental backups you can configure it to create a new full base backup after a few Incremental backups, and to discard old sets - either after a certain period, or number of backups are performed, or to keep storage under a certain limit.
Obviously you need to keep all backup files available when performing a restore, so that Acronis True Image can then select which files and in which order it will use them to recover your system.
Other features include the option to clone a disk, which can be used when you are replacing some storage with a larger one or when replacing your HDD with a SSD.
You can schedule your backups for automatic execution. But the coolest thing really is the Non-Stop Backup option. If you are using internal storage or a NAS device then you can have Acronis True Image creating an updated backup of your PC every five minutes, throughout the day.
Many of the options available on Acronis True Image are now separate programs, accessible from the Start Menu. This includes tools such as disk cleanup (including secure wipe with multiple options), disk cloning (which allows you to even resize partitions as data is moved) and image mounting (so you can use a backup set as a drive in your system).
Acronis True Image 2015 has removed a few interesting features that were part of the software over the years. For example the "Try and Decide" feature is gone. It allowed you to start a session and install software, try it, then return your PC to its previous state. The logic being removing this feature is that making a full image copy is a "Try and Decide" feature by itself. You can just restore the full image. Ok, makes sense.
Another retired feature is the manual consolidation of backups. You now have to configure this task as part of your backup selection and don't have an option to initial a consolidation task if needed - in case some storage space is needed for example.
The Rescue Media Builder is still there, and generates a USB-based bootable media that allows you to access your backups in your hardware is gone. This is the USB key you have to keep safe in case you need to boot your system and read a backup - it supports both local and networked storage so you can access your backup the way you see fit.
Backup speed will depend on how much data you have to store on a set and other parameters. You can set encryption levels (no encryption or AES 128/192 and 256 keys) and task priority (low priority will allow you to continue using your PC but will make the backup very slow). You can set options to send out emails notifying you of a task result or even shutdown the PC once the backup is complete.
As I said Acronis True Image has already saved my day once while away and it is a safe bet it can help you if somethig goes wrong.