Toward a more rational backup strategy

In the week leading up to the birth of our new baby boy, I was in something of a holding pattern, unable to start on a major new project, yet compelled to continue working on something to pass the time. I took that opportunity to do something I’ve put off for years in an epic feat of procrastination: the formulation of a sensible and fairly comprehensive backup strategy. Like many of us, my history here is a shameful one, a checkered past littered with poorly labeled DVD-Rs, manual file copies, and a minimum of forethought. Yes, I have been backing up my most critical files for years, but not in a way that makes a heck of a lot of sense.

This is a bit of a painful admission for me, in part because I come from a past life as a professional network and system administrator, in which I successfully devised and managed complex backup schemes across entire data centers. But mostly the admission is painful because backups are one of a few subjects in computers—along with network security—where a certain class of geek enjoys lecturing people stridently about Best Practices and acting as if they have Special Enlightenment Knowledge about how these things should be done, as if ensuring you don’t lose your personal photos were akin to a moon shot. Admitting anything less than perfection on this front could lead to a loss of geek accreditation, among other things.

This is a risk I am willing to take for you, gentle reader.

Fortunately, I was surprised to see how little effort it took to arrive at a much more rational backup scheme, one that encompasses virtually all of my critical data and is, by and large, automated in software. It was cheap to institute, given the hardware and software I already had on hand. And honestly, the scheme I’ve set up feels outright competent and reassuring. I’ll share my experiences below, so that they might help you, if you’ve not yet devised a means of managing and backing up your data that seems satisfactory.

The right mix of hardware

I should say that I started with pretty much all the necessary hardware on hand, since my intent to do the right thing preceded the actuality by a number of months. Late last year, I purchased a bundle of storage hardware aimed at addressing this problem: a pair of 1TB Caviar Green hard drives, a Thermaltake BlacX external USB drive dock, and a Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB drive. Today, all of these items together can be had for under $400, and they constitute pretty much everything you need for a really solid storage and backup solution.

You may notice here the lack of an optical drive, such as a Blu-ray burner. Time and experience have convinced me that removable optical storage isn’t a particularly convenient or cost-effective way to handle backups, at least for me. I’m madly demotivated by disk swapping, and hard drive capacities have outpaced optical media by leaps and bounds. I think most folks will be better off using one or more hard drives for last-line data storage, most of the time. I do have DVD drive and recommend using it as a part of a backup scheme, but only in a small role.

In any event, equipped with this hardware, I set up a storage hierarchy that looks something like this: at the top is the 80GB Intel X25-M SSD that holds my OS, applications, email, and the like. The second tier is a terabyte RAID 1 array comprised of those two Caviar Green drives. I had originally planned to host this array in my local Windows XP-based storage server, but some strange file sharing incompatibilities between XP and Vista torpedoed that idea. Instead, I popped those drives into my main PC, the Damagebox Quad, a move that turned out to be fortuitous, as you’ll see. This array is then shared over my local network with other machines. Tier three is that 1.5TB Barracuda, which I plug into the BlacX dock in order to make backups. The rest of the time, the ‘cuda stays unplugged and safely hidden, impervious to power surges, lightning strikes, or other such drive-frying calamities.

A surprising software option

Having this basic hierarchy in place was nice but far from sufficient. I was still using a combination of individual backup programs, such as one built specifically for Windows Mail, and good ol’ file copies to manage my data. If I didn’t sit down every so often and go through the motions of copying files to the offline drive, I wasn’t much better off than before. Yes, most of my data were on a RAID 1 mirror, so I was insulated from a single drive failure, but as you may know, a RAID array is no substitute for a proper backup. And I had other critical data on my wife’s PC and the storage server that weren’t even on this RAID array. To name just a few of many problems.

After looking into what sort of backup software I might want to purchase to help straighten things out, I decided to first try using Windows Vista’s own built-in Backup Center feature to see whether it could meet my needs. Backup Center has the great virtue of being already paid for by my Vista license fee, and heck, I figured I might get a little bit of return on my investment in Vista Ultimate, which comes with some additional backup capabilities.

To my great surprise, Vista’s backup features turned out to be more than acceptable for my needs, even though its two basic backup functions are very simple to use.

