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  1. #1
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    I am starting this thread to split the backup discussion from the Windows 7 partitioning thread here: http://lounge.windowssecrets.com/ind...owtopic=773999

    I am interested in discussing backup in the home user or very small business setting (1-5 workstations with no server).

    Here is what I setup for some of my small customers in the Windows XP environment.

    1-usb harddrive big enough to handle 9 full data backups.

    Using the built in windows backup I setup the following schedule>

    all backups are full backups (not differential) and all overwrite the former backup(eg. Monday overwrites the last Monday, Tuesday overwrites the last Tuesday, Friday1 overwrites the last Friday1, etc)

    Monday
    Tuesday
    Wednesday
    Thursday
    Friday1
    Friday2
    Friday3
    Friday4

    Each of these is a separate backup job and is run with the task scheduler. The advantages of this system are, low cost, low maintenance once it is setup, will never fill the drive if it is setup correctly.

    The disadvantages are, no good bare metal restore, rely on single drive for backups, windows xp did not have a good reporting tool so users have to check reports manually, window task scheduler could be a bit flaky at time.

    This allows a user to retrieve data from any day within the last week and any weekend for a month.

    Enter Windows7 and the whole equation changes. What are your practices and how can we best adapt them for the less technical user?

  2. #2
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    Some of my questions

    What can you do with current imaging tools (I do not own acronis so am not sure what it can do.)

    Would my former practices work with imaging? Are there big enough hard drives to handle this?

    I have setup windows 7 backup (with imaging)on a usb hard drive for a couple of my home customers. On the first one it ran without attention for four months, the user then contracted a virus. I was notified the day it happened and was able to restore the image from the night before, it took less than an hour and worked flawlessly. What if they hadn't found the virus for 2 weeks?

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    I don't believe that you are storing backups for a sufficient time. I'd recommend an annual cycle.

    1. I'd have a second drive to use as a rolling monthly backup
    2. Replace Friday 4 with the monthly backup and don't overwrite the previous months' backups (you may need two extra external drives if you cannot get one sufficiently large to hold 11 monthly backups)
    3. Get a smaller external drive and make month 12 the annual backup.

    Keep the monthly and annual drives off site.

    Software: I'd recommend that you invest in a utility for keeping disk images. My favourite is Acronis True Image which lets you automatically schedule backups. The advantage of the image is if one of the workstation drives fails, you can replace the drive and very quickly restore the image to get it back on the road again (poosibly only an hour's work). The time saved doing that just once will more than pay the cost of the software investment. And although it is a disk image you are saving, the TI Explorer is able to read the image as though it is a normal drive so that you can still restore any accidentally deleted or corrupt individual files.

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    Hi Terry,

    I agree that the schedule I describe above is limited. I am going to give you some of the assumptions I have made, you can tell me if they are wrong.

    Many home users do not think about computer maintenance, if it is not totally automated it won't get done. I am employed as a tech and have a small consulting business in which I work for customers ranging from individuals to corporations. I have seen many of my home user customers that do not backup anything (or think that clicking the "backup now" button when they close Quicken is all they need). They have no concept of backup of documents or e-mail.

    I am looking for a good balanced solution for this level of user. Something I can setup once and maybe check for them once a month. Something that is totally automated and sends them an e-mail or turns their desktop red when it doesn't run so they know to call me (or check it themselves).

    Unfortunately these folks won't remember to switch that hard drive when Friday4 rolls around. They will not remember to do that December 31 backup.

    What I am trying to balance is this: As safe as I can make it but it must be totally automated, it must give good notification of failure but should not send notify daily on success as these notifications will eventually all be ignored. I am willing to take low level risks (no offsite) to offset what I perceive are the high level risks of the user forgeting to take the manual step required to keep things working.

    I will give you an example.

    I was at a customer site a week ago. The customer had two usb hard drives on his desk with one plugged into one of his workstations. I asked what they were for and he sez backups. His workstation had a rather serious problem with registry and I was investigating reinstallation as a possibility. I looked at the drives and the last successful backup was November of 2007.

