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Backup Strategy Ideas?


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#1 jhsmurray

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 03:49 PM

Not sure the best place to put this post, sorry in advance if it needs to be moved.

I was wondering if the following is a decent backup strategy. In order of precedence, the goal is to find the:
(1)cheapest,
(2)most reliable,
(3)easiest-to-use,
(4)automated
backup method.

Here's the deal:

One computer on the network (once installed will have XPSP3, part of a domain) will have 2 hard drives, HDD-0 and HDD-1.
Currently HDD-0 is a fresh unpartitioned/unformatted drive.
* HDD-0 will have two 80GB primary partitions, Part#1 for XP and program files, Part#2 for backups.
* HDD-1 is a 160GB drive for user files (that is, the main login's "My Documents" folder)

I was thinking of having Acronis True Image on HDD-0/Part#1 running image(s)/scheduled-differential-backups of HDD-1 to HDD-0/Part#2.
Alternatively I could use HDD-0/Part#1 for Acronis diff-backups of user files AND something like Faronics DeepFreeze for OS images, but that is probably overkill and might not fit on the backup partition with the rest of the user-file backups :thumbsup:

Ultimately I would love to have user files on a fileserver that has regular backups to tape, but that is not "in the cards" as they say.

Am I missing some simple solution? Is there a basic loophole in my strategy?

Any ideas welcome! Thanks!

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#2 nigglesnush85

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 04:06 PM

Hello jhsmurray

I would say that it looks good. I would use a larger hard drive.

My typical backup method is to have all my important files in 2 locations then just select them and copy them to an external leaving it over night.
Regards,

Alan.

#3 hamluis

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 05:18 PM

I guess that I don't believe in automated backups...I like to prep the system before I backup anything.

I remove all temp files, dump the Recycle Bin, remove any programs that I have installed but haven't used recently.

I move everything out of My Whatever...and put it on another partition.

I then run a thorough scan for all malware...then do a chkdsk.

Then I create my system images using the precursor of what is now Ghost. I just store them in a folder on another hard drive which contains more files which I deem valuable (movies, music, graphics).

Louis

#4 usasma

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 07:15 PM

Backup strategies are difficult to master as there's so much more involved than is commonly thought of.

1) How valuable are the backups to you?
2) Are you prepared to recover if your computer/hard drive(s) die?
3) Are you prepared to recover if your building burns down/is destroyed?
4) Are you prepared to recover if your local area is hit by a natural disaster (such as a flood or hurricane)?
5) Are you prepared to recover from a regional disaster?
6) Are you prepared to recover from a national disaster?

The answers to these questions will let you know how far you've gotta go in backing up your stuff.

For example, at my wife's office, this is how we backup:
1) Backup to another drive on the file server daily (using SyncBackSE)
2) Backup to another computer in the building daily (using SyncBackSE)
3) Backup to my home (via the internet using pcAnywhere) daily (I only retain month end copies once the month is over)
Additionally, I'm installing another file server that will also receive the backup (so that they can be back up and running immediately in the event that the file server dies)

We have elected not to backup in any greater detail, as a disaster of that scale will render the records useless anyway.

I also periodically image the hard drive from the file server to an external drive so that I'm able to restore the file server if needed (using Acronis True Image).

On my home computer I store all data that I want to save on a second hard drive. The settings and data for my browser (Firefox) and my email (Thunderbird) are also stored there. The only savable data that reside on my OS partition is the settings for my email checker (PopPeeper) - and I export them to a saved location on the second hard drive so that I'll have them if I need them.

This makes backing up and imaging very simple. I image my OS partition as needed to an external drive (using Acronis True Image). I have a "base" image that contains all the "pointers" to my data (on the second hard drive) and all my essential programs. So, when I restore the image, the links to my data still exist and I'm able to access all my data without having to restore it also.

Then, to preserve the data, I back it up to the external hard drive also.
My browser caused a flood of traffic, sio my IP address was banned. Hope to fix it soon. Will get back to posting as soon as Im able.

- John  (my website: http://www.carrona.org/ )**If you need a more detailed explanation, please ask for it. I have the Knack. **  If I haven't replied in 48 hours, please send me a message. My eye problems have recently increased and I'm having difficult reading posts. (23 Nov 2017)FYI - I am completely blind in the right eye and ~30% blind in the left eye.<p>If the eye problems get worse suddenly, I may not be able to respond.If that's the case and help is needed, please PM a staff member for assistance.

#5 jhsmurray

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 05:36 AM

@ nigglesnush85 & hamluis
excellent point about removing unnecessary stuff before executing backups or simply backing up only select directories.
automation may not be sophisticated enough to handle the process properly, particularly when dealing with OS directories/files; backing up only specific folders simplifies the process greatly.