One of those, dubbed Windows Complete PC Backup, is only available in Windows Vista Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions. This feature works much like Norton Ghost, creating an image of your entire system, including data, programs, and preferences. In the event of a catastrophic failure of primary storage, one can boot from a Vista DVD and use the included tools to restore an entire system to its prior state on a new drive in a matter of minutes, with essentially everything intact. One may specify which drives to include in the complete backup. I included only my 80GB primary SSD, since my system boots from it and can function without any other drives attached. The compressed image occupied only 54GB on a mechanical drive, a small price to pay for such security. Complete PC Backup runs in the background from inside Windows, no reboot required, and once you have a full image, the utility can save incremental backups from there, storing only the changes since the last complete backup.

A backup of all of your data is really no substitute for this sort of disk image, which brings real peace of mind that you won’t have to spend a few days restoring your carefully calibrated PC to its former state, should the worst happen. If your OS doesn’t include Complete PC Backup, one may instead use a third-party program like Ghost or Acronis TrueImage to achieve the same result.

As far as I can tell, though, Complete PC Backup cannot be scheduled to run automatically via a GUI (though it is possible via the command line), and one can only restore the complete image to disk; individual files can’t be restored piecemeal. Thus, it’s not an appropriate stand-in for a separate backup of one’s user data. For that job, Vista has a separate file backup function.

The setup wizard for Vista’s file backup is off-puttingly simple. The user may choose which drives to include in the backup, and then you’re prompted about what file types to include. At first blush, I was pretty well convinced this utility was overmatched against my thorny, years-in-the-making collection of various file types in different locations across multiple drives. On reflection, though, this consumer-friendly, data-oriented approach makes perfect sense.

You can see the choices I made in the dialog above. Since I still use Windows Mail, the check-box for “E-mail” should have me covered there. “Documents” is more expansive than it may sound, because it covers all file types registered as documents with any installed programs, in any location, not just the “My Documents” folder or what have you. “Compressed files” covers things like Zip archives, which I definitely want to keep, and “Other files” includes unrecognized file types—so just about anything that isn’t an executable or system file. Checking this last box perhaps wasn’t necessary to cover all of my critical data, but it made me feel more comfortable with how the program works. The only file type I’ve elected to exclude is “TV shows,” presumably ones recorded via Windows Media Center, since they take up lots of space and can generally be replaced via, ahem, other channels.

The wizard then prompts you to schedule this backup job. I chose to run mine weekly, on Friday afternoons at the end of the work week. There is still an element of manual intervention, since I’ll have to pop the 1.5TB ‘cuda into its cradle before the backup runs, but otherwise, everything just happens automatically, running in the background with nothing but a little notification icon in the system tray.

Interestingly enough, Vista’s file backup stores its data in a series of large, compressed Zip archives. Although it’s a cumbersome way to find a file, one may browse through them after changing their permissions to allow it. The file backup does store incremental backups, but a full copy of any file modified will be included in each backup, so it’s not particularly efficient. Since my storage capacity exceeds the size of my total data set several times over, I haven’t found this limitation to be troubling.

In fact, inspired by the logical clarity of Windows’ data-centric backup approach, I finally gave in a little bit and mapped my custom directory structure for my main data, formed over years of personal and professional use, to Windows’ main categories for Documents, Pictures, Music, and the like. By no means would all of my files fit in Redmond’s suggested, default locations on the C: drive, which is my 80GB SSD. Instead, I changed the properties for my profile’s main data directories, pointing them to the locations where I keep my files of the appropriate type. In the image above, I’ve mapped “Downloads” to a subdirectory on my terabyte RAID 1 array. Now, the file selection shortcuts in the OS actually work, because they’re mapped to the appropriate places. Making these changes also allowed me to move my “Documents” folder to the RAID mirror, freeing up crucial space on the SSD and placing those important files where they really belong.

Scheduling a weekly backup job had my PC more or less covered, but what about the other PCs on my network? Well, I used the built-in Windows file backup on both of those systems (Vista on one, XP on the other) to schedule weekly backups over the network to my RAID 1 mirror. That way, if either of those systems goes belly up, I have their data preserved. Neither of those systems has a particularly large set of critical data, so I’m not hitting any space constraints. And those backup jobs are set to run earlier in the week, so when my PC is backed up to the external 1.5TB on Friday, a recent copy of their files is included.