    Another corporate customer with over 100 employees had their tech quit. They had been limping along with the office manager taking care of things and various consultants helping them. I came on board and the first thing I checked was backups. Their office manager had been religiously changing usb hard drives every night and taking one home. They had no completed backups for over four months. The drives were formatted FAT32 and as soon as the backup size hit 4gb it failed as a FAT32 does not allow files over 4gb.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator bbearren's Avatar
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    I use BootIT Next Generation by TeraByte Unlimited for partition management and drive imaging (it also does many other things). TeraByte also has Image for Windows which runs in the Windows environment, can be scripted and run via task scheduler. It also allows a choice in image file segment size, so you can stay under 4GB if necessary. There are also free addons available that allow mounting a compressed image file as a hard drive for retrieval of one or two files or whatever.

    But partitioning can still come into play. In a business environment, there usually isn't a lot of software installs/uninstalls going on, and the PC is fairly static, except for work product. The only regular frequent backup necessary is work product (including email). The rest of it doesn't really change day to day. In that same vane, if all the machines are all the same brand and setup in the same way, one OS backup can serve all machines. One Program Files backup can serve all machines. Individual work product partitions only need to be backed up daily, which greatly reduces the volume of backup media. OS and Program partitions can be backed up weekly or monthly, or after business software upgrades.

    With all machines being relatively static, a month-old generic OS backup could be used to restore a machine. Run Windows Update after the restore and the OS partition will be completely up to date. If a hard drive failed, generic restoration of OS partition and Programs partition, combined with "yesterday's" product partition and a visit to Windows Update would have that machine back in step with the rest of the business in an hour or so.

    The reduction in backup media volume as opposed to a daily full-system backup routine on all machines would be enormous.
    Create a fresh drive image before making system changes, in case you need to start over!

    "The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Savvy?"—Captain Jack Sparrow "When you're troubleshooting, start with the simple and proceed to the complex."—M.O. Johns "Experience is what you get when you're looking for something else."—Sir Thomas Robert Deware.
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  6. #6
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    There is no doubt that this is treated completely different in the business environment.

    As bbearren has pointed out we have the advantage of multiple machines that are exactly the same and NO data stored on the workstations.

    I create a sysprepped image of each type of hardware I have. (workstation, laptop. tablet, etc) These get stored on the server and it is a matter of less then an hour to reapply the image to whatever needs it.

    Data is all on the server and is backed up to 2 different types of backup media. These backups are monitored daily and tested monthly.

    The home user has a different challenge entirely.

    1. Different hardware among multiple machines
    2. Data all over the place
    3. No central dedicated server
    4. Many more Operating System level changes (not only does the data change but programs are installed and uninstalled at whim)
    5. No good, monitored gateway firewall (making them more susceptible to malware)


    Some advantages the home user has,

    1. some of their data is not dynamic (the photos from the trip last year will never change. Burn them to DVD and put them in a safe deposit box)
    2. most are not dealing with the challenge of live databases such as SQL server, etc.
    3. most will not go broke if they are down a day or two so have some time to do the restore.

    Our challenge is how do we help Uncle Bob with something that he can use and will not break if it is left unattended for long periods of time.

    I have been hoping that with the new built in Win7 backup that possibly Microsoft has brought imaging (at least in a limited form) to the masses.

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    For a home or small business with up to 10 PCs Windows Home Server – media server, backup and data recovery solution is a good choice. It is easy to install, easy to configure, and easy to use. It is a relatively inexpensive solution. You can easily add more storage as needed.

    WHS pretty much does away with drive letters on the server as far as the user is concerned. When you designate a drive to be part of the storage pool as opposed to a backup drive it is just added to the mix and the size of the available storage is increased by the drive size. Also, by folder you can designate data redundancy so that each file is replicated to a separate hard drive. Thus, if one drive fails you won't lose anything as long as the replica is still running. Drives can be added or removed as needed.

    You configure the backup settings, install an agent on each PC you wish to backup, and then WHS will backup those PCs automatically and manage the backups. The best thing about the backups is that they are handled somewhat like a corporate environment. Any PC which is not available when its backup time will be backed up when it next connects to the server.

    There are numerous community developed addins. Many are free. Some are shareware.

    Joe
    Joe

  8. #8
    Super Moderator bbearren's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mercyh View Post
    Our challenge is how do we help Uncle Bob with something that he can use and will not break if it is left unattended for long periods of time.

