I want backup software that does incremental backups at the file level. It might waste more space, but it would be easier to retrieve lost files. It should make a folder for each date-time (YYYYMMDD-HHMMSS) it finds a changed file (continuous backup). It should just store complete files (not a single giant backup file). It should probably also have an XML log / registry in the root of the backups to air a Backup Browser in showing a reconstituted view.
I could then look at the drive and see a \BackUps folder in the root of the drive for all my backuos, a \C folder for files on the C:\ drive, and then \YYYYMMDD-HHMMSS folders for each backup. I could then dig into \BackUps\C\YYYYMMDD-HHMMSS\ or \BackUps\D\YYYYMMDD-HHMMSS\ (D:\ drive, etc.) and fish out any file I needed without using backup software to retrieve the file.
Anyone could then build a Backup Browser (open source or proprietary) to let the backup be browsed reassembled since only the first backup would have all the files. it could look like Time machine’s restore function, or it could look like a Fonder/Explorer window with a date control to look at the file system state on a given date-time. But even without the Backup Browser, you could still get the files.
Windows 7 Backup and Restore (built in backup), Acronis True Image Home 2010, and Rebit, discussed in “Managing Backup: Three Software Solutions Compared : Backup Done Right – Review Tom’s Hardware“, all seem like good options, but if I understand correctly, all require software to look at the files.
If backup software used my standard scheme for storing backups, it would still be helpful to have software to look at the backups in a more meaningful way, but it would not be required — the files would just be there on the drive.
If you want your backup encrypted (which is a weird idea to me, since retrieving the data — the whole point of a backup — could be hampered by encryption), then it would be okay for it to work in the TrueCrypt way. Files are still accessed at the root of a drive, but that drive is an encrypted container somewhere else. Better yet, it could be an encrypted partition. Just make sure the OS and user transparently see it as unencrypted.