Transport through the fourth dimension

A nice advantage of using Windows’ built-in backup tools is integration with a little known but very useful Vista feature known as Shadow Copy. Much like Apple’s vaunted Time Machine, Shadow Copy retains multiple versions of files as you work on them and will allow you to go back and restore previous versions at will. Strangely, this feature isn’t available in Home versions of Windows Vista, which makes Microsoft’s product segmentation chafe me even more. Shadow Copy works by saving incremental changes to files on any volume that has System Protection enabled. By default, that means the main system drive but not other drives, so I had to go and enable it on my RAID 1 array. Shadow Copy works by saving incremental changes to files, so it doesn’t occupy a tremendous amount of space. I believe Microsoft estimates about 15% of a drive will be occupied by Shadow Copy data—well worth it, in my view.

Shadow Copies are accessible by going to the “Previous Versions” tab in a file or directory’s properties. And, as you can see in the screenshot above, previous versions of the file that were captured in a backup job are also available to be restored or copied via this dialog box. Very slick—and eminently useful.

Last lines of defense

The combination of Shadow Copies, a system drive image, a local RAID mirror, scheduled backups from our other PCs to that mirror, and weekly backups of that RAID 1 array to an external hard drive adds up to pretty decent protection against user screw-ups, malware data holocausts, and hardware failures. What it doesn’t do is protect against larger problems, such as fires, floods, and theft. If you take a backup route similar to mine, you will want to be very careful where you store that offline backup drive—a fireproof safe might be a good place. One might also wish to add additional external drives to the backup rotation, so that one of them can be stored off-site, either at a trusted friend or relative’s house or in a safety deposit box.

My last line of defense against catastrophic loss of my most critical data, though, was to take advantage of a free offer from an online backup service called iDrive. This firm offers 2GB of online storage via its iDrive Basic backup client absolutely free.

The software is simple to set up and use, and one can choose exactly which files to include in the backup job. I chose only my most critical files from programs like Quicken, key business documents, registration keys for software I’ve purchased online, and the contents of my Documents directory. This most precious information would be the worst to lose, and since iDrive doesn’t mind, I decided to back up those files every night. This last little piece of the puzzle has given me the most peace of mind, I must admit, because it’s a different class of protection than any local backup alone can offer.

Of course, 2GB won’t begin to contain the growing collection of family pictures a we’ve produced with eight-megapixel cameras, not to mention the baby videos coming out of our new HD camcorder. This is where optical storage comes into play for me. I plan to burn the family picture and video collections to DVD periodically and give them to my parents to keep. One can pay more for additional storage capacity at iDrive or other online backup services, but my since my total data set is just under half a terabyte and I have a pretty slow upstream on my cable Internet service, that doesn’t seem entirely practical for such needs. iDrive has so far been excellent for me, though, so I may change my view on this front in time.

The bottom line is that a fairly well integrated, rational backup strategy was really pretty easy to devise, once I devoted a little time and attention to it. The software tools I used cost me nothing more than I’d already paid for Vista, yet I have achieved everything I’d hoped—and more, thanks to some nice tricks like Shadow Copy integration. If you haven’t taken the time to think through your own backup strategy, I’d encourage you to go ahead and give it a crack. You’ll find that it’s more rewarding than procrastination and, if you have a bit of computer geek in you, maybe even more fun.

Comments closed
    • EndlessWaves
    • 10 years ago

    I’d rather save space and only backup the things I need since it’s quicker and allows me to have more versions. Can anyone recommend a backup program that lets you quickly and easily include/exclude folders and files as well as being smart about when it backs up e.g. on connection of the backup device but more more frequently than once every three days or ‘shut down the PC if no user activity during the second half of the backup’? I don’t mind paying for it if it’s good.

    • d0g_p00p
    • 10 years ago

    I know my solution is not a true backup but it works for me. I ended up purchasing 5 1.5TB WD Green drives and a Thecus N5200Pro. The disks are RAID 5 with a hot spare and I keep all my data on there. My important docs are located on a D-Link DNS 323 with 2 1TB WD greens running RAID 1.

    This solution allows me to only have 1 disk in my main PC and have all my data accessible to all my computers through my network. Also again it’s not a true backup solution but having everything redundant via RAID is nice. I just could not figure out how to backup all my data without using expensive and slow tapes or a expensive disk array.

    • BenBasson
    • 10 years ago

    I find it easier to just backup using MozyHome, which is £50 a year. I don’t have to think about anything or do anything, it just sits there and does its thing on idle time.