    I have been hoping that with the new built in Win7 backup that possibly Microsoft has brought imaging (at least in a limited form) to the masses.
    I haven't used the drive imaging in Windows 7, but just looking at it, there is no file compression involved. The same amount of space to be imaged is required to store the image.
    Create a fresh drive image before making system changes, in case you need to start over!

    "The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Savvy?"—Captain Jack Sparrow "When you're troubleshooting, start with the simple and proceed to the complex."—M.O. Johns "Experience is what you get when you're looking for something else."—Sir Thomas Robert Deware.
    Unleash Windows

  9. #9
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    I believe you are correct. There is also an all or none approach to scheduling. (you can only setup one job and one schedule) It is pretty primative but sometimes primative = simple and that is not all bad.


    One observation on size of backup,

    If we are willing to use usb hard drives as media and look at some of your methods for partitioning, size may not be a big issue. I just saw a 1TB drive for under $150. This would store a lot of images of a 50gb or less OS partition.

  10. #10
    Super Moderator bbearren's Avatar
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    A viable and free alternative to the Windows 7 imaging is Karen's Replicator. It has it's own scheduling function, will schedule multiple jobs. There is no file compression, but the parameters can be set to back up only files that have changed; after the initial backup, the job gets a good bit quicker and smaller. (And as you pointed out, the external drives are getting bigger as the prices continue to come down). Replicator will also copy to or from anywhere on the network. A few years ago I used Replicator to "clone" a booting hard drive to an empty drive, then swapped out the drives and it booted right up.

    One can purchase an inexpensive (~$60US) NAS adapter to plug an external USB drive into and have it serve the entire home network, rather than being slaved to one of the PC's in the network.
    Create a fresh drive image before making system changes, in case you need to start over!

    "The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Savvy?"—Captain Jack Sparrow "When you're troubleshooting, start with the simple and proceed to the complex."—M.O. Johns "Experience is what you get when you're looking for something else."—Sir Thomas Robert Deware.
    Unleash Windows

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terry Farrell View Post
    I don't believe that you are storing backups for a sufficient time. I'd recommend an annual cycle.

    1. I'd have a second drive to use as a rolling monthly backup
    2. Replace Friday 4 with the monthly backup and don't overwrite the previous months' backups (you may need two extra external drives if you cannot get one sufficiently large to hold 11 monthly backups)
    3. Get a smaller external drive and make month 12 the annual backup.

    Keep the monthly and annual drives off site.

    Software: I'd recommend that you invest in a utility for keeping disk images. My favourite is Acronis True Image which lets you automatically schedule backups. The advantage of the image is if one of the workstation drives fails, you can replace the drive and very quickly restore the image to get it back on the road again (poosibly only an hour's work). The time saved doing that just once will more than pay the cost of the software investment. And although it is a disk image you are saving, the TI Explorer is able to read the image as though it is a normal drive so that you can still restore any accidentally deleted or corrupt individual files.

    This seems like the ideal stategy for our home based business.
    I have never seemed to be able to find the strategy that allows me to either find/recover a single data file AND allow a painless way to recover from a drive failure. We have two desktops with multiple internal drives and a connected external drive. In the past, I would have one drive or partition for the OS, one for programs and one for data. Vista's use of junctions complicated that strategy. Now with Win7's libraries, it seems that it complicates things even more.

    I'll be using ShadowProtect from Storagecraft to make images and incrementals on schedule. It is much like TI, but has been more reliable in my tests. I don't want to start the partition or not debate again, but it sure seems that the benefits of multiple partitions and/or drives have been overshadowed by the complexity that it adds to the backup strategies for OS's beyond XP. Doesn't changing the default locations of personal folders and now libraries mean that both system and data need to restored to the same point in time? Programs add files to the C: drive even when they are installed elsewhere. Move their default data location to a data partition/drive and you now have 3 images to restore. Has the old paradigm become too complicated? It doesn't seem that the ease of backup and restore are there anymore. Am I missing something?
    Don
    Windows 10 64bit, Intel Core i5-490K 3.5GHz, Intel HD Graphics, 8GBRAM, 350GB SSD

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    Quote Originally Posted by Don Hanson View Post
    This seems like the ideal stategy for our home based business.
    I have never seemed to be able to find the strategy that allows me to either find/recover a single data file AND allow a painless way to recover from a drive failure. We have two desktops with multiple internal drives and a connected external drive. In the past, I would have one drive or partition for the OS, one for programs and one for data. Vista's use of junctions complicated that strategy.