@ usasma
You've pointed out a fundamental issue that I missed! Classifying the importance of the data establishes the process.
I've reconsidered this arrangement and will put a proposal together based on a tier system:
0 (OS) - not backed up. reinstalled as necessary.
1 (critical data/files) - handled off site in a datacenter
2 (important data/files) - stored on LAN fileserver/dataserver with weekly-span tapedrive archive, or storage device (drobo might be nice for use by all the machines...)
3 (moderate data/files, eg emails, documents, access db's) - stored on a local partition, moved to fileserver/storage device on a quarterly basis
4 (casual data/files) - not backed up
great feedback guys. really helpful.

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#6 usasma

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 07:39 AM

There's 2 other things to consider:
1) backup verification
2) supervision

Backup Verification: A backup does you no good if you can't use it. And the only way to be sure of this is to test the backup by restoring it. I've lost my disk images (on my home systems) and have had to reinstall Windows the slow way (and I'm tempting fate as I've never tested my home backups!)

Supervision: I trusted my home system to backup my wife's work data without supervision. About a month ago my wife asked about it - so I checked on it. I hadn't had a backup done in about 6 months!!! (it was some system changes that I did that caused this). I reset everything and now I check for the backup every day - and I'm searching for an automated solution to notify me when the event doesn't happen (I can do this with the Task Schedule, just haven't figured out "how").
My browser caused a flood of traffic, sio my IP address was banned. Hope to fix it soon. Will get back to posting as soon as Im able.

- John  (my website: http://www.carrona.org/ )**If you need a more detailed explanation, please ask for it. I have the Knack. **  If I haven't replied in 48 hours, please send me a message. My eye problems have recently increased and I'm having difficult reading posts. (23 Nov 2017)FYI - I am completely blind in the right eye and ~30% blind in the left eye.<p>If the eye problems get worse suddenly, I may not be able to respond.If that's the case and help is needed, please PM a staff member for assistance.

#7 jhsmurray

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Posted 18 August 2008 - 05:52 PM

Hmm good points. I think I'm going to ditch the automation approach and focus on having user files backed up manually, as copies, on a separate drive/partition for each pc. That way I can be fairly sure of the verification and supervision factor. System files, cookies, internet cache and favorites/bookmarks would not be backed up; anyways, in case of disaster a fresh install of the OS couldn't hurt too much! The somewhat important data would be handled in a similar way but on a separate fileserver, handled by me. The critical data is currently out of my hands. I believe in my case the network is small enough for this method to work. HOWEVER I'm wondering how long it would take to copy something like 40 gigs over to a separate PATA drive... :flowers: :thumbsup: Come to think of it, I should really press for incremental backup software, or do something like "point" each user's [My Documents] folder to a raided fileserver on the network.

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#8 hamluis

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Posted 18 August 2008 - 06:28 PM

It would probably be smarter...to just make system images ever so often and put those on DVD or hard drive.

An image contains everything that was on the system at a given moment...and the individual files or a total system restore can be done easily with little time involved. No need to segregate files or content...you have everything that was on the system, exactly as it was on the system...with individual files capable of data retrieval, if necessary.

But that's just my approach:).

Louis

#9 PerryNZ

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Posted 04 September 2008 - 11:27 PM

Howdy usasma

That synopsis of yours is great. I suspect that backing-up,
generally, is a very poorly understood concept, by most
home PC users. (Like me!) Posted Image

And just how much critical data is the average home PC
going to have on it? Pix, WP docs, a few games, a basic
money manager program, perhaps? . . . . . . . . ?

How would you re-write your scenario if you were to
split all program data from everything else? I suppose
cookies, bookmarks, passwords, etc., should really be
described as data, should they not? If so, how's the
average home user gonna know which sub-folders (or
files) out of which folders in the Program Files folder
should be copied in a back-up process?

I also wonder at how much back-ups should be considered
at the time of installation - OS & programs? Fraught!
Especially as (I suspect) some programs are not happy
with their data files in another directory/folder, never mind
on another hdd or partition!

But that's what I've tried to achieve. All data on hdd2,
with all program files on hdd1. Backing up the entire
hdd2 just seems easy.

But what about templates, documents & settings &
programs that want user data in its own sub-folder?

Back-up by degrees, I suppose it amounts to. You mention
verification. How critical is that if the back-up data format
is not compressed or the like - just a file/disc copy of?

I've tried the windoze one, but it seems to be a proprietary
format. One I might not be able to pull just this or that file
or folder from, if needed. Next is Cobian. I struggle with
the interface, as well as the error reports. I've never yet
had to test the integrity of the back-ups, but at least I can
'see' that they're there and open them.

I've got a couple more programs on my 'to try' list, yet.
The more I do it, the more I realise what a challenge this
whole back-up thing really is.