    Anything I want immediately to hand is backed up to a second drive, but in case all is lost, I’ll still have it on Mozy’s servers. 50GB backed up and counting. It looks like they store binary diffs and keep them indefinitely, so I can go back to any revision of any file for the last 2 years. Anything else just seems pointless to me now.

      • indeego
      • 10 years ago

      Ever restored ~50 gigs worth of data on DSL or sub-par broadband? It ain’t pretty if you need that data NOWg{<.<}g

        • thecoldanddarkone
        • 10 years ago

        If I got consistant full bandwidth it would take about 7.5 hours to download it and over 110 hours to upload it… and that’s why I only backup documents.

        15/1 mbit cable

        • BenBasson
        • 10 years ago

        My broadband is 10Mbps (unlimited), and there’s about 1GB I need “now” in the entire set, or as I said, on another disk for instant access. In the worst case scenario, for faster speed, you can get backup sets shipped on DVDs by FedEx.

    • Logan[TeamX]
    • 10 years ago

    Interesting.

    At home, I have two 80GB Maxtor SATA DiamondMax 9s in RAID-1 (Sil 3112 on my DFI LanParty UT SLI-DR mobo). They hold a current “snapshot” of my My Docs / critical data. From there, I have a FreeNAS box running that has 2 x 146GB U160 HDDs in RAID-1. I rsync from my Maxtor array to the FreeNAS box 24/7, checking once an hour. In addition to occasional DVD backups (several per set now, sadly), I also use the blasphemous and free MS Skydrive (skydrive.live.com) as it’s hard to turn away 25GB of free storage. I update that each time I do a “dump” from my SLR’s storage card. No financials, just pictures and other semi-critical data.

    Once I finish my new build, my current build becomes the new Linux / RAID box for backups. Then, more of the same (RAID-1 on primary, RAID on Linux box, optical and off-site critical backups). Been doing it for years (using different flavours of Linux, sans Skydrive).

    • rmcmullan
    • 10 years ago

    After using a similar scheme, I’ve come to the conclusion that Vista’s image back up is much too limited and I shelled out the $69 for Norton Ghost. If you change your hardware configuration much, Vista will not restore your image but throws mysterious and poorly documented errors instead. Also, it seems incapable of resizing partitions. Norton does not suffer from these problems and in addition you can use the image backup to restore indivivual files or folders.

      • culbeda
      • 10 years ago

      I’m curious. Why would you buy Norton Ghost over Acronis True Image Home for $50 buck. Combine that with Mozy, Carbonite or your other $5/mo off-site backup and you have a comprehensive solution on the cheap and it takes about 15 minutes to set it up. (I’m sorry, but the backup solution in this article is nuts.

      If you have more money (I’ve seen one on a sale for $400 with 2 x 1 TB green drives) and you want to back up multiple machines, I recommend a Windows Home Server. It does image backups, notifies on the toolbar if they fail for any reason and make it really easy to restore your files. You can even sign up for an off-site backup that pushes from there (although they tend to charge by the GB). That and the Home Server can share out media files, act as your file server for home, run 3rd party add-ons like bittorrent, etc. And it does it while taking a tenth of the power of a PC to do the same job. (Unless you want to build your own, which you can.)

        • rmcmullan
        • 10 years ago

        I went with Ghost because it’s widely available and we use it at work so it behooves me to be familiar with it. Nothing against Acronis.

        As for the Windows Home Server, that’s more for Workgroups and run a domain with a big old file share on it. I tell my family to put all their valuable files on the 1TB drive named BigDisk. And I backup BigDisk to another external drive using Robocopy. Works fine. But my main rig I want an image of.

        The problem with WHS is backing up the FileShare.

    • shank15217
    • 10 years ago

    Now, how about a better backup strategy for TR, that doesn’t bring the server down every night?

      • indeego
      • 10 years ago

      touché. True thatg{<.<}g

      • Convert
      • 10 years ago

      That’s what I thought this was about when I first read the title.

        • ste_mark
        • 10 years ago

        Every night? Here in Europe it happens at 10 in the morning, just when i have a pause to browse through my favourites…

          • MadManOriginal
          • 10 years ago

          It happens at 4AM EST which means that for western Europe it’s midmorning.