    Am I missing something?
    See my post #7 above. WHS is a terrific tool for backup and restore plus much more.

    Joe
    Joe

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by mercyh View Post
    Our challenge is how do we help Uncle Bob with something that he can use and will not break if it is left unattended for long periods of time.

    I have been hoping that with the new built in Win7 backup that possibly Microsoft has brought imaging (at least in a limited form) to the masses.
    This is an excellent discussion. I have read through the suggestions here and they are all good. However, many are more geared toward SOHOs or the technically inclined. I'm going to assume I'm talking about Uncle Bob, as mercyhor suggests. Or better yet, my Mom. She really has no clue what she could lose if she doesn't back her stuff up. Even with an automated system, she will not remember to swap drives. Burning photos to DVDs and storing them in a dafe deposit box is a great idea, but she isn't going to want to swap those out and re-burn them even every couple of years. She also isn't going to want to run a server like WHS, just more money and time that she doesn't have. I think she is pretty typical of an average home user. You know the type that most of us are a personal "help desk" for. That also assumes that the home only has one or two PCs (or laptops).

    Here's one possibility. The software used for backup doesn't matter to me. Just so its reliable, and so someone, even if its not the home user, can do the restore. First, a regular, perhaps monthly image should be made with Acronis or imaging software that can run in the background. Second, a daily incremental of personal data should be done. Use two large external USB or eSATA drives. Swap them monthly, or every 2 weeks. To remind the user that its time to swap drives, create a script that pops up a dialog box with a reminder, "Today is the day you need to swap your USB drive!". Run the script via task scheduler. For the most part, this will all work fine with very little needed from the home user.

    There are two issues here that I think are much harder to overcome than getting a good backup routine running. The first is that none of this can be done entirely without some sort of human intervention. For example, even with scripted reminders to change drives, people will ignore it or be annoyed by it, and it simply won't get done.

    The second, and what I believe is the most important part of backing up data, is the integrity of the backups. Even the best and most expensive enterprise backup systems can't always tell you if a backup is corrupted. No enterprise backup admin worth his or her salt would fail to include monthly test restores as part of a backup strategy. For the average home user though, I can't really think of good ways to accomplish this. Its certainly not something that can be automated. And who's going to have an identical spare machine around to test an image restore? My only though on that is to teach the home user to restore a sample of personal files once a month or so to test. For the image, they'd just have to take a chance. If the image is bad and it fails when its really needed, then a rebuild is in order. And of course, the really important stuff, the personal data should be good because they've testing it on a regular basis. Of course, depending on the backup strategy, they have many images to choose from, but I am thinking worse case scenario.
    Chuck

  14. #14
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    I do not have WHS. I have several tech friends who have it in their homes and swear by it.

    On the imaging/ partition question. Keeping the OS (or OS and installed programs) partition as small as you can work with pays dividends in image size. I would only image that partition and do file backup on the data partition.

    Windows 7's libraries are the Cat's Pajamas for keeping your data (for sure your documents) on that other drive or partition. You no longer even have to redirect your My Documents folder just make sure your programs are saving their documents or data files to the other partition/drive location and add that location to your library, you won't even see the difference.

    One thing to be sure is added to your file backup is the data file for your accounting software. Quickbooks can put it either in the current user's my documents folder, or in the public My documents folder.

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    I guess I need some educating or take the time to experiment. Does Win7 index the contents of libraries? In other words, if the data drive is restored to a different point in time (or the other way around) will windows and programs have problems? One system runs Outlook 2007, Quickbooks, and web development tools, including XAMPP as a development server.

    In the past, I would image the OS and program partition and file backups of the data.
    ShadowProtect does not image free space. I had been doing images with incrementals of both drives, which were quite fast and compact. But, it meant mounting one or the other drive images in order to find an individual file. That has me questioning whether the separation is still as beneficial as it had been.
    Don
    Windows 10 64bit, Intel Core i5-490K 3.5GHz, Intel HD Graphics, 8GBRAM, 350GB SSD

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