I'm presently playing around, using a LAN, dumping back-
ups on my lady's PC, using her second hdd, reserved just
for the purpose. As it's a half TB SATA, I do have the luxury
of lots of space to play!

Perry
New Zealand

Edited by PerryNZ, 05 September 2008 - 12:28 AM.


#10 usasma

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 06:47 PM

Critical data is that data which is critical to you. But, it may not be critical to me, so it's gotta be an individual choice (regardless if it's business or personal - it's all still data).

I see no use in splitting program files away from the boot drive. You can't backup programs or Windows by just copying stuff over - there's too much that goes on behind the scenes for it to work.

My primary home system has 3 hard drives (all are 150 gB):
- A Windows Vista 32 bit installation (due to be formatted soon)
- A Windows Vista 64 bit installation
- My pagefile/data storage drive

The pagefile/data storage drive has a 7 gB partition just for the pagefile (which I keep messing with).
The remainder is marked for storage.
I store all of my documents and data there. I did this using the Move option in the properties of each of the User folders that I keep data in.
Additionally, I keep my Firefox and Thunderbird profiles located there.

That way, should my OS disk crash, my data is safe on another drive. Since I made an image of my drive AFTER I made all these changes - they're embedded in my OS disk image. And, when I restore the image it'll automatically hook back up to the pagefile/data storage drive and I won't have lost any data.

How are you going to know what to do? Well, you've gotta do the research. If it's something you use often - and there are settings saved somewhere, then you've gotta locate the settings and take action to save them. FWIW - there's several programs that I use that I don't save on the pagefile/data storage drive (mostly my email checker - PopPeeper and my router monitor - WallWatcher). I back them up by exporting their registry keys and saving it as data on the pagefile/data storage drive.

As for how much/often to backup - it all depends on what you can afford to lose. At work our customers swear by the need to recover their data - until they hear the price (and the data becomes less important then). Also, FWIW, I lost my wedding pictures to a hard drive crash - and was wondering where I'd get the $1,600.00 US to recover them when I discovered that I'd accidentally backed them up to another drive.

I keep an image of the basic system setup when I first install everything, and then keep periodic images to make sure I keep up with updates. As long as the system is behaving, you can delete the older ones to make room for the newer ones. I've been doing this for several years (and refining it as I went along) so I only keep one image - but that's got everything that I need to get started again.

I will admit to being a bit lax about my data backups - but I don't have all that much data to backup (email being the biggest thing because I'm a packrat). But I couldn't live without my bookmarks, so I've layered that backup with the normal Firefox backup and the use of the online Foxmarks utility (it saves my bookmarks on the Foxmarks website).

It's difficult to set all of this up, but once you've got everything that you want to save pointed at the data hard drive - then backups become easy. Using a backup utility can also simplify this because you can specify multiple locations to backup from in one operation. Templates come with the programs - so if Windows dies, so do the programs. They'll either be in the image that you made, or you'll just have to reinstall them.

As for programs that want their own stuff in a folder in Documents and Settings - you can redirect almost any folder to the data drive by using custom installations, shortcuts to redirect, or even exploring the mysteries of Junction Points (way outta my league!).

Storage is cheap these days - and with the problems I had back in the olden days with DoubleSpace, I'll never use compression again. If you need more space, just get more storage. Compression just adds another thing to your data that could go wrong - and the goal here is to have your data remain intact.

The same goes for the Windows backup utility - I had issues with it back in the olden days (Windows NT) and refuse to use it now. I've used SyncBackSE for several years now and I swear by it. I even bought the pay-for version for use at the wife's office. I've heard good things about Cobian - but I'll stick with what I know.

Verification and integrity of the backup are the most important part of this. What are you going to do if the backup/image can't be restored? You'll have to reinstall Windows and all your programs and you'll have to attempt to recover your data. Neither is fun to do even when you plan it out - imagine how it'll be when you're faced with a crash and no way to fix anything!

A good backup strategy develops over time to suit your needs - but it does this because you're aware of your needs and are doing something to address them. Verifying a backup is easy (but time consuming) - just open up each of the backed up data files to be sure that they open. It's the verification of an image that's a pain - but at one point you've gotta bite the bullet and try it. It'll either be when you planned to try it out - or it'll be when your system has crashed and you've got no other options left.
My browser caused a flood of traffic, sio my IP address was banned. Hope to fix it soon. Will get back to posting as soon as Im able.

- John  (my website: http://www.carrona.org/ )**If you need a more detailed explanation, please ask for it. I have the Knack. **  If I haven't replied in 48 hours, please send me a message. My eye problems have recently increased and I'm having difficult reading posts. (23 Nov 2017)FYI - I am completely blind in the right eye and ~30% blind in the left eye.<p>If the eye problems get worse suddenly, I may not be able to respond.If that's the case and help is needed, please PM a staff member for assistance.




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