    • Chryx
    • 10 years ago

    I back up my Macs with Time Machine to a Time Capsule, and critical data on both my Macs AND windows boxes with Crashplan ( §[<http://www.crashplan.com<]§ ) to a 1TB external drive hanging off my inhouse file server.. and SOON to a file server at a remote site (will be doing the crashplan reciprocal offsite backup thing with a friend)

    • isaacg
    • 10 years ago

    I also have a multi-tiered/program backup system.

    1. Cobian Backup 9 (freeware) incremental backup of my Docs & Settings folder and everything else of value every night, a full backup every week, keeping at most 2 full backups (so anything older than 2 weeks is autodeleted).

    2. JungleDisk ($20 one-time when i bought it, now it’s $2/month looks like) backs up the most important things (docs, finances, website work, email, etc) to Amazon S3 nightly. You pay by transfer amount and stored amount, I use ~2gB and pay ~$1/month. If you expect to come out more than $5/month you might go with Mozy or Carbonite which are both $55/year unlimited. Beware that Carbonite does not back up files over 4gb, system files, exe’s or video’s automatically. You can only select them individually to backup. I’m not sure on mozy’s limitations.

    3. Audio/Video is stored on my 2+TB unRAID box where I can lose one drive without data loss and any further loss is limited to the drives that die since it’s not striped. Unfortunately this stuff isn’t backed up anywhere else due to size/cost.

      • culbeda
      • 10 years ago

      I’ll have to check out Cobian.

      But you’re not doing ANY image backups? 90% of the time when I need a backup it’s because something has trashed the OS. I find that I’m far less likely to have a “whoops” moment with a document or email.

      I’ve been looking at Jungledisk for backing my files off of my Windows Home Server. What are your thoughts on it?

        • isaacg
        • 10 years ago

        Image backups always seemed like a waste of time/space what with Windows, drivers, and program updates coming out constantly. I’ve never had access to a incremental imaging software solution, which would be better. System Restore often works for registry/driver/update related borkage, which I can’t say I’ve had much of the past few years anyway. And after you’ve had a Windows install for a year or two you’ll probably benefit from a clean cruft-free reinstall or hardware/OS upgrade.

        Regarding WHS and JungleDisk, I know quite a few people do that, there’s even an official WHS addin now. I’ve been quite happy with JungleDisk in Windows. There are a few more steps involved than with other services because it’s integrating with S3, but they aren’t anything a Tech Report reader can’t handle.

    • Damage
    • 10 years ago

    I’ve updated the article to reflect the fact that Complete PC Backup can be scheduled via a CLI and Scheduled Tasks, though not through the program’s GUI.

    • albundy
    • 10 years ago

    so why have raid1 then if you have other backup schemes? you might as well go for raid0’s performance.

      • videobits
      • 10 years ago

      RAID 1 protects you between the time you create the files and the time the backup is done.

    • barich
    • 10 years ago

    Vista’s backup sucks. It doesn’t let you specify folder locations, only file types. So, it happily ignores the exes and zips in my Documents and Downloads folders. They’ve fixed this for Windows 7, and it doesn’t matter anymore since I built a box for WHS, but I can’t believe they made that stupid of a mistake to begin with.

      • indeego
      • 10 years ago

      The thinking goes that .exe’s are intended to be captured in the imaging (much rarer) backups.

      But yeah Vista’s backup system is pretty flawed compared to XP’s and 7’sg{<.<}g

      • StuffMaster
      • 10 years ago

      I always liked NTBackup in XP. It was nice and simple. I would have actually used it some if it did compression.

        • indeego
        • 10 years ago

        Backup to a compressed folder, or post backup compress using command lineg{

          • StuffMaster
          • 10 years ago

          What I really like is per-file compression. That yield much better results than whole-archive compression. I think some disk imaging software does that.

    • lucas1985
    • 10 years ago

    Nice article Scott. It shows how you can backup Windows-based systems with little tinkering.
    Problems arise with complex data structures and/or multiple OSes. Also, I prefer open source backup solutions.
    #25,
    Use TY media, burn two/three copies with error correction built-in (http://dvdisaster.net/en/index.php), store then in a cool, dark place, check the readability once every two years and replace the faulty copies with freshly burned ones.
    #1,
    “/[

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 10 years ago

    q[

    • Homerr
    • 10 years ago

    This article basically shows the hard way to emulate Windows Home Server (WHS), but without some of the more advanced features.

    I suggest the author try a follow-up to this article after converting his setup to WHS, it’d be a very good comparison and I’d like to hear his thoughts on the transition from his setup now.

    • moritzgedig
    • 10 years ago

    Anyone using DVD for backup must be a gambler.
    I have had brand name DVDs become unreadable after just one year, failure for any incremental backup.
    external HD is the only way to go.

    • GreatGooglyMoogly
    • 10 years ago

    I have scheduled images going of me and my brother’s computers with Acronis TrueImage Home. These images gets saved on my Win2K3 server. The server images itself with DriveImage XML (since TrueImage Server/Enterprise is a bit too pricey). Full backups every day, and I rotate 3 images. I only image C:\, which means no image is bigger than 15 GB (medium compression).

    ViceVersa Pro backups data from our computers onto the server, spreading it across several drives (I don’t use RAID). Also scheduled. It also syncs all important stuff on the server across several drives, like the aforementioned system images. ViceVersa is pretty kickass, with a great profile system and support for long paths (>260 chars) and Shadow Copy support.

    My computer at work uses SyncBackSE to connect to my FTP, and I sync some of the most important data to the work computer, every night (about 1 TB in total, but it only grabs the changes (entire files, no diffs though)).

    We just bought a TS-409 Pro NAS at work for us developers to use for backup (3 TB RAID5 storage), both work-related and private use if we want to, and I will definitely be syncing stuff over there as well.

    All in all I have about 1 TB of data backed up in at least 2 places.

    And no, I never save or backup stuff like *cough*home*cough* movies or *cough*legally copied*cough* tv series. That’d be daft.

    • Freon
    • 10 years ago

    I would be leary of a free online backup. They could decide to go belly up and disable your account at any time I imagine.

    I remember this happening to me with a service a few years back. I think it was called driveway. It just up and stopped one day, without so much as giving me access to my files. Luckily I didn’t lose anything, but I didn’t know until I went to the website and it said effectively, “sorry we’re out of business, please pound sand.”

    • oldDummy
    • 10 years ago

    Good article.
    The backup features of Vista/Windows 7 are fairly robust .
    My problems are with the selective usage over the different flavors of the OS. How MS determined Home Premium shouldn’t backup over the network is a head scratcher. 10 years ago it would be understandable but not now.
    Now it seems rather petty.

    • herothezero
    • 10 years ago

    For most of my home/small business freelance clients, I install a copy of FSSDEV’s Casper 5.0 software; it images systems on a scheduled basis (internally or externally), wakes and re-sleeps computers to run the imaging, and it’s very handy with OEM systems that have no RAID controllers. Plus, it’s cheap and automated.

    I run RAID 1 at home, plus Casper out to an eSATA BlacX dock once a week on a scheduled basis.

    q[

      • adisor19
      • 10 years ago

      TimeMachine is the best consumer backup solution as it is so simple to setup and use, that almost anyone could do it. Not only that but the fact that it purposely ASKS a user to backup whenever they connect an HD to a mac is what makes this the superior backup solution 🙂

      Adi

        • adisor19
        • 10 years ago

        Damn, i sound like a broken record.. sorry guys, i guess i got a little too carried away..

        Adi

          • bthylafh
          • 10 years ago

          Are you beginning to see why people mock you about your Apple fanboyism?

        • MadManOriginal
        • 10 years ago

        So easy a caveman could do it?

          • Scrotos
          • 10 years ago

          “I don’t have much of an appetite, thank you.”

    • TheCollective
    • 10 years ago

    Ah, but have you tried to restore a system with said backups? 🙂 I found that there were a few “undocumented features” in the restoration process the last time I was forced to use my Vista backup.

    It does appear, however that Windows 7 will fix some of my gripes, such as the ability to schedule a full PC backup. The current program will only do this if you set up a Scheduled Task manually, as you pointed out.

    The other feature I would like to see is the ability to restore files piecemeal from a full PC backup. That coupled with the ability to schedule it through the backup interface would make it truly as effective as Time Machine.

    • Anomymous Gerbil
    • 10 years ago

    “Very slick—and imminently useful.”

    Eminently.

      • Damage
      • 10 years ago

      Doh. Of course. Fixed.

    • porov
    • 10 years ago

    Are you really willing to trust that IDrive company, if they are offering that much hard disk space and bandwidth for free, there must be something you don’t know.
    Think about giving all your private files to a third party. They can practically do anything with it, you have no guarantees that they won’t touch it.

      • Freon
      • 10 years ago

      Good point. I’d encrypt your files, for that reason and several others. In fact I’d suggest encrypting your backups of Quicken files, tax returns, etc. even if you are backing them up solely on devices in your immediate possession.

        • Dirge
        • 10 years ago

        IBM has developed a means a way to gain deep and unlimited analysis of encrypted information. So your encrypted data is not wholly private any more.

        §[<http://www.net-security.org/secworld.php?id=7690<]§

          • CaliScrub
          • 10 years ago

          The research you linked to doesn’t mean that encryption is fundamentally broken (which would be humongous news).

          My best attempt at an example:

          Say you have some encrypted value (for example, 25, which is encrypted as some text, let’s call it AAAAA) that you want to multiply by 2 and save somewhere, also encrypted. Currently you would have to decrypt it (to get 25), multiply it by 2 to get 50, then encrypt the result (to get another made up encrypted value, BBBBB).

          What the research is saying is that they’ve found a way to take AAAAA, run a multiplication operation on it, then get the BBBBB result directly, without ever having to decrypt and re-encrypt. Which means you can ask someone to do operations on your data without having to give them the means to actually read it.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 10 years ago

    That iDrive service sounds kinda cool. I’ve been using DropBox for the exact same thing, but it can only back up whatever you have in the DropBox folder. In Win7 that’s not a big deal – you can move the DropBox out of your Documents folder into your User folder, then include the DropBox folder in your Documents library. For Vista and XP, for it to happen brain-dead style, you have to first move the DropBox out of your Documents folder and then point your My Documents folder to it.

    Regardless, 2GB of backup/multi-computer sync is awesome.

    • Krogoth
    • 10 years ago

    Backing up data is easier than ever before. The real problem is what data is worth backing up and remembering when to backup. 😉

    My strategy is using spare SATAs HDDs that I look up via eSATA + external 4-molex power adapter. FYI, eSATA power adapter came with my EP45-DS4P. I back-up my small, important documents onto several thumb drives.

    • DrDillyBar
    • 10 years ago

    You had me at DeLorean.

    • Kraft75
    • 10 years ago

    Well, I’m glad to see I’m not the only guilty one with my backup practices. Been there, done that, and then some.

    Not a ‘backup’ solution per se, but I’m soon going to embark on building a dedicated RAID5 computer using FreeNAS. Available to all my computers locally, I’m going to switch over all of my pictures/music/DVDs onto that machine and be done with it. Like I said, it’s not a backup, but at least it’ll give me some peace of mind.

    Ps. Congrats on your latest build Scott. One could even say you now have a backup for yourself… 🙂

    • tu2thepoo
    • 10 years ago

    i also have vista ultimate (through my school) but i found that windows home server exposes things in a much quicker/intuitive way for me. most everything that you covered, WHS does with a single systray icon residing on each client machine. most of my working documents live on my laptop, but with 802.11n i just have to set the laptop to wake up some time during the night and do an incremental backup to my server in the other room.

    (‘course, i had to pay $130 for it, but i was willing to give up a few nights at the bar to have a backup system that i’d actually use!)

    i’m trying to get my roommates on board with this (since i just had to restore one of their laptops after Vista took a dump) but i get the feeling they think i’m going to thumb through their porn stash or something.

    [edit]
    also, WHS has that nice hybrid JBOD/RAID-like setup that lets me gang all my drives into a single storage pool, without having to mess with an actual RAID controller. plus, i get to decide which folders get replicated across physical drives, so my more important files (pictures, music, FAFSA applications) are resistant to single-drive failure, while my less-important files (installers, old comic book PDFs) don’t waste more space than they have to.

      • jahamala
      • 10 years ago

      Agreed, WHS is everything I need and seems to be a perfect fit for Damage’s needs, all the while being nearly idiot proof. I say nearly because I’ve actually seen someone break an anvil before. You just jam any type/size hard drive you want in there and click about 3 buttons and you’ve added it to the pool. For off-site needs, there is even a few plugin’s for WHS that can handle that for you if you’d like, though I haven’t tried them myself. Otherwise you could just map a network drive to WHS and continue running iDrive on your workstation.

      I’m really surprised more enthusiasts don’t use it.

        • culbeda
        • 10 years ago

        Agreed. I would recommend buying an appliance though. I know that not everyone can swing $400 for a home server, but I’ve seen them bundle in a second 1 TB HD (2 x 1TB HD total) for that $400. At that point, you’re essentially paying $200 for an atom-based PC with hot swap bays AND a license of Home Server. (Even at $300, it’s a good price.)

        I also have a Thecus N5200BR which I paid twice as much for without drives. It’s great if you need support for features like iSCSI, NFS, etc. But Home Server is much easier to work with for your daily needs.

        Update: They’re including the second 1TB drive right now at Newegg: §[<http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16859321013&Tpk=acer%20windows%20home%20server<]§ It's an awesome deal!

    • SGT Lindy
    • 10 years ago

    This yet another reason a Mac is better. Time Machine is a kick arse backup tool.

    For network file sharing at home, I suggest a Drobo. Watch this video and you will want one.

    §[<http://www.drobo.com/resources/drobodemo.php<]§

      • MadManOriginal
      • 10 years ago

      They’re nice but damned expensive for what you get (I guess that goes for most consumer NAS devices) if you’re able to DIY.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 10 years ago

      Drobos aren’t exactly meant for home storage, I don’t think. They’re cool, but quite pricy.

        • adisor19
        • 10 years ago

        Why would you say they’re not meant for home storage ? I think this is EXACTLY what they’re meant for. Yes they are expensive, but they deal with redundancy in the most seamless way possible. I would NOT be surprised to see Apple buy them one day or at least offer a very similar product.

        I really do think that drobo is very “mac like” for what it does. There is something almost uncanny about how easy an end user can operate a device which is essentially a RAID5 storage unit with 0 configuration.

        Adi

          • derFunkenstein
          • 10 years ago

          Mostly because the prices are ridiculous. It’d be a great video capture drive (because along with the redundancy, they’re very fast) for something like a professional video solution. The USB RAID1 device that Geoff reviewed a couple weeks ago is a better home storage device. The price per GB is a whole lot better, even though it’s not quite as fast (USB2 vs FW800 or the like).

      • adisor19
      • 10 years ago

      Ya, i’ve been wanting a drobo as well but i just can’t justify the cost yet when there are alternatives like FreeNAS that now allows a manual drobo like feature in the ZFS enabled .7 version 🙂

      Maybe one day when i’ll grow tired of tinkering and i want something that just works 😉

      Adi

      • adisor19
      • 10 years ago

      I also agree about TimeMachine being the superior consumer backup solution. While it does not yet support shadow copies of files due to the inherent limitations of HFS+, i do belive Apple will transition OS X to ZFS one day (obviously not in 10.6 boooooooo!!!) and at that point TimeMachine will finally be complete.

      It is however disturbing how it takes an article of a few pages to show how one can backup their computer on a Vista pc compared to how easy it is with TimeMachine on a mac. (You just plug a drive in and it will ask you if you wanna use it for backup. That’s it.)

      This is the kinda of stuff that the consumer will notice in the long term and it’s also the kind of stuff that the consumer is willing to pay extra $ for : simplicity.

      Adi

      • culbeda
      • 10 years ago

      Let’s see… over $400 for a Time Capsule with a 1 TB drive in a static enclosure, or $400 for a Windows Home Server with 4-bay hotswap and a 1 TB drive that is essentially a low-power Windows 2003 standard server without domain functions that has robust 3rd party add-on support…

      I can see how you could draw that conclusion…

        • indeego
        • 10 years ago

        To his credit time machine is far easier to use for novices. If you want to encourage backup like Windows 7 is attempting to do, you have to make it easier on the joe user, and WHS doesn’t come close to Time machine in this regard (it doesn’t even prompt you on removeable media to add it to a pool of possible backup devicesg{<.<}g)

        • adisor19
        • 10 years ago

        Sigh.. you can use an HP WHS for TimeMachine backups as well. TimeMachine works with more then just the TimeCapsule.

        Adi

    • indeego
    • 10 years ago

    Effective Disaster recovery should encompass offsite storage as well. I haven’t found a way to do this effectively with my GF’s 300G itunes DB/playlists/audiobooks/autocad files, etc other than sneakernet with a portable SATA driveg{<.<}g

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